International Museum Day 2023: Google's virtual experience allows you to explore without leaving your home

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You can visit museums in Italy, Ukraine, United States and more with this virtual experience

The importance of museums is being highlighted today (Thursday 18 May) in an annual day of celebration called International Museum Day. To mark the day, Google is allowing people to visit more than 50 galleries around the world - all from the comfort of their own home.

It’s a unique chance for people to take a look at some of the world’s most famous art by taking a virtual museum tour thanks to a series of 3D immersive exhibitions. It’s also possible to step inside history museums, design exhibitions and nature shows.

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But, just what is International Museum Day, why is it celebrated and what places can you visit with Google’s virtual museum day out? Here’s what you need to know.

What is International Museum Day?

International Museum Day (IMD) takes place annually, coordinated by the International Council of Museums (ICM), on or around 18 May. The event highlights a specific theme which changes every year reflecting a relevant theme or issue facing museums internationally.

IMD was celebrated for the first time 40 years ago. All around the world, more and more museums participate in International Museum Day every year, according to ICM. Last year, more than 37,000 museums participated in the event in about 158 countries and territories.

Why is International Museum Day celebrated?

People look up to museums for knowledge and information, and the day celebrates how these institutions can help give people better wellbeing and provide beauty in everyday life. It also aims to highlight the cultural significance of museums as places that preserve and showcase important historical artefacts so that they can be enjoyed for generations, meaning our heritage can always be understood. 

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According to the ICM, it intends to raise awareness about the fact that “museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples.”

Google is celebrating International Museum Day by allowing people to take virtual tours of some of the world's most important galleries.Google is celebrating International Museum Day by allowing people to take virtual tours of some of the world's most important galleries.
Google is celebrating International Museum Day by allowing people to take virtual tours of some of the world's most important galleries.

What can I see on Google’s virtual museum day?

There are multiple galleries you can virtually step inside thanks to Google Arts & Culture. They include:

  • Smithsonian American Art Museum, United States
  • The National History Museum, Ukraine
  • National Museum of Fine Arts, Brazil
  • The Barilla Collection of Modern Art, Italy
  • Museum Batik Indonesia, Indonesia

Google has teamed up with these galleries to create a new digital tool that helps curators present their collections in virtual 3D gallery spaces. Galleries are shown through personalised text, audio and images, and there are 60 exhibitions available to be viewed in total.

The experience allows for people to view some very special pieces of art; from collections that are not publicly visible, such as the Barilla Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art, to works that are too delicate for display, such as the colourful batiks from the Museum Batik Indonesia.

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You can take your time to virtually stroll around the galleries, and the good news is if you don’t have much time you can take a quick look - and then come back later. One big advantage to virtual viewing, of course, is that there’s no queues and nobody getting in your way as you’re trying to see the exhibits. When you click on each gallery, you are taken down to within the virtual gallery walls and you can then explore the various areas - or scenes - at your leisure with just a few clicks of a button.

What is the International Museum Day 2023 theme?

The International Museum Day 2023 theme is ‘Museums, Sustainability and Well-being’. It highlights that museums can help shape a sustainable future for all by providing educational programmes, exhibitions, community outreach and research.

Each year since 2020, IMD supports a set of goals taken from the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. In 2023, the focus will be on:

  • Goal 3 Global Health and Wellbeing: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, in particular concerning mental health and social isolation.
  • Goal 13 Climate Action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, adopting low-carbon practices in the Global North and mitigation strategies in the Global South.
  • Goal 15 Life on Land: Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, amplifying the voices of indigenous leaders and raising awareness on the loss of biodiversity.

How is International Museum Day celebrated?

International Museum Day is celebrated globally, and many museums offer free admission or discounted tickets on this day to attract more people to visit. Some institutions also showcase their collections, organise special exhibitions, and host educational programs and workshops. For those who can’t attend a museum in person, there are also other virtual experiences on offer.

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How can I access Google’s virtual museum day?

Accessing Google’s virtual museum day couldn’t be easier, all you have to do is visit Google and look below the search bar. There you will see it says “Explore 50+ museums around the world without leaving your home” and there is a link for you to click on to go into the virtual galleries.

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