In many cities across the nation, businesses, attractions, and schools have been shutting their doors in compliance with COVID-19 social distancing rules and shelter in place orders. Citizens are now staying at home to keep themselves and others safe. Chicago museums, however, are here with a cure for cabin fever: virtual tours. That’s right! Now, visitors from near and far can explore what the windy city has to offer without changing out of their pajamas. Several Chicagoland museums have digitized their collections and made them available via the Google Arts & Culture Platform, a useful resource for anyone looking to get out while staying in.
Science and Exploration
The Adler Planetarium is currently offering 10 curated online exhibits. The Voices of Apollo is a deep dive into the Apollo 11 lunar mission and Women in Science Communication highlights the contributions of women to scientific education throughout the decades. For those who want a self-guided experience, the planetarium also offers a point-and-click virtual tour of the entire museum.
The Shedd Aquarium gained a surge of online popularity when they filmed their staff taking a flock of curious penguins on a tour of the facility to meet the other inhabitants. Tours aren’t just for penguins; ocean lovers can visit the aquarium virtually. The online exhibit gives the history and mission of the aquarium while the collections offer photos of sharks, rays, and adorable otters. The point-and-click virtual tour gives visitors the option to traverse the aquarium’s interior and meet its 1,500 species or take a behind-the-scenes look at the action behind the tanks.
The Field Museum
Sue the T-Rex won’t be lonely! Visit the Chicago Field Museum online with a virtual tour of the entire space. The museum has even uploaded collections with over 100 images of their animals and artifacts for closer inspection. The self-guided tour format gives the option to fast-travel to locations throughout the museum by clicking on slide show photos beneath the viewing screen. Study the fossils of a wooly mammoth or go eye to eye with lions!
Art in the City by the Lake
The Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago is making it easy to peruse the galleries. Visitors can take their time virtually wandering the museum on a self-guided tour or get a closer look at great works in curated collections. Study Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks or Vincent van Gogh’s self-portrait in the Modern Art collection. Bone up on the differences between Manet and Monet in the Impressionism collection.
National Museum of Mexican Art
The museums inside The Loop aren’t the only ones offering virtual tours. Smaller, neighborhood museums like the National Museum of Mexican Art have joined digital tourism. This museum is currently offering 7 online exhibits, 6 collections, and a point-and-click virtual tour. Take in the vibrant color of a Valdez painting or learn about the history of Mexican folk art.
Past Meets Present
Chicago History Museum
History buffs can visit the Chicago History Museum without leaving home. The 12 online exhibits span a variety of topics from the history of law and disorder in Chicago to the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s world premiere of Amistad. They also have an exhibit dedicated to the iconic fashion designer Charles James. Nothing like looking at beautiful couture clothing when you’ve been rocking your sweatpants for a week straight.
DuSable Museum of African American History
The gem of Washington Park, the DuSable Museum of African American History has 6 computerized collections online as well as the curated exhibit Freedom, Resistance, and the Journey Toward Equality. They are not offering self-guided virtual tours at this time.
The Newberry Library
Museums aren’t the only ones finding ways to reach visitors via the worldwide web. The Newberry Library has made it easy to look at its collection online. Take a look at over 1 million images and texts organized by collection or topic. Not a visual learner? Listen to the audio archive for recordings of lectures, roundtables, and speeches. The themes vary widely from Chicago’s current events to music trends during the Great Migration.
The Brookfield Zoo
The Brookfield Zoo is doing its part to reach out to those staying at home. They’ve started a streaming broadcast called “Bring The Zoo To You” that airs every weekday at 11:00 a.m. CST. The streaming videos of the animals and their dedicated keepers are available on the zoo’s Facebook page. The Brookfield Zoo is home to 450 different species, so there are constantly new animal encounters to enjoy!