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We are currently writing a new chapter in the great book of world history. In recent living memory, the terror attacks of September 11 embody the best and worst of extreme adversity and human endurance. It’s listening to the distraught phone messages left by people trapped in the twin towers of the stricken World Trade Centre that really wrenched at my heart, on my last visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum.
Like much of the rest of the world, the bright lights of the Big Apple are off-limits to travellers, but even if the city that never sleeps is in a state of induced-hibernation, your wanderlust doesn’t have to follow suit. Sit back, grab a cup of tea and immerse yourself in the realm of virtual tourism. I've rounded up some of the best virtual museum visits across the planet.
The 9/11 Museum has a riveting virtual tour on its website in video format. While you can’t interact with the exhibits, you can take a "stroll" through the museum, as the slow-moving cameras, calibrated to walking pace, glide down the halls. Several exhibits are also available in the 9/11 Google Expeditions app, which is excellent for viewing the art and photographs on the walls of the museum, including the "In Memoriam" exhibit, which has wall-to-wall photos of the victims.
For something a little more uplifting, the Guggenheim is one of America’s finest art museums. Google’s Street View can transport you to the Guggenheim’s famous spiral staircase with the chance to view everything from the museum’s Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary collections. If that's not enough to keep you busy, the online collection also has 1700 artworks by more than 625 artists, as well as works from Venice and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Masterpieces from Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, Jeff Koons and Franz Marc are just some of the artists whose work are a part of the Guggenheim's Collection Online.
Finally in New York, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has a library of photos from its permanent collections, featuring works by Vincent van Gogh and many other contemporary artists. One of my favourite van Gogh masterpieces, The Starry Night, is housed here. In partnership with Google Arts & Culture, the MoMA offers one free virtual "walk-through" exhibit, plus select photos of its permanent artwork collections.
There's no better place to start than with the British Museum, allowing you to experience two million years of human history and culture using Google Street View, from the Rosetta Stone to Egyptian mummies. There is also an online collection featuring more than four million objects for anyone interested in learning more.
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
With the world's largest collection of artworks by Vincent van Gogh, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is an art-lovers’ dream. The virtual tour of the extensive collection of beautiful artwork will blow you away. See over 200 paintings, 500 drawings and 750 letters without leaving the comfort of your own home.
Who hasn't dreamed of visiting Nasa? Many of their treasures have been transported into the virtual realm from Kennedy Space Centre and Space Centre in Houston. Simply go online to tour everything from flight simulations to supersonic wind tunnels, and let all your childhood dreams come true! Also, you can try some "augmented reality experiences" via The Space Centre Houston's app, spacecenter.org/app/
If you're in the mood for a bit of artwork, you'll be spoilt for choice with The National Gallery of Art's online offerings. Take a tour of 18 gallery rooms with over 300 paintings, including works by Titian, Veronese and Holbein. Captivated by one particular piece? There's also the opportunity to learn more about each of the paintings on view. nationalgallery.org.uk
Even without recommendations to practise social distancing and limit travel, it is not every day you get to fly to Athens to see the Acropolis. Explore the archaeological site via an interactive tour online and learn about the most prominent monuments, including the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike. acropolisvirtualtour.gr
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Move at your own pace through the 360-degree room-by-room tour of every exhibit in the museum. From dinosaurs to ocean creatures, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History offers in-depth 360-degree views of its exhibits.
You can also virtually transport to Washington, DC, neighbourhood hot spots, awe-inspiring museums and world famous landmarks, such as the Lincoln Memorial or walk through the bustling Union Market. All 360-degree videos are best viewed through phone YouTube apps, and can also be viewed from the YouTube playlist on the @washingtondc channel. Or visit washington.org/discover-dc-360
I adore this world-acclaimed aquarium and it is livestreaming many of its residents, including waddling penguins, playful sea otters, techni-coloured jellyfish and many other ocean creatures. A live cam of the crashing waves in the Monterey Bay itself is particularly calming. montereybayaquarium.org
San Diego Zoo
Whether you're an adult or a child, a trip to the zoo is never boring, and San Diego Zoo is one of the world’s best. Lift your mood by looking at giraffes, penguins, pandas and elephants on one of San Diego Zoo's live cameras. Considering you get to skip the crowds, it's arguably a better view than being there in person.