12 World-Class Museums You Can Visit Online

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

While it’s hard to beat the experience of seeing a seminal piece of fine art or important historical artifact with your own two eyes, one could easily spend a lifetime traveling the world in search of all of them. Fortunately, the digital age has made it possible—easy, even—to visit some of the world’s most famous museums from the comfort of your own home. Here are a dozen of them.

1. THE LOUVRE

The Louvre is not only one of the world’s largest art museums, but it’s also one of Paris’ most iconic historic monuments. The museum offers free online tours of some of its most important and popular exhibits, such as its Egyptian Antiquities. You can take a 360-degree look at the museum, and click around the rare artifacts to get additional information on their histories.

2. SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM

While the architecture of the Guggenheim’s building itself, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is quite impressive, you don’t have to visit the Big Apple to get an up-close view of some of the priceless pieces of artwork inside. The museum makes some of its collections and exhibits available online for people and students who want to get a taste of what the museum can offer, including works from Franz Marc, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, and Jeff Koons. 

3. NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART

Founded in 1937, National Gallery of Art is free and open to the general public. For those who aren’t in Washington D.C., it also provides virtual tours of its gallery and exhibits, including “Van Gogh’s Van Goghs: Masterpieces from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam” and "Sculpture of Angkor and Ancient Cambodia: Millennium of Glory.”

4. BRITISH MUSEUM

With a collection that totals more than eight million objects, London’s British Museum makes some of its pieces viewable online, including "Kanga: Textiles From Africa" and "Objects From The Roman Cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum." The museum also teamed up with the Google Cultural Institute to offer virtual tours using Google Street View technology.

5. SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

Washington D.C.’s National Museum of Natural History, one of the most visited museums in the world, offers a peek at its wonderful treasures with an online virtual tour of the entire grounds. Viewers are welcomed into its rotunda and are greeted with a comprehensive room-by-room, 360-degree walking tour of all its exceptional exhibits, including the Hall of Mammals, Insect Zoo, and Dinosaurs and Hall of Paleobiology.   

6. THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART

The Met is home to over two million works of fine art, but you don’t have to be in New York City to enjoy them. The museum’s website features an online collection and virtual tours of some of its most impressive pieces, including works from Vincent van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, and Giotto di Bondone. In addition, The Met also works with the Google Cultural Institute to make even more artwork (that’s not featured in its own online collection) available for view.

7. DALÍ THEATRE-MUSEUM

Located in the town of Figueres in Catalonia, Spain, the Dalí Theatre-Museum is completely dedicated to the artwork of Salvador Dalí. It features many rooms and exhibits surrounding every era of Dalí’s life and career, and the artist himself is buried here. The museum offers virtual tours of the grounds and a few exhibits, such as the surreal display of Mae West's Face.

8. NASA

NASA offers free virtual tours of its Space Center in Houston, with a wise-cracking animated robot named “Audima” as your tour guide.

9. VATICAN MUSEUMS

The Vatican Museums feature an extensive collection of important art and classical sculptures curated by the Popes over many centuries. You can take a virtual tour of the museum grounds and iconic exhibits, including Michelangelo’s ceiling of The Sistine Chapel.

10. NATIONAL WOMEN'S HISTORY MUSEUM

The mission statement of the National Women’s History Museum in Alexandria, Virginia is to educate, inspire, empower, and shape the future “by integrating women’s distinctive history and culture in the United States.” Part of that mission is delivered through well-curated online exhibits, including exhibits surrounding women in World War II and the rights of women throughout American history.  

11. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE

The National Museum of the United States Air Force is the official museum of the United States Air Force and centered on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. It houses a wide array of military weapons and aircrafts, including the presidential airplanes of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon. The museum also offers free virtual tours of its entire grounds, such as decommissioned aircrafts from World War II, Vietnam, and the Korean War.

12. GOOGLE ART PROJECT

To help its users discover and view important artworks online in high resolution and detail, Google partnered with more than 60 museums and galleries from around the world to archive and document priceless pieces of art and to provide virtual tours of museums using Google Street View technology. The Google Art Project features fine art from the White House, the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar, and even São Paulo street art from Brazil. Check out a complete list of museums you can visit online through the Google Art Project and the Google Cultural Institute.

20 Black-and-White Facts About Penguins

iStock/fieldwork
iStock/fieldwork

Who is a penguin's favorite family member? Aunt Arctica! 

