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Get your art fix — virtually

Art institutions take to the internet

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Get your art fix — virtually
The halls of Boston museums may be quiet, but art lovers can still explore their collections virtually. PHOTOS: CELINA COLBY, ADOBE STOCK

The doors to the Museum of Fine Arts may be closed, but the MFA and other cultural institutions are finding new ways to showcase their collections while shuttered because of COVID-19 precautions. Many museums have launched virtual tours, streamed performances and offered collection databases chock-full of interesting information.

Google Arts & Culture offers virtual tours of the MFA, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and several other Massachusetts institutions, along with 2,500 institutions globally. Through your computer, you can stroll through the Gardner Museum’s famous courtyard (something you can’t even do when the museum is open, as the interior courtyard is roped off) and follow the path of the famous art thieves who stole 13 pieces from the museum’s walls in 1990. The MFA has been heavily showcasing its collection on its own social media as well and is encouraging followers to submit feature requests.

History buffs and homeschooled children alike can take an up-close look at letters written by John Quincy Adams and Thomas Jefferson via the Massachusetts Historical Society website and stroll the halls of the Massachusetts State House, learning about the artifacts inside and the legislation made there. The Digital Commonwealth, an online library of historical materials from institutions across the state, also comes in handy for history deep-dives executed from the couch.

The Museum of African American History launched an online exhibit exploring the history of the Abiel Smith School, a school established next to the African American Meeting House for black education in the 19th century. MAAH’s collections and galleries are also on Google Arts & Culture for a virtual tour. The Museum of the National Center for Afro-American Artists showcases photos and information about their collections and exhibitions on the website.

Performing arts organizations are following suit, finding alternative ways to project their creations. WCRB (99.5 FM) will broadcast recorded Boston Symphony Orchestra concerts every night at 8 p.m. Social distancers also can watch local indie musicians perform on Club Passim’s YouTube page. Heralded as “Keep Your Distance Fest,” the videos are also aimed at raising money for the Passim Emergency Artist Relief (PEAR) Fund. On social media platforms like Instagram, DJs are hosting “Club Quarantine,” live-streamed performances to get followers dancing together, apart.   

Certainly nothing can replace the visual impact of thick paint strokes on a canvas or the sensation of an orchestra at full crescendo, but these virtual tools are keeping culture alive during the coronavirus pandemic. Exploring these collections now will make a future in-person visit that much more gratifying.

Take virtual tours through Boston museums —

Google Arts & Culture

The Digital Commonwealth

MAAH’s Abiel Smith School exhibit

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