19 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.

RCP Unseen
Royal college of physicians

screenshot of webpage showing first edition of the lancet magazine

Screenshot from the RCP Unseen online exhibition

Promising to show you the history of medicine as you’ve never seen it before, this online exhibition from the Royal College of Physicians shares some of the unseen riches in the institution’s 500-year-old archive of objects, art, interviews, books and documents.

The rare and fascinating items tell the story of medicine from both sides – from the point of view of the doctors and the patients – and the exhibition reveals how these centuries old objects help scientists and researchers today to learn more about disease.

https://history.rcplondon.ac.uk/exhibitions/rcp-unseen

 

Hans Coper 100
Ashmolean Museum

screenshot of video showing man looking at decorative pots through glass

Still from the Hans Coper 100 exhibition film

Accompanying a physical exhibition now sadly behind closed doors, this online offering marks the 100th birthday of the legendary ceramicist Hans Coper. A marked influence on British studio ceramics of the 20th century, Coper redefined the concept of studio pottery, creating sculptural, organic vessels that draw on traditional techniques.

In this 11 minute exhibition film Xa Sturgis and Charlie Park discuss Coper’s life and work, with highlights from the exhibition and archive photography offering a tantalising glimpse into the artist’s world.

https://www.ashmolean.org/event/hans-coper

 

Mediterranean Threads
Ashmolean Museum

online exhibition slide with quote from William Morris

Slide from the Mediterranean Threads online exhibition

This interactive exhibition explores highlights from the Ashmolean’s collection of 18th and 19th century Greek embroideries. Exploring the visual richness and technical sophistication of selected examples from the museum’s collection, the exhibition examines the influence of Italian, Ottoman and Mamluk art on Greek embroideries.

https://www.ashmolean.org/event/mediterranean-threads

 

 

Anne Lister’s Birthday Diary Entries
Calderdale Museums

historic diary entry written by Anne Lister on her birthday

One of Anne Lister’s diary entries scanned and transcribed

With Shibden Hall closed to visitors, Calderdale Museums have been celebrating the birthday of famous resident Anne Lister by sharing scanned and meticulously transcribed – and decoded – diary entries. Every 3rd April entry from her journals between the years of 1818 and 1840 is available to read on the website.

The detailed diaries she left behind give a great insight into her life as a landowner, businesswoman, traveller and lesbian. Anne Lister’s non-conformist attitude and lifestyle shine through brilliantly.

https://museums.calderdale.gov.uk/famous-figures/anne-lister/birthday-diary-entries

 

Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Natural History Museum

screenshot of online exhibition of wildlife photos

The online Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year photographic prize has been giving us incredible snapshots into the lives of animals since 1965. This year’s entries are no exception, with a spectacular array of photographs giving us a peek into the natural world.

However, for every fascinating image that brings a smile to your face there’s a harrowing one highlighting that mankind’s relationship with the natural world is often marred with neglect and selfishness.

https://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/whats-on.html

 

Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow online exhibitions

screenshot of online exhibition explornig gender equality in Victorian medicine with two photos and two images of Victorian documents

Photos and documents in the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow online exhibition about Victorian medicine

If you are at all interested in the history of medicine then the digital exhibitions produced by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow will be right up your street. From the history of our understanding of the brain to the College and medicine in Victorian Glasgow, the exhibitions showcase a diverse and intriguing variety of photographs, documents and objects from the collection.

https://heritage.rcpsg.ac.uk/exhibits

 

Time for Change! What the Quakers Did for Us
Head of Steam

screenshot of painting of man with caption explaining his role in founding the Quaker faith

A painting of Quaker founder George Fox in the Time for Change! exhibition

From the Head of Steam railway museum in Darlington, this online exhibition explores the Quaker Faith in the region. Known locally as railway pioneers, colliery owners and philanthropists, the Quakers are improving local life.

The exhibition gives a brief history on George Fox, the founder of the Religious Society of Friends, and four local Quakers who campaigned and worked to make a positive impact on the world.

https://www.head-of-steam.co.uk/our-collections/time-for-change/

 

Picturing the News: The Art of Victorian Graphic Journalism
University of Kent

screenshot of quote reading "He must be gifted in some measure with that rare quality - imagination by which I do not mean the power of picturing the impossible, but the power of investing bare facts with charm and vivifying them with spirit"

A quote from the Picturing the News exhibition

Spurred on by factors including the introduction of the printing press, the spread of railways and the growth of literacy, the 19th century saw a huge expansion of the newspaper press, and with this a new breed of journalists known as The Specials. The Special Correspondents and Special Artists were household names, celebrated for their ability to not just report the news, but to picture it, with imaginative descriptions and artistic depictions of current events.