We kid! But seven of the 17 species of penguins can be found on the southernmost continent. Here are 20 more fun facts about these adorable tuxedoed birds. 

1. All 17 species of penguins are found exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere.

A group of penguins on an iceberg.
iStock/axily

2. Emperor Penguins are the tallest species, standing nearly 4 feet tall. The smallest is the Little Blue Penguin, which is only about 16 inches.

Three emperor penguins
iStock/Fabiano_Teixeira

3. The fastest species is the Gentoo Penguin, which can reach swimming speeds up to 22 mph.

A gentoo penguin swimming underwater
iStock/chameleonseye

4. A penguin's striking coloring is a matter of camouflage; from above, its black back blends into the murky depths of the ocean. From below, its white belly is hidden against the bright surface.

Penguins swimming in the ocean
iStock/USO

5. Fossils place the earliest penguin relative at some 60 million years ago, meaning an ancestor of the birds we see today survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.

Emperor penguins with chicks
iStock/vladsilver

6. Penguins ingest a lot of seawater while hunting for fish, but a special gland behind their eyes—the supraorbital gland—filters out the saltwater from their blood stream. Penguins excrete it through their beaks, or by sneezing.

Penguin swimming in the ocean
iStock/Musat

7. Unlike most birds—which lose and replace a few feathers at a time—penguins molt all at once, spending two or three weeks land-bound as they undergo what is called the catastrophic molt.

Gentoo penguin chick molting
iStock/ChristianWilkinson

8. All but two species of penguins breed in large colonies of up to one thousand birds.

A colony of king penguins
iStock/DurkTalsma

9. It varies by species, but many penguins will mate with the same member of the opposite sex season after season.

Two chinstrap penguins
iStock/Legacy-Images

10. Similarly, most species are also loyal to their exact nesting site, often returning to the same rookery in which they were born.

Magellanic penguin nesting in the ground
iStock/JeremyRichards

11. Some species create nests for their eggs out of pebbles and loose feathers. Emperor Penguins are an exception: They incubate a single egg each breeding season on the top of their feet. Under a loose fold of skin is a featherless area with a concentration of blood vessels that keeps the egg warm.

Penguin eggs
iStock/Buenaventuramariano

12. In some species, it is the male penguin which incubates the eggs while females leave to hunt for weeks at a time. Because of this, pudgy males—with enough fat storage to survive weeks without eating—are most desirable.

A group of emperor penguins and chick
iStock/vladsilver

13. Penguin parents—both male and female—care for their young for several months until the chicks are strong enough to hunt for food on their own.

Penguin chick and parent on a nest
iStock/golnyk

14. If a female Emperor Penguin's baby dies, she will often "kidnap" an unrelated chick.

Three emperor penguin chicks
iStock/AntAntarctic

15. Despite their lack of visible ears, penguins have excellent hearing and rely on distinct calls to identify their mates when returning to the crowded breeding grounds.

Gentoo penguins
iStock/Goddard_Photography

16. The first published account of penguins comes from Antonio Pigafetta, who was aboard Ferdinand Magellan's first circumnavigation of the globe in 1520. They spotted the animals near what was probably Punta Tombo in Argentina. (He called them "strange geese.")

A group of magellanic penguins on the seacoast
iStock/encrier

17. An earlier, anonymous diary entry from Vasco da Gama's 1497 voyage around the Cape of Good Hope makes mention of flightless birds as large as ducks.

A cape penguin in South Africa
iStock/ziggy_mars

18. Because they aren't used to danger from animals on solid ground, wild penguins exhibit no particular fear of human tourists.

Man videotaping a penguin in Antarctica
iStock/Bkamprath

19. Unlike most sea mammals—which rely on blubber to stay warm—penguins survive because their feathers trap a layer of warm air next to the skin that serves as insulation, especially when they start generating muscular heat by swimming around.

Penguin swimming in the ocean
iStock/Musat

20. In the 16th century, the word penguin actually referred to great auks (scientific name: Pinguinus impennis), a now-extinct species that inhabited the seas around eastern Canada. When explorers traveled to the Southern Hemisphere, they saw black and white birds that resembled auks, and called them penguins.

This story was first published in 2017.

Can You Spot the Official Scrabble Words?

iStock.com/Rena-Marie
iStock.com/Rena-Marie

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER