11 Must-See Online Exhibitions

Do you know what’s the greatest thing about the internet? You can do anything online – without getting up from the couch in your living room! And yes, that includes viewing exhibitions curated by the likes of Smithsonian and the British Museum.

What’s more, such online exhibitions are free of charge. And, you can take a look at the collections that are no longer on display!

Besides, museums and exhibition halls across the globe have just begun reopening (very tentatively). Traveling remains complicated in these unprecedented times, too. So, if you dream of visiting the Royal Academy of Arts in London, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get to do it in 2021.

The good news is, the internet knows no borders. So, make use of your internet connection for something more than custom writing services or Netflix. Here are 11 online exhibitions that are absolutely worth your while.

1.  Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World

  • Available at: National Museum of Natural History website
  • Curated by: Smithsonian Institution

Chances are, you’re still struggling with comprehending our current “new normal” and accepting it as reality. There might be even more pressing questions on your mind, too. How did we get here? And how is it going to change the world in the long run?

The truth is, this isn’t the first pandemic humankind has experienced. It’s not even the first pandemic that’s happened in your lifetime. As gruesome as it might be, there’s actually a lot you can learn about our previous experience with epidemics like HIV/AIDS and SARS.

This exhibition is also a joy to explore. It’s a virtual space that you can discover in 360˚ – and even in VR if you have a VR headset! There are 8 rooms where you can look around and zoom in on items and texts on display.

2.  Girlhood (It’s Complicated)

  • Available at: National Museum of American History website
  • Curated by: Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History

What comes to your mind when you think about a girl’s childhood? Pink dresses, unicorn toys, and Barbie dolls?

While those are still the images in many of today’s ads, that’s not all girlhood can be or often is. This exhibition is a testament to that.

It will guide you through the amazing stories of girls who were unafraid to speak up and make history. It will also give you some food for thought on what it’s meant to be a girl at various points in history.

The exhibition itself consists of six sections:

  • News and politics;
  • Education;
  • Wellness;
  • Work;
  • Fashion;
  • A Girl’s Life.

3.  Heritage at Risk

  • Available at: Europeana website
  • Curated by: the Europeana Collections

Is our cultural heritage truly well-protected? If you’ve heard about the fire that devoured the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in 2019, you know that it can never be 100% safe.

And that fire was hardly the first instance of cultural heritage disappearing due to an unfortunate event. Heritage at Risk explores how we as humankind strive to protect our heritage – and how all that effort still might not be enough for preserving it.

The exhibition itself consists of 5 chapters covering the basics of cultural heritage preservation and what threatens it: war, natural disasters, and human error. The last chapter of the exhibition is dedicated to restoring the Notre Dame Cathedral’s glory.

4.  Eye to I: Self-Portraits From 1900 to Today

  • Available at: Google Arts & Culture
  • Curated by: Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

The human desire to make selfies may have been empowered by smartphones. But it’s been there long before the first mobile phones were invented. Artists have found other ways to portrait themselves across centuries. They’ve used a diverse range of mediums as their means, from sculptures to paintings.

This presentation features the most interesting among the 500 self-portraits that are in Smithsonian’s possession. The items make up for a diverse array of works in various formats and styles.

The online version of this exhibition also features companion text pieces for each self-portrait. This makes it a compelling read as well.

5.  Transient Effects

  • Available at: Princeton University Art Museum website
  • Curated by: Princeton University Art Museum

If you choose to pay a virtual visit to this exhibition, prepare to dive into a presentation where science and art are intertwined. This mix is an unusual one, and it’s the number one reason it deserves your attention.

The exhibition itself has three sections available for your attendance:

  • Painter of the Sun, which revolves around the story of Howard Russell Butler and his series of astonishingly accurate drawings of the solar eclipse in various stages;
  • Studying the Sun, which covers the science behind the solar eclipse;
  • Eclipses in Art, which features works of art that depict this natural phenomenon in a variety of styles and throughout centuries.

6.  Ecology of an Exhibition

  • Available at: Princeton University Art Museum website
  • Curated by: Princeton University Art Museum

This is a rare beast: it’s an exhibition that revolves around exhibitions themselves. It brings the following question into the spotlight. How can we organize an exhibition in an environmentally responsible way?

It’s a behind-the-scenes look at another exhibition, Nature’s Nation, curated by the same museum. Yet, it’s an excellent standalone experience for anyone interested in the environmental impact of human activities.

But the exhibition’s five sections aren’t there to do any fear-mongering. Instead, they provide a peek at how it’s possible to reduce the negative environmental impact of such an event – without sacrificing the quality of spectators’ experience.

7.  Nature by Design: Botanical Expressions

  • Available at: Google Arts & Culture
  • Curated by: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Nature has inspired artists and designers alike all over the world since the beginning of time. The inspiration drawn from plants and flowers can be seen everywhere, from jewelry and book illustrations to glasses and plates.

Discover the works of four figures who incorporated botanical elements into their masterpieces from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries with this online presentation. It won’t just be great as a casual pastime – it’ll also probably change the way you see botanical elements in everything around you, too.

8.  Death and Memory

  • Available at: The British Museum website
  • Curated by: The British Museum

Death is inevitable, it’s a universal phenomenon. Every culture on our planet encounters it. What’s different across the globe is how each of them has approached the topic across time and space.

So, if you’re curious about the different perspectives on this gruesome event, this is the British Museum collection for you. It features items from Ancient Egypt, Medieval Europe, Ancient Mesopotamia, and more. They all have one thing in common: they explore the traditions, rituals, and attitudes towards death itself and the dead.

9.  Desire, Love and Identity

  • Available at: The British Museum website
  • Curated by: The British Museum

Just like death, there’s no escaping the themes of love and desire on this big blue marble. They persist in art in all corners of the world and across centuries.

But how we as societies treat them has never been the same across time and space. What one culture saw as a taboo was treated as common or even celebrated by another.

This collection will be a great starting point for discovering the diversity of love and identity with its stories that span ages and continents.

10.              Slow Art Challenge

  • Available at: Google Art & Culture
  • Curated by: Cincinnati Art Museum

Online exhibitions are trickier than in-person ones. If you’re a tech-savvy person, you’re used to glancing over a page and moving on to the next one. You’re unlikely to stop and take in what you see – which is what the museum experience is all about.

This Slow Art Challenge exhibition (one of the many) is here to help you slow down and appreciate art the way you would in a museum setting. It consists of 5 works that are accompanied by thought-provoking questions for you to ponder.

You can make this experience even more delightful if you encourage your friends or family to partake in this journey with you. Ask them to visit the presentation on their own and discuss those questions later on.

11.              Picasso and Paper: Virtual Exhibition Tour

  • Available at: The Royal Academy of Arts website
  • Curated by: The Royal Academy of Arts

Settle somewhere comfortable for this 39-minute guided video tour through the exhibition that was originally open to visitors from January 25 to August 2, 2020. It’ll walk you through dozens of works on paper Picasso created over the 80 years of his career.

Picasso was hardly interested in just drawing on paper, using it as a mere tool. He experimented with it, making it a part of his work by tearing, burning, or wrinkling it. Draw from his creativity and get a new perspective on how things we take for granted can become something more.

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