Here you can read a wealth of information about these journalists, and browse extracts and illustrations from their articles.

https://research.kent.ac.uk/victorianspecials/exhibitionitem/

 

John Laing Collection: Breaking New Ground
Historic England

a screenshot showing selection of photos of different buildings and construction work

Some of the images from the John Laing archive at Historic England

From its humble roots in Carlisle in 1848 the John Laing building company expanded across the country building a huge variety of important buildings, from power stations, hospitals and schools to car parks, cathedrals, shopping malls and sewage works. Most of the new town Milton Keynes was constructed by the company; everyone’s life was touched in some way by John Laing’s work.

Now a major international infrastructure company, John Laing’s extensive photographic archive is available to browse on Historic England, and is explored in this online exhibition examining the company’s role in shaping post-war Britain, exploring how it left its mark on towns and cities throughout the country. Photos, a video, an interactive map and a series of articles uncover everything John Laing and explore how the company constructed our modern world.

https://historicengland.org.uk/images-books/archive/collections/photographs/john-laing/

 

Scotland’s Historic Shops
Historic Environment Scotland

screenshot showing body of text alongside a photograph of a bear-shaped shop sign with striped pole

A taster from the Scotland’s Historic Shops exhibition exploring innovative shop signage

This online exhibition from Historic Environment Scotland takes you on a whistle-stop tour of shopping in Scotland through history.

Split into three separate sections, the exhibition shows Scotland’s opulent past through its historic shopping arcades; explores how shopkeepers used creative signage and window displays to stand out from the crowd in the competitive world of retail; and takes a look at the owners and staff who kept the shops running, from drapers to chemists.

https://www.historicenvironment.scot/archives-and-research/online-exhibitions/scotlands-historic-shops

 

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.

https://nationalfootballmuseumstrip.com

 

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.

https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/article/picasso-and-paper-virtual-exhibition-tour

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.

https://museumsandgalleries.leeds.gov.uk/virtual-visit/

 

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.

https://www.modernartoxford.org.uk/event/online-johanna-unzueta-tools-life/

 

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.

https://www.rct.uk/collection/themes/exhibitions/george-iv-art-spectacle/the-queens-gallery-buckingham-palace/view-the-exhibition

 

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7irwknBsBHA&feature=youtu.be

 

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.

https://www.postalmuseum.org/make-a-connection/mail-rail-from-home/

 

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=73&v=WKxsDuqoqsk&feature=emb_logo

 

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.

https://www.theatkinson.co.uk/exhibition/sefton-open-2020/

 

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.

https://www.estorickcollection.com/exhibitions/tullio-crali-a-futurist-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.

https://thedockyard.co.uk/explore/no-1-smithery/tattoo-online-exhibition

 

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.

https://wienerholocaustlibrary.org/exhibitions/

 

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.

https://chertseymuseum.org/costume-exhibition

 

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.

https://www.hastingscontemporary.org/exhibition/quentin-blake-we-live-in-worrying-times/

 

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.

https://lostcollection.rct.uk/

 

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.

https://exhibitions.lib.cam.ac.uk/

 

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.

https://sunderlandculture.org.uk/our-venues/national-glass-centre/exhibitions/no-strings-online-exhibition/

 

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.

https://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/calendar/whatson/fans-unfolded-conserving-lennox-boyd-collection

 

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.

https://www.japanhouselondon.uk/discover/exhibition/annos-journey-3d-exhibition-tour/

 

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.

https://turnercontemporary.org/whats-on/we-will-walk/

 

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.

https://www.comptonverney.org.uk/fabric-touch-identity/

 

Sisterhood
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

https://www.cheltenhammuseum.org.uk/event/sisterhood-virtual-exhibition/

 

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.

https://www.salisburycathedral.org.uk/spirit-and-endeavour-virtual-art-tour

 

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.

https://smartify.org/tour/florence-nightingale-200

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