15 min read

The best UK online museum exhibitions to enjoy from home

There’s now loads happening online in the world of virtual museum exhibitions, here’s our guide which we will be regularly updating and expanding over the coming weeks

Strip! How Football Got Shirty
National Football Museum

still from National Football Museum video showing a closeup of the 1988-1991 West Germany football shirt

Still from Icon in Focus: West Germany 1988-1991 shirt video by the National Football Museum

Originally due to run until June 2020, the National Football Museum’s Strip! How Football Got Shirty now explores what makes a great football shirt from its online home.

The exhibition details the history of football shirts through the ages and how they have developed from heavy woollen jerseys of the Victorian era to the heavily branded polyester of today. There are also interesting and iconic jerseys in focus, including the 1953 FA Cup final kits and Forest Green’s innovative eco-friendly kit. Don’t forget to have your say in crowning the greatest football shirt of all time in the on-site poll.



BP Portrait Award
National Portrait Gallery

screenshot of 360 walkthough of the National Portrait Gallery's BP Portrait Award exhibition

Screenshot of a 360-degree virtual walkthrough of the National Portrait Gallery’s BP Portrait Award 2020 exhibition

Taking the physical gallery space online, the National Portrait Gallery’s annual BP Portrait Award show opened digitally on May 5. Visitors can see all of the selected pieces, chosen from nearly 2,000 entries by artists from 69 countries around the world, with their description labels, and move around the gallery space from artwork to artwork.

The annual prize aims to encourage artists to embrace and develop the theme of portraiture in their work, and represents the best in contemporary portrait painting.



Picasso and Paper
Royal Academy

still from video of picasso exhivition at the Royal Academy showing sketch of face in sketchbook

Still from video tour of the Picasso and Paper exhibition at the Royal Academy

Picasso on Paper explores Picasso’s spontaneous and personal works on paper – the experimental pencil, ink and pastel drawings which he used to explore the furthest reaches of his creativity.

This 40-minute video recreates the exhibition experience as best as any video can, but minus the crowds, queues and distractions. It’s a peaceful, slow-TV style amble through the gallery space, highlighting key works from Picasso’s 80-year career from more than 300 in the original exhibition.


To experience even more art at the RA you can also take in the enigmatic eeriness of Belgian artist Léon Spilliaert https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/leon-spilliaert


Leeds Museums and Galleries Virtual Visit

screenshot from Leeds Museums' virtual visit webpge

Screenshot of Leeds Museums and Galleries’ Virtual Visit page

For a pretty well-rounded online museum experience Leeds Museums and Galleries are offering five online exhibitions to sink your teeth into, with one more on the way and a podcast series taking you into the minds of the people behind the scenes.

There’s Fast x Slow Fashion, which examines the relationship between clothes shopping and people in Leeds over the past 300 years; Below the Salt, curated by artist Catherine Bertola who explores people, architecture and uses of Temple Newsam house over the course of its history; Making Japan, which explores the relationship between tradition and innovation in Japanese design; and Sounds of Our City, exploring the history of music in Leeds, from the music venues to the musical instruments and equipment manufactured in the city.



Johanna Unzueta: Tools for Life
Modern Art Oxford

screen shot of 360 walkthrough of Johanna Unzueta's exhibition at Modern Art Oxford

Screenshot of a 360-degree virtual walkthrough of Johanna Unzueta’s exhibition at Modern Art Oxford

Johanna Unzueta’s show at Modern Art Oxford works surprisingly well as a 360-degree walkthrough. Unzueta’s spatial and three-dimensional works lend themselves to this kind of platform, where you can get up close to the pieces to take in finer details and textures and pan out for a wider view.

Throughout the exhibition are additional snippets of information – thoughts from the artist, fun facts, further information and even behind the scenes pictures.



George IV: Art & Spectacle
Queen’s Gallery Buckingham Palace

360 virutual walkthrough of Geroge IV Art and Spectacle exhibition showing paintings and sculptures on display

Screenshot of a 360-degree virtual walkthrough of the Royal Collection’s George IV – Art & Spectacle exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery Buckingham Palace

There’s an awful lot on display in this 360-degree walkthrough at the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace. Drawing on the unrivalled art collection amassed by George IV, most of which still remains in the Royal Collection, the exhibition features painting, sculpture and furniture by some of the finest artists of the day.

The online exhibition lets you experience the objects in situ, curated before the gallery closed, and includes labels for all of the hundreds of items on display.



Aubrey Beardsley
Tate Britain

still bron tur of Tate's Beardsley exhibition showing two curators sat in the gallery talking about the work on the wall

Still from Aubrey Beardsley at Tate Britain – Exhibition Tour | Tate on Tate’s YouTube channel

Before his untimely death at just 25 Aubrey Beardsley was one of the most famous artists of his generation. He produced a prolific portfolio of over a thousand illustrations which shocked and delighted Victorian London.

