Night at the Museum: the virtual tour takeover

Louise Cusine details the virtual tour takeover by museums and galleries, specifically Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Louise Cusine
25th June 2020
Image Credit: Nikolai Karaneschev from Wikimedia Commons
Museums and galleries were forced to close their doors on the week commencing the 16th March; the restrictive social distancing measures and the increasing infection rate of Covid-19 were distinct barriers in continuing business as normal. Since their closure, museums and galleries worldwide have been able to keep their distance physically, but via virtual tours they are not only closer to us but also cheaper than ever before.

Given the uncertain situation which museums and galleries found themselves in, they acted without haste to ensure there was a platform to showcase their exhibits. These institutions are an imperative part of society, because they are a tool of education and identification, therefore the turnaround to a virtual instead of a physical experience was vital. It is remarkable that soon after lockdown was announced, renowned museums and galleries, such as the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, were made accessible with online tours for the entire population to immerse themselves in various mediums of art.

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is an incredibly popular, prestigious museum that opens its doors to nearly 3 million visitors every year. Its popularity is due to the fact that it is host to collections of acclaimed Dutch artists Rembrandt and Vermeer, so it is a particularly special institution for delving into the Dutch culture. In the summer of 2019, my friends and I travelled to Amsterdam and made a trip to Rijksmuseum, only to be turned away, because there were no available tickets.

Image Credit: YouTube (Rijksmuseum)

1 year later, I can see the art of Rembrandt and many more artists at no extra cost thanks to Rijksmuseum From Home; during the pandemic, the museum set up this initiative to bring the interaction of the museum to homes across the world.

The initiative by the Rijksmuseum, which many other museums have adopted, allows virtual visitors to go on a tour of the museum, participate in online games, be creative by following tutorials of artwork and buy a souvenir from the online gift shop.

Image Credit: Screenshot from

Taking a tour is the pinnacle aspect of the educational experience at the Rijksmuseum and on the virtual tour, the visitor has access to audio clips explaining the significance of each piece of art. It is ideal because we no longer have to wear the dodgy headsets, which museums provide us with! I also love that they have made the virtual sense of it accessible to all age groups, as younger people can enjoy the online challenges. In addition, if you cherish the national flower of the Netherlands, you can buy a tulip decorated tea towel, cushion, mug etc to remember your online visit during lockdown! Since this institution has taken its online museum to the next level, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Rijksmuseum has even created its own app, which includes all of the above and is well worth the download!

Image Credit: Screenshot from

During the coronavirus pandemic, it has been apparent that virtual tours have played a crucial role in mitigating the impact of the closure of museums and galleries. The accessibility of museums by virtual means is pivotal in tackling educational inequality, especially for those who can’t afford to travel to various museums and pay around 17 euros upon arrival. However, there is a major question mark over whether the power of virtual tours will subvert the physicality of going to a museum or an art gallery once lockdown concludes. Previously, visitors have appreciated viewing art in these institutions but since we can essentially view art in the palm of our hands, will these institutions be dis-regarded? I sincerely hope not!

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