Although museums have had to close their doors to the public due to the coronavirus outbreak, many are now offering virtual museum tours. This gives your family the chance to explore some wonderful arts, science and cultural exhibits without leaving home.
If you don’t know about the Google Arts & Culture website or app, this is a fine time to discover it. There is a huge amount of art and culture that can be explored there, but “today’s class” will focus on using the website to find the local “partnered” museums that have added online content. First, go to Google Arts & Culture’s Partner Section, click on “Map” and then locate Southern California on the map and click on that. Around 20 local partner museums should show up. Partnered museums usually have a “Story” online exhibit section and an “In This Collection” section with a variety of themed images. Some museum listings, such as LACMA, also have an “Explore” section that presents a Google Maps-like tour of an exhibit. In LACMA’s case, it is a colorful walk through its 2016 “Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715–2015” exhibit. The museum also is working on additional ways to share its collections online.
The Google Arts & Culture’s partner museums not only include major institutions such as the Getty and Hammer Museum, but lesser-known ones such as The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Museum and The Museum of African American Art. Budding astronauts can explore the Columbia Memorial Space Center, while martial arts fans learn about the legendary Bruce Lee through photos and videos on the Bruce Lee Foundation website. You can find a treasury of video interviews from The Television Academy Foundation’s “The Interviews: An Oral History of Television” project or watch short interview clips from the USC Shoah Foundation’s “70 Stories of Auschwitz” online exhibit. There’s also the chance to visit the Pasadena Museum of California Art, a rather unexpected treat since the PMCA closed its doors back in 2018.
Other local museums (and at least one aquarium!) are showcasing collections through their own sites.
One of the fantastic things about the Grammy Museum is its conversation/performance series, with musicians appearing in the museum’s intimate theater. As part of its just-launched “Museum at Home” free programming, the museum is sharing a selection of these unique interviews for the first time publicly. This digital series will go up on the museum website at 11 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. The first set of appearances includes Bob Newhart March 23, Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas April 1 and Kool and the Gang April 6. The museum will also present “At-Home Exhibit Explorations” on Fridays and music education lessons and activities on Sundays and Tuesdays.
Car lovers of all ages are invited to take an exclusive livestream tour of the Petersen’s vehicular wonderland known as “The Vault,” home to more than 250 cars that typically aren’t on public display. The approximately 60-minute tours – available during the next two weeks or so – will be led by Collection Manager Dana Williamson and you will be able to ask questions during the livestream. Tickets cost $3 (down from the usual $28) and you have to sign up for a time slot. The museum also offers several free downloadable coloring and worksheet activities and videos to view.
While you can’t tour the Huntington in person right now, you still can take a virtual walk around its gardens. The eight available tours include the Rose Garden, the Dinosaur Plants and the Children’s Garden. These aren’t video experiences, but more like step-by-step slideshow-style walks through the gardens, with photos and accompanying descriptions. These “outings” are particularly nice on stuck-inside rainy days. The Huntington’s Teacher Resources Section offers lesson to help parents filling in as their kids’ teachers. One that seems particularly adaptable for the home is the Family Story Gallery project.
The JANM has placed a large part of its permanent collection online at. Particularly poignant are the photographs, drawings and paintings focusing on life in the WWII internment and detention camps. Also of unique historical significance is the museum’s archive of home movies documenting Japanese American communities from the 1920s to 1960s.
The Autry also offers a diverse assortment of its artifacts for viewing online at. One interesting interactive aspect is the Image Organizer, where you can save and arrange (and re-arrange) images and create small mosaic of Autry artifacts, which can be a fun parent-child art exercise.
The Hammer is making available a number of videos of its events and programs. Most are not geared for children, but if you dig around a little in the Expanded Digital Archive section you will find the work of Corita Kent, an artist, teacher and nun who made socially-conscious Pop-style art during the 1960s. Her brightly colored prints can be visually appealing to children, and might inspire kids to do their own art projects.
The California Science Center is adding new content to its website. The first offering is the “Stuck At Home Science” program. Launched on March 16, it features science projects on topics including how to stop ice from melting and how to “eat like a bird.” Each experiment includes a downloadable instruction guide available in English and Spanish. The center will be adding more projects appropriate for a variety of ages to this page, plus videos and live content.
The Aquarium of the Pacific is offering a variety of online programming. This includes webcams that stream live feeds from the Magellanic penguins, sharks, sea jellies, Tropical Reef Habitat, Honda Blue Cavern, and other exhibits. Catch up on lectures at the Aquarium featuring scientists, artists, journalists and Aquarium staff members on topics ranging from ocean research and conservation to how we can use art to build connections to nature and among people. Learn about whales and listen to their sounds with the Whales: Voices in the Sea online exhibit. Explore the Aquarium, its inhabitants and current and past projects through interactive story maps. Read up on animal facts in the Aquarium’s Online Learning Center, which features profiles of many of the Aquarium’s animals, plus others, to provide educational information on these species.