Though the largest exhibition of Beardsley’s original drawings in Europe since the 60s is now behind closed doors, this short but enthralling video explores Beardsley’s fearless attitude to art through the eyes of Tate curators Caroline Corbeau-Parsons and Alice Insley.



Mail Rail from home
The Postal Museum

still frrom mail rail videos showing sandbags lining the wall of the train tunnel, with train passing

Still from Mail Rail From Home video by the Postal Museum

Once driverless and designed to carry letters and packages rather than people, a section of this underground railway was opened for visitors, as a star exhibit of the new Postal Museum which opened in 2017. The huge network of automated electric trains opened in 1927 and ran all the way until 2003, when it was disused due to high running costs.

This 10-minute video takes you through a journey on Mail Rail, narrated by a former engineer on the railway, Ray Middlesworth. It offers an atmospheric view of underground London, minus the claustrophobia.



Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh
Saatchi Gallery

still of video walkthrough of Tutankhamun exhibition showing small golden figure of Tutankhamun on a skiff with a harpoon

Still from Virtual Exhibition Tour video on Tutankhamun London’s YouTube channel

This massive, landmark exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb was sadly cut several weeks short hen the country went into lockdown.

This whistlestop video tour takes you around the Saatchi’s celebrated exhibition, guiding you through a selection of the spectacular objects on display in the show in under four and a half minutes.



David Blandy
John Hansard Gallery

video game footage of cormorant flying over valley at sunrise

Still from David Blandy’s artwork How to Fly

Throughout May and June, two new digital videos by artist David Blandy’s are on display on Southampton University’s John Hansard Gallery’s website. The two new digital videos have been commissioned to reflect the uncertain times we find ourselves in.

In May, How to Fly and in June, How to Live both use the form of video tutorials to explore ideas around patterns in nature and existence. By using video gaming and internet culture he questions our relationship to the culture that surrounds us.



The Common Ground
Crafts Study Centre

a collection of small ceramic pots with varying neutral glazes

Katharine Pleydell-Bouverie – Glaze test pots from the Crafts Study Centre collections

Moving the last three weeks of their successful show The Common Ground online, Farnham’s Crafts Study Centre are able to continue displaying highly textural en plein air paintings by Frances Hatch, alongside beautiful ceramic pieces by Kyra Cane, Jack Doherty, Adam Buick and Akiko Hirai. The show centres on a selection of small test pots from the centre’s collection by British studio potter Katherine Pleydell-Bouverie.



Sefton Open
The Atkinson

a selection of the artowrks on display as part of the Sefton Open exhibition

Screenshot from the Atkinson’s Sefton Open online exhibition

This annual open exhibition showcases the breadth of creativity over the borough of Sefton in Merseyside. Artists working across painting, printmaking, collage, drawing and even textile art and sculpture have been chosen to exhibit their pieces in the show which for this year has gone online.



I Should Be Doing Something Else Right Now
Somerset House

stll of a video artwork showing a dog with digitally obscured face

Still from Vivienne Griffin’s artwork for Somerset House’s I Should Be Doing Something Else Right Now

Somerset House hit the nail on the head with the title of their digital programming in response to the Covid-19 crisis. I Should Be Doing Something Else Right Now responds to our current isolation with regular newly commissioned content as well as long reads, deep listens and a weekly showcase of an artist’s work to explore in full. This content is presented alongside podcasts, essays, short films and more from the Somerset House artist community archive.



Tullio Crali: A Futurist Life
Estorick Collection

still from Estorick Collection's Tullio Crali video

Still from Tullio Crali: A Futurist Life video by the Estorick Collection

Seeing the Estoric Collection’s Tullio Crali exhibition through its last few weeks, this online exhibition takes the form of a group of bitesize videos focusing in on some of Crali’s key pieces, his themes and his relationships.

Narrated by the exhibition’s two curators, the illuminating videos tell the story of the artist for whom Futurism wasn’t just an art form, but a way of life.



British Tattoo Art Revealed
Chatham Historic Dockyard

the heading for Chatham Historic Dockyard's Tattoo exhibition

Screenshot from Chatham Historic Dockyard’s Tattoo: British Tattoo Art Revealed online exhibition

This popular touring exhibition has already made waves at a handful of museums around the country, including the National Museum of the Royal Navy and the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, so those who were planning to see it in Chatham were probably pretty disappointed when we went into lockdown. Thankfully, the show has been translated into an online exhibition, which takes you through the themes of the real-life blockbuster.

