The ultimate guide to museum sightseeing from home

Los Angeles is home to the world’s most unique and famed museums. From the prestigious Getty Villa and the impressive Hollywood Wax Museum to the silly Selfie Museum and the flat-out weird Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum, the City of Angels pretty much has it all. 

But since the fall semester began, many of us may be missing residential city living — Hollywood, entertainment, the arts. But don’t fear! Recreate some of that L.A. magic and browse this eclectic list of programs hosted virtually by L.A.’s top museums, galleries and cultural centers. 

While some museums have decided to go the old fashion route by posting articles, others have created video footage that include up close details of intricate murals. Regardless of the format, with all the different ways museums are innovating their online platforms, there’s no doubt you’ll have no problem fitting these virtual exhibitions into your busy student schedule.

Interactive Articles – The perfect compromise for those who just like looking at the pictures and those who take all day to read every word written on every placard. You know which one you are.  

The J. Paul Getty Museum 

Let’s start with a classic. The Getty Center and the Getty Villa host the late Jean Paul Getty’s prized collection of sculptures, art and artifacts. As a top tourist attraction, it’s no surprise that it displays the most diverse set of works on this list, all of which are open to online viewing through Google Arts & Culture. The curators have spared no expense to give viewers cultural context while pointing out intricacies commonly missed by the average eye. The online exhibits include detailed shots of masterfully placed pastel strokes, ornate baroque flourishes and even ancient Egyptian scriptures!

Recording Academy Grammy Museum

You thought we were just going to talk about a bunch of paintings? Of course not! For a more complete view of what L.A. has to offer, check out the Recording Academy Grammy Museum’s initiative “Doors Closed Mission Open” events. See features on stars like Whitney Houston, Leonard Bernstein and Frank Sinatra that recount their rise to fame. While there may not be current features from today’s Hot 100 Billboard Artists, any music lover would enjoy this deep dive into the past.

The Huntington: Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens

After binge-watching back to back Netflix releases (they really had to release The Legend of Korra right before school started), some of us could probably use some quality time with nature. So what better way to reconnect with the outside world than by browsing some botanical gardens? The Huntington is one of the most beautiful places to visit in L.A. Away from an urban setting, the gardens are a sanctuary for rare orchids and roses. Visitors can walk through the 16 themed gardens that are home to exotic flora from around the world: China, Australia, the desert and, for those of us out-of-state and international students, California. Lucky for all of us, the botanical gardens are accessible through virtual tours of the garden!

Video Works – Perfect for some relaxation time away from Zoom and a break from scrolling through TikTok.

Museum of Latin American Art 

The MOLAA’s virtual exhibitions are a great way to introduce the video category of this list while exploring different aspects of the Los Angeles art scene. “MOLAA en Casais the museum’s way to continue presenting modern Latin American art during the pandemic. “Oaxacalifornia: Through the Experience of the Duo Tlacolulokos merges text, audio and visuals to share the dual Los Angeles-Mexican experience through muralists Dario Canul and Cosijoesa Cernas. At the beginning of the tour, a video shows sweeping shots of the mural that juxtapose urban scenes with Oaxacan symbols. A guide offers questions and insight that resemble a traditional pre-coronavirus tour. While more time-consuming than other virtual exhibitions discussed before, the MOLAA’s collection of tours will give you an unparalleled cultural experience, as well as introduce you to a perspective typically excluded from most well-known museums.

The Broad

Finally! We’ve gotten to the abstract realm of the art world. Focusing on the 1950s and onward, The Broad displays work from artists such as pop artist pioneer Andy Warhol and graffiti artist turned gallery artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. “The Broad From Home allows folks to continue their appreciation of modern art through their computer. If you have a few minutes to spare and you’re down for some in-depth talks about art, its video series Up Close is an excellent introduction to well-known contemporary artists hosted by The Broad’s own curators. 

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

And we’ve migrated once again away from visual arts. If you haven’t been to a natural history museum, let me tell you, they are not your typical art gallery. The curators at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County are master exhibitionists — engaging audiences, especially children, with installments that recreate nature, invoking all the physical senses. It’s no wonder that many of its virtual programs center around DIY projects, self-guided nature walks and educational videos. For the busy USC student, taking a guided tour down Dino Hall or listening about Life on Mars might be what you need to unlock your inner child and destress from the craziness bound to unfold this fall.

Virtual Reality – Anywhere from a low commitment “outing” to an all-out museum get away.

USC Fisher Museum of Art

Now, for the moment we have been waiting for—let’s talk USC Virtual Exhibitions. The Fisher Museum covers a wide array of fine art — about 500 years — in all the mediums under the sun. Like the Getty Museum, Fisher has a detailed Google Arts & Culture landing page, with pictures of their permanent collection. While other museums host similar webpage-style exhibitions, what makes Fishers’ programs exciting are the gallery room online tours. The past exhibitions “Facing Survival” by David Kassan” and “James hd Brown: Life and Work in Mexicois” are both available in virtual reality for your viewing pleasure.

Petersen Automotive Museum

Yeah, you read that right. We’re going to talk about a car museum. The Petersen Automotive Museum is not just about showing fancy, vintage cars, although it has plenty of that. No—the museum features exhibitions that showcase the global impact of automobiles on society and culture. Unlike the prior museums, this automotive museum is accessible through Google Street View, a virtual reality platform that allows you to walk through the galleries. See cars from the 20th century in exhibits that give context through visual recreation of historical scenes and displays of other automobile-related artifacts. The best part? You can look down into some of the cars, passing the do not cross lines, which would otherwise be frowned upon if you visited in person.

Hammer Museum

Before you get on my case about sharing a UCLA museum, hear me out. The virtual reality experience for the “Collective Constellation: Selections from The Eileen Harris Norton Collection is just too stunning not to mention. The works celebrate female artists of color through a variety of creative mediums. You can actually (well, virtually) walk into a dark room to get the sculptural works’ full effects while watching a digital video that sets the ambiance of the room. For many people, the reason why they visit a museum is to enjoy the multimedia setting while viewing art, and this virtual experience does precisely that.

USC Pacific Asia Museum

And if we have to mention one UCLA museum, you bet we have to mention at least another USC museum. The USC Pacific Asia Museum is one of the few and far between organizations in the United States that celebrates Asian and Pacific Islander artists. It serves as a cultural center, beyond a gallery, whose exhibitions often travel the globe. “We Are Here: Contemporary Art and Asian Voices in Los Angeleshas a digitalized viewing experience powered by the same technology as “Collective Constellation.” The three-dimensional displays come alive as you walk around installations. “We Are Here” uses virtual reality experience to elicit a cross-cultural experience to expand your Asian art perspectives.

L.A. hosts a diverse collection of museums, many of which had programs that didn’t make the list. So whether you decide to visit these institutions online or on-campus, hopefully this gentle introduction to navigating virtual exhibitions has opened your eyes to some of L.A.’s many sites to see.