Residents of Washington D.C. are spending more time at home than they have in years. Concerns over the novel coronavirus in the capital have led to widespread closures of the city’s monuments, museums, and cultural institutions. But many of these attractions have risen to the challenge and are now providing virtual access to their buildings and the collections housed within. The digital age is making it possible to experience D.C.’s cultural offerings from the safety of your own home.
D.C. Now Stands for ‘Digital Collections’
The Smithsonian has numerous different museums that utilize the Google Arts & Culture platform to allow tourists to remotely visit their buildings, a useful resource to discover the world from a safe distance.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is offering a self-guided virtual tour in addition to 5 exclusive online exhibits and 6 online collections. The virtual tour is a point-and-click adventure that begins on the top floor of the museum and allows guests to work their way down. Be sure to check out the Painting Conservation Studio on the top floor before moving on.
The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery is one of the most popular Smithsonian outposts. The virtual tour has divided the museum into sections for easy navigation. Peruse the portraits of presidents and American icons in your pajamas. For a more focused experience, check out the online exhibits including First Ladies, a look at the powerful women of the White House from Abigail Adams to Michelle Obama. For a less historical exhibit, take a glance at The Outwin 2019. This exhibit is dedicated to last year’s prize winners of the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition which celebrates excellence in contemporary portraiture.
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
Restless sitting at home? Head over to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum for a long-distance experience that’s out of this world! The Air and Space Museum has nearly 50 online exhibits covering all sorts of celestial topics. Take a deep look at the Discovery or Columbia missions or get into the nitty-gritty of why it’s hard to design gloves for space exploration. There are 1,900 images to surf through from every decade of air and space travel. The museum also offers self-guided “walking” tours of the building divided by floor. Or, take an e-stroll through the Steven F. Udvar Hazy Center, a giant hangar where a collection of historical planes and aviation equipment is on display.
History Goes Online
Some of the Smithsonian museums have their own platforms for virtual tourism.
The National Museum of Natural History
The National Museum of Natural History has created a series of digital tours for its past, current, and permanent exhibitions. Each self-guided tour has a map feature in the top right-hand corner. Click the destinations on the map to fast-travel to popular attractions such as the Fossil Lab. There are clickable arrows on the floor for easy navigation throughout the space. Explore both floors to come face to face with prehistoric creatures, mammals, bugs, and ocean life.
The National Museum of American History
The National Museum of American History is dedicated to all things Americana. The website offers a scrollable list of 90 different online exhibits from which to choose. Enjoy a classic history lesson with the exhibit dedicated to the life of President Abraham Lincoln. Or get immersed in pop culture and innovation in the Treasure of American History exhibit where you can see the Ruby Slippers, Kermit the Frog, or Edison’s Lightbulb.
The National Women's History Museum
If the future is female, then so is the past at the National Women's History Museum. The museum has nearly 30 online exhibits available, currently. The user-friendly, slideshow-style exhibits run the gamut of women’s historical events and contributions. Since the 2020 Olympics have been postponed, why not spend some time learning about the incredible female Olympians in the Women in the Olympics exhibit. Other exhibits are dedicated to the women of NASA, the suffragettes, and female inventors.
Malls and Monuments
Most visits to Washington D.C. wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the National Mall. Experience Washington D.C. has created 360-degree virtual “walking” tours of the Mall and the surrounding monuments. A drop-down menu provides a list of attractions like the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, The Washington Monument, The Lincoln Memorial, and the Reflecting Pool. E-tourists can even decide whether they want to stroll the walking paths of the Mall by day or by night.