The virtual exhibition tells the story of world famous Chatham-based tattooist Charlie Bell, who mentored Britain’s pioneering female tattooist Jessie Knight, and highlights other featured artists from the history of British tattooing.



The Wiener Holocaust Library online exhibitions

letter with illustrations featured in the Wiener Holocaust Library's online exhibitions

A letter in The Wiener Holocaust Library’s The Kitchener Camp, 1939-1940 online exhibition

The Wiener Holocaust Library has a whole collection of online exhibitions, each delving into a different story relating to the Holocaust. These fascinating displays vary from the lost photographs of German-Jewish photographer Gerty Simon to the largely forgotten Kitchener Camp on the Kent coast and the horrific practice of human experimentation under Nazi rule.

The exhibitions feature photographs, propaganda, letters and cartoons and reveal the human stories behind Hitler’s horrifying regime.



Folded and Moulded – Pleating and Draping in Fashion
Chertsey Museum

Chertsey Museum's virtual tour of Folded & Moulded exhibition

Screenshot from the 360-degree walkthrough of Chertsey Museum’s Folded & Moulded exhibition

This exhibition contains some truly lovely examples of pleasing and drapery in Women’s fashion, drawn on from the terrific Olive Matthews Collection. The dresses, coats and accessories on display have been captured in a 360-degrees walkthrough of the gallery which links through to an exhibition catalogue detailing each outfit.

A particular highlight is the wedding ensemble dating from 1780, which incorporates a dress, petticoat, hat and shoes. A Linked video takes you through the process of creating replicas of the wedding garments, which were produced as an educational resource and went on display at the church where they were worn.



Unto This Last: Two Hundred Years of John Ruskin
Watts Gallery Artists’ Village

the Watts Gallery's audio tour of John Ruskin exhibition

Screenshot from the online audio tour of the Watts Gallery’s ‘Unto This Last’: Two Hundred Years of John Ruskin exhibition

The Watts Gallery are fully embracing the digital world with their new Watts at home programming. Taking their John Ruskin 200th anniversary exhibition online, there’s a video tour of the show, as well as an interesting audio tour on the Smartify app, narrated by the exhibition’s three PhD candidate curators.

The audio tour takes you through the life and work of Ruskin in bitesize chapters, accompanied by paintings and installation photographs.



Quentin Blake: We Live in Worrying Times
Hastings Contemporary

screenshot of six paintings by Quentin Blake on webpage

Quentin Blake’s works on display on the Hastings Contemporary website

Best known as the illustrator for Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s books, Quentin Blake is the artist patron of Hasting Contemporary gallery in the sunny Sussex seaside. The online exhibition We Live in Worrying Times communicates Blake’s pre-Covid-19 concerns about the state of the world, from the affects of war to the ecological crisis. The exhibition of new work includes Blake’s The Taxi Driver, a mammoth large-scale anti-war drawing that Blake has described as ‘his Guernica’.

You can browse all 178 of Blake’s paintings and drawings and watch films recorded for the exhibition, including a documentary and interview, and the making of The Taxi Driver which was created in a single session.



The Lost Collection of Charles I
Whitehall Palace

screenshot of vr walkthrough of Charles I's private galleries

The private galleries of Charles I can be explored in virtual reality

This online exhibition is the fruits of a project to hunt down and locate all of Charles I’s massive and highly impressive art collection, which was sold off after his execution and ended up scattered around the world.

The 3D visualisation allows you to virtually explore the King’s private chambers at Whitehall Palace as they would have looked back in 1639, and take in the spectacular art which adorned the walls – all placed with the aid of inventories and historical and contemporary plans of the privy rooms. On show are masterpieces by the likes of Titian, Giulio Romano and Raphael.



University of Cambridge online exhibitions

illustration of a hyena in a book

Hyaena odorifera illustrated by Pietro Castelli and Emanuel Alphio in the University of Cambridge’s online exhibition Smelly Remedy: Womb Fumigation Illustrated in 17th Century Print

This brilliant site has a whole host of online exhibitions which draw on Cambridge University Library’s vast archive. Mostly based on physical past exhibitions held at the library, there’s enough here to keep you busy for ages pondering the varied holdings of the famous university – from Capability Brown to curiosities, and Tudor printing to wild wombs.

The exhibitions are complimented by superb hi-res images that let you browse the books and documents up close so no detail goes unnoticed.



No Strings
National Glass Centre

a selection of artworks made from glass beads

The glass bead works on display in the National Glass Centre’s online exhibition No Strings

From the National Glass Centre, this virtual exhibition, consisting of a video tour, artist profiles and an image gallery, presents a selection of rather remarkable artworks created using the humble tiny glass bead.

