The museum lover in me has felt more than deprived recently as we see a continuation of COVID-19 case surges. As we all know, the beginning of the pandemic forced many places to temporarily shut down, museums being just one category. While most museums remain open today, the rising cases of COVID-19 have put a pause on museum trips for many people, myself included. While I love supporting local museums, including our very own Wriston Art Galleries right here on campus, I am continuing to lose hope of me ever traveling again. This being said, I decided to take on the task of reviewing virtual tours of museums I can’t yet travel to. First up is Google Arts & Culture’s virtual tour of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
While I one day hope to visit Boston in person, I decided to virtually take a tour of the Museum of Fine Arts because it was one of the larger tours Google Arts & Culture has to offer. On the main screen of the tour, a short background of the museum is given. Then, viewers are drawn towards the 18 stories, or “exhibitions” of the museum that are available. These stories range from topics like “Radical Geometries,” to “Fashion Photography at the MFA” and “Latinx and Latin American Artists at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.” I was pleased to see a somewhat wide variety of exhibitions, despite there only being 18 available, which is usually less than what one would get in an actual museum setting for a museum this size.
As viewers choose which story they want to view, they are walked through a summary of the exhibition, similar to an introduction panel, and then they are able to click through each artwork under that exhibition. With each piece comes some identification of the object, as well as a short, one to two sentence interpretation label. Most of the labels were digestible and interesting to read. However, as an avid label enthusiast, I wish the title, artist and year of each artwork was larger and easier to read on the screen. In addition, I wish there were audio or video options for viewers who prefer receiving their information in ways other than text. While some exhibitions had clips of YouTube videos, they were very sparse and scattered. The actual digital images, I will say, were high resolution, easy to see and interesting to flip through.
Along with these stories, viewers also have the option to look through a specific medium, such as the textile collection. This I found to be a unique experience, as visitors in a museum usually don’t have the option to “sort” through exhibitions through specific categories, such as by artwork medium. This feature might be particularly helpful for someone doing a detailed project or research. In addition to medium categorization, viewers are also able to see the artworks in the museum through a dated timeline, or by color. While this isn’t how I prefer artworks to be sorted in a physical museum space, I thought these were fun features that can make for a new viewing experience. I also think these types of sorting options make visiting this virtual museum more accessible to a wide variety of learners and people of varying ages. I mean heck, viewers can even sort to only see the images of the artworks if they don’t feel like looking at any labels or text.
Was this virtual tour of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston like what a visitor would receive in the actual museum? No, probably not exactly. However, for those of you yearning to get even the smallest taste of Boston museums, I would recommend you take a look through this tour. The exhibitions might entice people especially interested in fashion and art conservation, as the stories are heavy on the topics of preserving clothing, shoes and accessories. Obviously, there are going to be flaws in all virtual tours, like there are in physical museums, as well. I can’t say this was the most amazing museum experience of my life, but I will say I learned new perspectives on art and was fairly entertained on my computer. While this Google Arts & Culture virtual tour may not be like any other tour you have experienced, it might be just what you need to satisfy your art exhibition craving.