Local Museums Offer Virtual Tours To Combat Coronavirus Cabin Fever

Apr 27, 2020

If you’re staying at home and looking for something fun to do, Miami Valley museums may have you covered. They’ve been beefing up their virtual products to keep patrons well-cultured while quarantined.

Exploring Aviation Virtually 

The United States Air Force Museum is gigantic—over a million square feet.

It’s closed right now, due to the Coronavirus outbreak, but Executive Officer and Digital Curator  Bryan Carnes says that shouldn’t stop you from checking it out.

“You can go through the whole museum with the virtual tour,” Carnes says.

There’s even a feature called Cockpit 360 that puts you in the pilot’s seat of over 100 aircraft.

The United States Air Forces Museum has a robust virtual tour that takes website visitors through enormous hangers filled with planes and puts them behind the controls of fighter jets.
Credit USAF Museum Virtual Tour

With schools closed all over Ohio, educators are taking advantage of the free lessons that the Air Force Museum has put together.

“Our education department is really cranking them out,” Carnes says. “Right now, we have over 100 lesson plans that link to the virtual tour.”

The lessons are surprisingly diverse too, covering everything from the history of the Tuskegee Airmen to aviation based algebra problems. 

They even have virtual scavenger hunts that require visitors to seek out specific aircraft—like a World War Two bomber—with instructions like these: 

“Go look at the Memphis Belle, and show me where the bomb bay is at. Zoom up into the virtual tour, click the camera icon, and post it to verify that task has been met.”

And if you have Google Glass, you can take the tour almost completely hands free.

Touring the Taft Museum of Art

If you prefer fine art instead of aircraft, you can take an online trip to the Taft Museum in Cincinnati, which has an impressive virtual tour of notable works in their permanent collection, from Renaissance paintings to American masters.

The Taft has an active online presence too. Elise Solomon is their Director of Learning and Engagement. She’s been working on interactive materials since the museum shut.

"Casket with the Triumph of Diana" by Pierre Reymond, from about 1550, is one of many impressive works in the Taft Museum's virtual tours. The audio-visual tour of their permanent collection includes multiple views of works and interviews with curators and other experts.
Credit Taft Museum of Art Virtual Tour

“My favorite thing that we’re doing right now is our family fun days. Every Sunday we release a new art activity video, where we do an art project that uses materials you can probably find at home, and it’s always inspired by our permanent collection,” Solomon says.

In recent videos, she’s explained how to make a fancy lace collar, like you might see in Rembrandt painting, and how to make sidewalk chalk paint from just three ingredients: water, corn starch, and food coloring.

In addition to those Sunday funday activities, the Taft has also partnered with a group called Urban Sketchers to offer free online drawing lessons of a more serious nature on Mondays.

“It’s a really accessible way to create art at home, Solomon says, “because you probably have a pencil. You probably have a piece of paper. And I love that idea of bringing in other community partners to talk about the collection in a different way because everyone’s going to have their own viewpoint. That's what makes art so special.”

The Stay-at-Home order has forced the Taft to experiment, but Solomon says that’s a good thing and they’ll continue to finetune their online components even when the museum reopens.

Dayton Art Institute Offers Virtual Tours and a Beautiful View 

The Taft isn’t alone in its efforts. The Dayton Art Institute has Tiny Thursdays, which provide kids with new online art projects each week, and they offer some deep dives into works in DAI’s permanent collection with web features like “What is a Masterpiece?”

“It’s kind of us pointing out some details that you might miss if you’re seeing it in person,” says DAI’s Chief Curator, Jerry Smith. “So, when you do come back to the museum you’ll be able to look for those things as well.”

"Allegory of the Four Seasons" by Bartolomeo Manfredi is featured on "What is a Masterpiece," an electronic guide to the Dayton Art Institute that offers detailed background information on works and their creators.
Credit courtesy of Dayton Art Institute

What is a Masterpiece” features explanations of how dozens of great works in DAI’s collection were created, background on the artists, social context, kids activities, and expert opinion by local artists and art historians.

If you really want to sneak out of the house, DAI’s sculpture garden is open and boasts a pretty beautiful view of downtown Dayton. 

“You can come and walk the grounds,” Smith says, “as long as there’s social distancing, of course.”

And, until you can go inside a museum again, you can always visit one from your couch. 

Culture Couch is made possible by a generous grant from the Ohio Arts Council and is created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.