This surreal time is a perfect opportunity to discover the incredible online landscape of cultural heritage sites from around the world all from the comfort of your own home. Museums, aquariums, galleries, many are now mapped by Google Arts and can be explored from your laptop as if you were really there. Take the kids on a trip to the aquarium via live webcam, or take a virtual tour of an art gallery or virtual museum where you can see artefacts and paintings in closer range than you'd be able to do at the actual venue. So get ready, we're going on a virtual tour from London to New York!
The National Gallery, London
We spent a good hour or so this morning navigating the gilded halls of London's National Gallery from the comfort of our own sofa. The 2001 virtual tour of the gallery allows you to move from floor to floor, room to room and painting to painting with ease. You can zoom in closer than you'd actually be able to do at the gallery itself, and just clicking on any painting will draw up information on that artwork. This is a high-definition experience of 18 rooms and over 300 paintings, including works by Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Monet.
The 2016 Google virtual tour covers eight rooms and features paintings by the likes of Holbein and Titian. You can easily navigate these rooms by keypad and zoom in to individual paintings, although as this tour isn't integrated with the collection information pages, to see information on each painting you will have to zoom in on the caption displayed next to each artwork.
If you have a VR headset at home you can even dive into a full-on virtual reality tour of the Sainsbury Wing, discovering some of the greatest works of art in the National Gallery's collection as if you had the entire place all to yourself. Enjoy Botticelli, Da Vinci and Raphael up-close in an incredibly surreal, intimate HD experience.
Aside from the virtual tours, you can also browse the gallery's extensive collection of over 2,600 paintings by clicking here. Search by artist or by painting, zoom in for an incredible level of detail, and access information on paintings, eras, artists and related works.
Take your art students on a virtual tour of the National Gallery today by clicking here.
The British Museum, London
Take a virtual tour of the iconic British Museum with the aid of Google Arts. The largest indoor space in the world on Google Street View, virtual visitors can wind their way through over 60 galleries and discover incredible treasures such as the Rosetta Stone, which was used to decipher the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. The museum is home to the largest collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts in the world outside the Cairo Egyptian Museum.
Dive into the collection online database, featuring over 4,000,000 objects and detailed accompanying analyses. There are so many ways to search this incredibly extensive online treasure trove, including by name, artist, era, material and ethnic group.
However, one of the most exciting ways to discover the British Museum online is via the Museum of the World virtual tour. A cutting-edge interactive experience ideal for children, this collaboration between the museum and the Google Arts & Culture Lab maps objects from the museum to an interactive musical timeline. Kids can listen to commentaries from the museum's curators, search for objects by continent, time period or one of 5 themes, and access detailed descriptions of each object in the accompanying object information page pop-ups.
Find out more by visiting the museum's website, here.
Natural History Museum
With 300,000 specimens available to view online, virtual tours and 14 digital exhibitions, a cyber- visit to this incredible national museum is a morning very well spent. Explore the iconic Hintze Hall with David Attenborough's audio accompaniment to several key exhibits or marvel at the interactive Blue Whale experience. Learn all about some of the most intriguing exhibits such as the 122-129-million-year-old Mantellisaurus dinosaur and the rock as old as the solar system. Read all about the 2.5 billion-year-old banded iron formation telling the story of the moment in Earth's history when the atmosphere began to change and oxygen increased, paving the way for primitive life-forms to develop.
Check out the 3d models of Darwin's mammal fossils and other exhibits, scanned in such detail that you can get a 360° view of each object as if you were holding it in your own hands. Go through the beautiful botanical illustrations drawn during Captain Cook's first Pacific voyage in the HMS Endeavour collection. You could even base an art lesson around the these detailed artworks that used to record the journey's botanical discoveries.
Why not go on an interactive virtual expedition with the museum's scientists, or enjoy a 360° panoramic experience of Antarctica? There is so much to explore at this incredible virtual museum, click here to enter the world of the Natural History Museum.
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Take a Google Street View virtual tour of this renowned gallery showcasing the world's largest collection of Van Gogh's paintings and drawings. The museum has made exploring the museum online a very user-friendly experience, particularly for children. Van Gogh at Home for Children features a nice selection of Van Gogh colouring-in pages for kids to do at home, as well a Youtube cartoon series where animal mascots take young children through the museum and explain some of the artist's most famous works. There are also a series of videos for slightly older children introducing the artist and his life and work.
There are some brilliant resources on this site for homeschooling, including video lessons for primary and secondary kids and easy to read highlights from his famous letters. We really enjoyed the brilliantly imaginative, interactive stories about his life and way of seeing the world, incorporating many of his artworks and letters. These are a really wonderful way to get an in-depth picture of how Van Gogh's style developed as it did, and what was going on in his life at the time.
Dive into the artist's fascinating world by visiting this impressive virtual museum here.
Georgia Aquarium, Georgia
This aquarium has the best online viewing experience out of all the ones we've looked at. They offer a wide range of at-home learning resources including lesson plans, and have an amazing array of webcam experiences, including daily live streaming events.
With hundreds of fish, reptiles, sharks and rays to learn about, you can click on your creature of choice and pull up its information page where you can learn all about its physical characteristics, diet and feeding habits, habitat and reproductive life. The information pages accompanying each animal really are fascinating and incredibly detailed, and include links to the live webcam where you can watch that particular creature swimming about in real time.
The aquarium's deep sea learning video series provides kids with a fascinating look into the world of sea creatures. They release a new episode every week, are suitable for kids of all ages and cover topics such as dolphin training, the symbiotic relationship between coral and algae, and turtle anatomy.
They also have colouring-in sheets to print out and a kids' artwork gallery you can submit your child's drawings to.
We highly recommend checking out this aquarium and enjoying all it has to offer online. With all the lesson plans available on the site and a very interesting list of homeschooling web resources you can branch off to, you may be able to get several fascinating lessons out of the Georgia Aquarium!
Check out all this impressive aquarium has to offer, here.
Guggenheim Museum, New York
As with the other museums, you can tour the entire Guggenheim museum via Google Maps. A mecca for contemporary art, the Guggenheim also houses an expansive collection of impressionist, post-impressionist and early modern art.
The museum is now offering a themed, interactive virtual tour specifically for families. Homing in on exhibits from their permanent collection and special exhibitions, the tours are created for children over 5 and include activities you can all do together at home. There is a fee for these tours, and you have to register to bag a place on one of their Sunday spots.
For some video learning, why not check out the museum's Youtube playlist of live-stream interviews to learn about the building's history and architecture, and some of the museum's most prized exhibits. Watch the series of contemporary artists' interviews whose works have been showcased at the gallery and tune into the Guggenheim Digital Guide for some in-depth audio guides to the museum and its exhibitions and collections.
Find out all about the Guggenheim, here.
The Musée D'Orsay, Paris
A former train station, this iconic museum on the banks of the Seine is itself a work of art, and its grandeur and history can be explored in depth with Google Arts & Culture. Charting the building's journey from fully functioning station to museum via architectural drawings and photographs, this tour of the museum's history also explains the philosophy behind the layout of the gallery and its colour schemes and lighting.
Glide leisurely through this online museum and enjoy the world's largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces all to yourselves. You can also search the database by country, artist, school or material and see the hundreds of exhibits one by one in their own information pages, or opt to see them in street view, as if you were looking at them in the gallery.
The best way to visit this museum online at the moment is via Google Arts.