Although London’s world-class museums are closed at the moment, that doesn’t mean that you can’t explore them – as long as you have internet access. Even when you’re self-isolating, social distancing or not able to travel, you can still enjoy and learn about the marvellous exhibits and collections of the following top museums online through their virtual tours and resources.
Some of the world’s most important and beautiful books and manuscripts are in the permanent exhibition at the British Library, the UK’s national copyright library. The library’s treasures include the Magna Carta, Gutenberg’s bible and the original handwritten copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. You can view and explore much of the library’s collection online.
The British Museum was the world’s first national public museum. Its outstanding collection of objects from around the world spans two million years of human history and interconnected cultures. Its collection of ancient artefacts includes the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon sculptures and an archive of prints dating back to 1400. The museum’s website includes information about the collection in each of the galleries, and virtual tours of Prints and Drawings and Oceania. You can also search over four million object records online, and take a look at the museum’s collection highlights and stories.
Horniman Museum and Gardens
Victorian philanthropist Frederick John Horniman founded this museum when he opened his house and collection of extraordinary objects to visitors in 1901. Today at the Horniman Museum and Gardens you can see an eclectic collection of musical instruments, anthropology and natural history, including a butterfly house and a gigantic walrus. You can explore the museum’s collections online.
Imperial War Museum
The Imperial War Museum tells the story of modern war from the perspectives of both combatants and civilians, from the First World War to the present day. You can explore IWM’s collections online, and the website also offers hundreds of articles and podcasts.
London Transport Museum
London Transport Museum explores the story of London and its public transport system over the last 200 years. Exhibits include Routemaster buses, trams, and tube carriages, as well as an impressive collection of posters and photos. You can also explore the museum’s marvellous collection online.
Museum of London
You can learn about the history of the city from prehistoric times to the present at the Museum of London. The displays show how London has evolved from before the city was even built, through Roman times, the Middle Ages and the Victorian era, up to current times. The museum has online slideshows with highlights from the permanent galleries.
National Army Museum
The National Army Museum tells the story of the British Army and its impact on society. Its galleries are organised thematically to show what it feels like to be a soldier, what the army’s for and how its role has changed over time. The museum uses personal and inspiring stories to show the importance of national defence and security. The National Army Museum’s online collection showcases a selection of objects for you to explore and discover.
National Maritime Museum
The National Maritime Museum tells the story of Britain’s naval history. There are ancient maps and model ship to explore, and you can see the uniform which Admiral Nelson wore on the day of the Battle of Trafalgar. If you go to the museum’s website you can search the museum’s collections, discover epic stories of sea, space and exploration, and get expert insights from curators.
Natural History Museum
With more than 80 million specimens spanning billions of years, London’s Natural History Museum is home to one of the world’s largest collections of natural history. From dinosaur skeletons to furry frogs, from a meteorite to an earthquake simulator, there are amazing exhibits to see wherever you are in this museum. The NHM website includes fascinating stories from the natural world.
The Science Museum’s collection is a record of scientific, technological and medical achievements, and includes exhibits such as Amy Johnson’s Gipsy Moth plane, the Apollo 10 command module (which has been around the moon) and the first ever jet engine. The museum’s online collection includes more than 250,000 objects and archives.
The beautiful Victoria and Albert Museum is home to one of the world’s greatest art and design collections. Highlights of the museum’s 2.75 million objects include Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks, The Three Graces sculpture and a coronet designed by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria. You can go behind the scenes of the V&A by watching Secrets of the Museum on BBC iPlayer and you can explore the museum’s online collection via the website.
Over to you
Do you have any recommendations to add to this post? Let me know if I’ve missed any virtual London museum tours.