Full of imagination, inventiveness and humour, this exhibition sees all matter of objects created with thousands of miniscule beads, from football scarves and plastic bags to fast food and formal dresses.



Fans Unfolded: Conserving the Lennox-Boyd collection
Fitzwilliam Museum

video still of fans on display in museum

A still from the Fitzwilliam Museum’s Fans Unfolded: Conserving the Lennox-Boyd collection exhibition trailer

Drawing from the collection of more than 600 fans collected by the Hon. Christopher Lennox Boyd, this exhibition only ran for a couple of weeks before the lockdown started and the museum closed. This exhibition video gives you a glimpse of the exhibition, which features intricate handmade court and wedding fans to mass-produced fans used as advertising materials, and talks about how conservators care for the fans and learn more about them through analysing their composition and pigments. Thanks to acquiring this special collection, the Fitzwilliam now boasts one of the largest and most important fan collections in the UK.



Anno’s Journey: The World of Anno Mitsumasa
Japan House

still of walkthrough of exhibition Anno's Journey at Japan House

Screenshot from the walkthrough of Anno’s journey at Japan house

Take a virtual stroll through the gallery space at Japan House and step into the world of one of Japan’s most beloved artists, Anno Mitsumasa. Best known for his picture books, this playful artist uses humour, fantasy and optical illusion to tell his stories, which he crafts using traditional Japanese techniques such as papercutting and powder pigment on silk.

The virtual exhibition allows you to move through the gallery space, focusing on individual artworks featured in each of the show’s themes. The age’s In Depth section lets you learn more about the man and the art that is such a central part of Japanese childhood.



We Will Walk – Art and Resistance in the American South
Turner Contemporary

still from video tour of We Will Walk exhibition showing eagle sculpture

A still from Turner Contemporary’s We Will Walk – Art and Resistance in the American South exhibition virtual tour

Another video walkthough of a physical exhibition space, this show at Turner Contemporary is soon due to reopen when the gallery begins to welcome back visitors at the end of July.

Focused on the theme of resistance, an idea so central to the culture of America, the show brings together sculpture, paintings and quilts by ore than 20 African American artists from Alabama and the surrounding states. So much of American culture has originated from the south – an area shaped by racial slavery.



Fabric: Touch & Identity
Compton Verney

screenshot of six textile artworks on website

A selection of the artworks in Compton Verney’s Fabric: Touch and Identity online exhibition

This playful exhibition, curated by Professors Lesley Millar and Alice Kettle, explores how fabrics and clothes offer a platform for exploring identity, sexuality and society expectation. It brings together work by a diverse range of contemporary artists to discover how clothes conceal, reveal and seduce.

The exhibition is presented online through a series of short videos which are narrated by both the exhibition curators and the artists.



The Wilson

photo portrait of Calypso Rose

Screenshot from The Wilson’s Sisterhood exhibition online.

In Sisterhood, artist Danielle Salloum champions the women who are speaking but not being heard loud enough. The virtual exhibition showcases portraits of women from two very different communities – 20 from Cheltenham and Gloucestershire and 20 from Trinidad and Tobago – who are making a difference and representing positive change.

The diverse and extraordinary women include environmental activists, domestic abuse survivors, writers, artists and even a beauty queen. Join in on social media with the hashtag #SisterhoodStory2020



Spirit and Endeavour
Salisbury Cathedral

screenshot of a Grayson Perry textil artwork in a Cathedral space

Grayson Perry’s Death of a Working Hero seen on display in Salisbury Cathedral as part of the Spirit & Endeavour exhibition

This interactive walkthrough takes you through the exhibition Spirit and Endeavour, which marks the 800th anniversary of the first foundation stone being laid at Salisbury Cathedral.

20 works of art by some of the most important and influential contemporary artists of the 20th and 21st century are brought together, inspired by the achievements and the potential of humankind.

The show includes work by Grayson Perry, Antony Gormley, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth ad Elizabeth Frink. There’s also a family-friendly version of the tour, which includes activity sheets for children with questions to answer and craft activity ideas.



Florence Nightingale: Nursing & Midwifery 200 Years
National Museums Northern Ireland

screenshot of audio exhibition for Florence Nightingale 200

Ulster Museum’s audio exhibition to commemorate the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale

This audio exhibition commemorates the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale and celebrates Northern Ireland’s nurses and midwives. The exhibition talks about the pioneering nurse’s impact on the treatment of the ill and infirm, both on the battlefields of the Crimean War and later in hospitals across Ireland and the wider world.

The exhibition is split into mini chapters covering everything from nursing in wartime and nursing during The Troubles to nurse education and innovation in Northern Ireland and midwifery today.


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