9 Free Resources to Explore London Virtually!
Updated: Jul 19
What has kept you going through the lockdown?
For me it has been the wonderful wealth of high-quality and free cultural resources appearing online! It has been a joy to see how inventive museums and galleries have become, even producing a BBC documentary series Museums in Quarantine all narrated by curators from home! I
n-fact there has been so much material available lockdown hasn't been long enough for me to watch all the talks, events and virtual tours appearing online. Luckily for me (and you), as museums and galleries begin to open their doors, they have thankfully vowed to continue the online resources for people unable visit.
Below is my round-up of the best London has to (virtually) offer!
Tate curated tour
It’s nice to have someone introducing and curating our virtual tour, rather than just being left to virtually wander around an empty and static gallery as many virtual tours do. Instead, Tate have Nick Grimshaw from Radio 1 talking to curator Frances Morris about the new wing of the gallery in 2016. It’s shot in 360 so you can switch your view and explore for yourself whilst they talk about the art. It’s short and sweet at around 3 minutes, but you can find lots of other videos on their Facebook page, even a 360 video of Kris Kyle riding a BMX through the gallery!
You no longer have to wait to be invited to one of the famous summer tea parties to make it into the home of the Queen! This tour of Buckingham Palace had to make the list, just for the sheer opulence of the rooms. There is information to be read on lots of the objects, but probably most of us are just here to look at what luxury is behind that famous façade!
Tower of London
This is an absolutely smashing virtual tour of the Tower of London. With 360-degree pictures to give you a real sense of the place, and voice overs as well as extra resources to be accessed throughout the tour. It has been really well put together and covers all the important and interesting facts of this iconic buildings history. If you have kids doing history at school, it might also be a useful and fun home-learning resource!
I love the Wallace Collection for it’s an eclectic mix of art, design, and armoury! And I love to take friends there who say they have seen everything in London and give them a little surprise. It’s a lovely building, a good collection, and right between Hyde park and Regent’s park for a stroll afterwards. Not only have they put a great collection of resources online to explore the collection virtually, they also win the award for the cutest virtual tour I have found in my travels. Produced by the St Vincent's Primary School, Marylebone, it is a tour of their favourite things in the collection and might manage to hold the attention of your kids for a while at least!
The Courtauld Gallery is based in the beautiful Somerset House, designed by Sir William Chambers in 1775 on what had been the site of a Tudor palace, right on the banks of the river Thames near Covent Garden. The gallery was already well prepared for virtual tours before Coronavirus hit, as it actually shut its doors for a large renovation project last year and took that opportunity to place resources online to enable the public to continue to enjoy its works. The Courtauld gallery is known for its impressionist and post-impressionist works, but the collection spans from medieval to modern times, and the great thing about the virtual tours is you can visit the collection whilst also getting a sense of the grandeur of Somerset House.
Natural History Museum
Whilst it’s a great museum for kids, it’s also a great museum for adults too! And the online materials are first rate. You can tour the galleries, have Sir david Attenborough himself introduce you to the Hintze Hall (where the famous blue whale Hope hangs), and even chat with scientists live every Tuesday at 12 and Friday at 10.30. The highlight for me is the Wildlife Photographer of the year exhibition which is available online to feast your eyes at.
The National Gallery has a very user-friendly catalogue of its paintings online, you can follow particular artists, or go room to room just as you would in the real gallery. They also have 3 virtual tours available to try out. Any regular visitor to the gallery will know they often hold gallery talks, and thankfully someone had the sense to record these over the years and they are all available online for free here. Thank you, National Gallery!
Visit London 360
A bit different form the other suggestions on my list, this is a brilliant resource to get a sense of London’s layout and of its most iconic buildings and views. It's wonderful for people who have never been to London to get a sense of the city, but even someone living in London like me was fascinated. You can pick anyone of 25 famous landmarks in London and see a 360-degree view, even taking you inside St Paul’s Cathedral, the Royal Albert Hall and Harrods, and up inside the Gherkin and the London Eye! It’s super fun for exploring and one the kids might enjoy too!
The British Museum
Well, it’s my favourite museum and my most popular tour, so it had to be my favourite virtual museum, right? Also, the British Museum has done a fantastic job of making its galleries accessible virtually, as well as re-digitalising its collection. In addition, it has a whole host of videos available such as curators giving short talks highlighting particular objects, and has collaborated with Google to make The Museum of the World, an interactive timeline highlighting objects from the collection with audio snippets too . Hats off to a sterling effort! Stay-tuned for info on when they might be opening their doors for visitors!
If that list of resources doesn’t give you enough to keep yourself entertained at home, I don’t know what will! Hopefully the number will just keep growing and growing, as museums and galleries see the positive effect of being able to reach a wider base of people, and not just those able to make the trip to visit in person.
Which online resources and virtual events have you been following? If you have suggestions that I should be adding to the list please drop them in the comments below, or get in contact, I’d love to hear from you!
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