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CULTURE | 04.17.2020

Visiting museums during the COVID-19 era

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No one would have thought that we were going to be affected by a time of major loss due to what, at first, looked like a distant epidemic. Then the coronavirus arrived and we still don’t know whether it’s here to stay. The main loss, unfortunately, is lives cut short. Secondarily, we have had to give up our freedom of movement, our freedom to come and go as we please, and the term “vacation” has become little more than a pipe dream.

In times like this, where there is debate over what are or are not essential activities, culture seems to be relegated to the position of least important activities. However, it is also becoming apparent that it is one of the fundamental pillars that we can’t be without in these circumstances. Reading or enjoying various audiovisual productions is on the agenda but, unfortunately, cultural tourism is far from our reach. We are no longer able to visit towns and cities or enjoy a play or a leisurely tour of a museum. Or can we?

We are reinventing our relationship with culture

We can no longer travel but our social networks are filling with memories. During Holy Week last week, we saw our friends and loved ones reminisce through pictures and videos of what they were doing just a year ago, when everything was different. Institutions, for their part, in light of the closure of cultural spaces, are turning a lot of their efforts to strengthening their online presence. The websites of museums and visitable monuments provide tools for virtual visits, if they did not already have them, and more content of interest is being generated on the Internet and social networks.

Children are the most in need of access to culture

Out of the blue, the youngest members of the household were deprived of their normal classes—which are being replaced by online activities thanks to a huge effort by teachers—along with any activities or cultural visits they had planned with their schools. This is why it is particularly important to have initiatives such as those implemented via the Prado Museum’s YouTube channel: children’s audio guides, in which the characters in the paintings from Spain’s main art gallery explain the intricacies of the works of art to the children.

It is also worth mentioning the initiative implemented by Fundación MAPFRE, which encourages children to get involved through interesting competitions, such as #DibujaMiró (Draw Miró), in which children aged up to ten design drawings inspired by various paintings by the Catalan painter, uploaded to the Foundation’s Instagram for culture.

Touring museums and monuments at the click of a button

When you were in Barcelona, did you miss out on seeing the Sagrada Familia? Now you can go on a virtual tour of both its exterior and interior on the Basilica’s official website. On the same website, you can also tour the Gaudí House Museum. We also recommend the 3D photo tour of Granada’s Alhambra from the official website of this other internationally recognized monument. The Prado Museum, in addition to the aforementioned activities for children, has, on its website, a virtual gallery featuring many of its most significant pictures. The Picasso Museum in Malaga is providing us with cultural offerings and they have an interesting activity on their social networks.

In addition to these options, which, due to their immediate importance, will have passed over the heads of restless minds, there are many more. This article by La cultura social (Social culture), shows us the options offered by museums that are a little less known to the general public, but, albeit, no less interesting. The Seville Museum of Fine Arts, the Arellano Alonso Museum of African Art in Valladolid, the Cerralbo Museum in Madrid, the Tower of Hercules in A Coruña and the Museum of Music in Barcelona, are just a few of the offerings.

Are you more a fan of nature? Perhaps you may fancy a tour of the landscapes of the last stretch of the Camino de Santiago. Using Google Street View you have a wide range of options to explore: You can start with Las Médulas or the Bardenas Reales. It is the closest experience to touring the wilderness without moving from your living room.

Let’s go traveling, get your passport!

If we’re talking about art and history, we cannot fail to mention Egyptian art and culture. In Egypt, the construction of the brand new Grand Egyptian Museum was well underway when the coronavirus turned up. Obviously, its inauguration has been postponed until the situation has improved so, for the time being, we will have to make do with visiting its works virtually via YouTube.

The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities is working on their website to gradually increase their offer of virtual tours, under the umbrella of an initiative they have called “Experience Egypt from Home. Stay Home. Stay Safe.”

Let’s move over to the United States. North Americans are especially proud of their natural parks. They have 59 in total, some covering vast swathes of land, and you can enjoy all kinds of landscapes. Thanks to a collaboration with the Google Arts & Culture program, you can virtually visit five of these parks, including the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park or the Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, jumping from one 360-degree panorama to another, with a ranger as a guide.

In fact, if you look properly, you’re likely to find an online visit to any major world museum or monument that comes to mind, from the Great Wall of China to the British Museum. This National Geographic article suggests virtual visits to a dozen museums around the world.

Here is where this brief virtual journey ends. Many doors have been opened. It is now up to readers to delve into those that most take their fancy and embark upon their own cultural path. If readers have time, as is the case with the more elderly members of the household, children and adolescents, it is an excellent way to spend time in isolation. Yes, you have to stay at home, but there are plenty of cultural options.