The Rehearsal of the Ballet Onstage. Edgar Degas cca 1874.-photo from the Met available as a public domain image

How to Get the Most Out of Your Virtual Tour of the Met

Sitting at home, with nowhere to go during the early days of the CoVid-19 epidemic lockdowns, we started virtually visiting art museums from around the world. And since the idea started during our discussions about the Met, we chose it for our first virtual tour.

Portrait of Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuniga by Goya (Francisco de Goya y Lucientes). 1787-88. On display at the Met Fifth Ave. public domain image, curtesy of the Met
Portrait of Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuniga by Goya (Francisco de Goya y Lucientes). 1787-88. On display at the Met Fifth Ave. public domain image, curtesy of the Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, known as the Met

The largest art museum in the US, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) of New York City, is home to a collection of over two million art works from all over the world. Most of them are on display at the main building on Fifth Avenue on the eastern edge of Central Park in Manhattan. This is the building we visited, this is the building everyone thinks of when they think of the Met. But it’s not the only one. The museum has two other locations, the Cloisters and the Met Breuer.

Founded in 1870, the Met opened its Fifth Avenue location in February 1872 to bring the arts to the American public. The museum’s permanent collection include works from the classic ancient world of Greece, Rome, and Egypt, works from the greatest European classic artists, but also modern and American art.

Visiting it all at once, in one day, can get overwhelming. To get the most out of the collection, you’d need to revisit it over and over at least a few times. Which, unless you live in New York City, is not an easy thing to do. Those of us who don’t live close enough for multiple visits have a chance to enjoy the museum’s online features.

The Met360 Project

Probably the best way to visit the Met virtually is through its videos included in the Met360 Project. Each of these short videos (there are six of them) offers a different view of parts of the museum.

The 2-minute long video of the Great Hall designed in 1902, gives us unique perspectives of the entrance hall of the Fifth Avenue building. Watch it empty, before the first visitors arrive, and follow it through the day. Different from my personal experience, when I found it too crowded to stop and enjoy the architecture, it helps me appreciate the grandeur of the hall.

Or, explore the Met Cloisters through another video, in Fort Tryon Park in Northern Manhattan. Dedicated to the art, architecture and gardens of medieval Europe, this branch is housed in medieval cloisters, including tower bells you hear chiming during your virtual tour.

You can also tour the Temple of Dendur, built around 15 BC, in the Sackler Wing in the Fifth Ave building, dedicated to ancient Egypt. Watching it empty, we felt like we’ve never even been there. How did we skip it, I wondered, until I noticed the statues we’ve seen at the entrance. I realized that we looked in, but ended up skipping it because of the crowds. People on top of people, kids and adults alike, were basically stopping traffic to the room. We walked by, thinking we’d return on our way out, but must have forgotten to do it. Another reason to return – some day.

Another short video took us to the newest addition of the museum, the Met Breuer. This one is home to a collection of modern and contemporary art in a building designed by a Hungarian architect Marcel Breuer in 1966.

The other two videos took us to the Engelhard Court in the American wing and to the Arms and Armor Galleries.

You could use one day to explore all of these videos, as an introduction to a virtual visit of the Met. That’s what we did. Then, the following day we moved on to explore the art works in more depth.

Let Your Kids Browse the MetKids Feature

If you have kids, give them access to the MetKids feature and let them explore. Watch them get excited about art while they travel through 5,000 years of art in a virtual time machine. They will get ideas for fun art projects to do at home they enjoy while cut off from the school setting. Listen to the fun art facts they learned on the site.

Other Online Features

MetCollects features the newest additions to the museum’s ever-growing collection. You can view the new pieces and read about them here.

If you are curious about the sculptures, the Body Language series presents short videos of museum curators and other art experts talking about different sculptures from the museum’s collection.

The 82nd & Fifth might be my personal favorite online feature. Here, you’ll find a series of 2-minute presentations by curators of different works of art throughout the museum. 100 curators highlight works of art that changed the way they see the world. Besides them, eleven photographers also talk about different works of art, from their perspectives. It is interesting, and eye-opening to watch these.

Or Browse the Met’s Extensive Collection Online

If you are curious about a specific work of art, you can browse the museum’s collection. In fact, the Met made a large number of these images available for free download and use, under the creative commons license. The works you see in this post, are from there. You just need to be careful, only use open access images; you still have plenty to choose from.

Explore Part of the Met’s collection on Google’s Arts and Culture site

Google Arts and Culture partnered with museums to make some of their collections available online. Each partner museum has its own page and it’s all easy to navigate. On this site the Met presents a collection of over 200,000 pieces of art for virtual viewing. Besides the art works it also has 27 “stories” uploaded. These stories, available from most museums on Google Arts and Culture, present different collections or pieces of art, both images and explaining texts. I find them some of the best learning experiences about art on the net.

The Met’s Online Features Are Great For Teaching Art Virtually – and More

A few years ago, I was teaching art masterpiece in my children’s school. As I was a parent helping out, I took a course at the local art museum about presenting art and art history to school-age children. I wish I had this online feature at my fingertips. Or that I knew about it if it was available.

Now, when teaching moved into the virtual realm, these online collections and online art presentations, videos and virtual tours are more helpful than ever, for parents, and art teachers alike. I’m only talking about all the online features of the Met, since I didn’t fully explore any others yet. There is so much to see, so much to explore! Yes, I’m lucky my child loves art, and she can get excited about a virtual tour of the Met. But some of these features would make any child appreciate art, and the history of art.

And let’s face it, we all need a little more art in our lives. My brother, who is an artist, told me once that an art piece is a mirror of a society. A mirror distorted by the artist maybe, but one that still gives us a glimpse into the different societies of the human history, and into our own. Modern art holds a mirror to us, where we can see ourselves, our own society. A learning tool, and an expression of beauty as perceived at different times in history, but still universal.

Hope you enjoy the Met’s virtual tours as much as I do.

5 thoughts on “How to Get the Most Out of Your Virtual Tour of the Met”

  1. This is a fantastic resource. I’ll use these tours to travel the world during lockdown. Thanks for sharing this information.

  2. Thank you for taking me home virtually as I can not physically be there right now. I was at the Metropolitan Museum practically every week when I lived at the place. I found so much respite there. Ahoy from La Paz, Mexico

    1. I totally get you being there every week if you lived in town. I would’ve done the same. Right now you’re much better off in La Paz though. Glad you enjoyed the virtual tour 🙂

  3. Thanks for sharing all of this information! I got laid off from my job last week so now I have something to add to my list of things I can do when I get bored 🙂

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