It’s surprising to find that although museums and galleries have had web presences for a long time now, there is little consistency in content, focus, and ease of use. Some of this is due to budget constraints, but a lack of dedicated staff and planning seems to be part of the problem as well. Until the current closures of public spaces, this was not such a big deal; after all, if a website is a glorified Yellow Pages listing people would still turn up in person. But times change and now we’re all behind walls, looking through little windows, desperate for beauty, novelty, and distraction which requires websites with varied content. In this section ArtsGazing hopes to bring those things to our readers with a carefully chosen selection, highlighting museums that have enough material on their own or other media platforms to keep virtual visitors engaged until they can return in real life.
Various Media – The Bronx Museum of the Arts
A hidden gem of NYC, The Bronx Museum of the Arts has one of the best arts programs of teenagers in the city, engaging students to examine, question, and create links between contemporary life and the arts. The museum’s website has several videos showcasing the results of this training, as young people host interviews with exhibition artists that are as good as anything you’d see in an episode on TV. Other programs give ideas on art projects to do at home and short museum tours led by curators.
Various Media – The Frick Collection
One of the many great things about The Frick Collection is the online material available to the public: virtual tours of the rooms, audio guides in six languages (as well as transcripts in English) explaining the background of the art, furnishings, and architecture of the museum, ease of use to enlarge images for detailed examination, a program to create a list of your favorite objects, different methods to research aspects of the collection, past exhibition information, and an extensive list of videos from the museum’s lecture series over the years.
Online Learning Lab – Museum of Arts and Design (MAD)
Explore facets of the collection, watch videos of creators at work, and learn more about aspects of design ideas in the Online Learning Lab section of MAD. One of the best parts of the museum is how they’ve put almost all of their collection online: it makes a big difference to students, educators, and general audiences to see such a treasure trove so easily. Objects are generally defined by material, but there’s a search box available for a more precise look at this outstanding archive of images.
With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America – Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)
This is a young museum whose resources are directed towards building an archive and engaging in community outreach but they haven’t forgotten the power of an internet presence. Using digital programming, visitors can do a virtual walk through MOCA’s permanent exhibit With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America. A separate area on the page offers narration in English, Mandarin or Cantonese. There is also a YouTube video option, presented by Urbanist Live and the Associate Curator of MOCA, Andrew Rebatta.
Ballerina: Fashion’s Modern Muse – Museum at FIT
Bringing together dance, fashion, and women’s roles in society Ballerina: Fashion’s Modern Muse presents an exciting show of beautiful costumes and clothes for dancers and non-dancers alike. The thoughtful presentation traces the image of ballet in the 20th century, as it moved away from a reputation of being a small step above prostitution to a glamorous profession. Aspects of ballet costume design found their way into modern fashion, from tulle fabric in eveningwear, knitwear rehearsal clothes transformed into streetwear, to the ubiquitous ballet flats loved by women of all ages. Mid-century daywear for women is also on view, with the famous silhouette of narrow waist and flared skirt that still symbolizes femininity for so many people. There are also examples of costumes along with video showing how the clothes emphasized aspects of the dancers’ movements and physiques. In addition, the exhibit addresses the institutional racism of ballet, with its implicit (and explicit) statement of whiteness from the pink tones of footwear and lack of opportunities for dancers of color. The mindset only began to change in the 1960s, with the founding of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, African American ballerinas becoming principal dancers in US ballet companies, and audiences welcoming them with enthusiasm. The website also includes an introductory video and PDF of the exhibition brochure.
In the Galleries – Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
At MoMA, there isn’t any specific video presentation of the permanent or temporary exhibit spaces. Instead, visitors are left to explore the museum very much in the way they would in person, moving from room to room as works catch their eye. Special exhibits are at the top of the page, then the permanent collection is broken down by time periods and then by topics. There’s also a separate area for audio, narrated by collection curators, artists, and others if you don’t want to go through the gallery pages. MoMA also offers free, short online lessons through the Coursera platform , which are a great way to pass the time.
Grand by Design: A Centennial Celebration of Grand Central Terminal – New York Transit Museum
New York Transit Museum has Grand by Design: A Centennial Celebration of Grand Central Terminal. It’s an incredibly comprehensive dive into the history of the terminal from drawing board to landmark destination with easily understood snippets of info and lots of archival images. Favorite fact: at one time there was an art gallery on the premises, as well as an art school and our favorite section: ‘Ask Me’, interviews with experts who know GCT inside and out.
Exhibitions and Digital Features – The Noguchi Museum
The Noguchi Museum is really best experienced in person but until you can get there the two current exhibits, The Sculptor and the Ashtray and Composition for Idlewild Airport are online. (Make sure you click on the brochure links on each page, each is full of insight and detail about Noguchi’s thinking.) Other pages have long-form articles lavishly illustrated and meticulously researched. In addition, there is a new area of the website called Distance Noguchi, with several films ranging from one to eleven hours long, showing how the sculptures at the museum interact with nature and daylight of their surroundings during the course of the day.