Although Irish museums have closed their doors once again, this is a great time to discover what they have to offer online.
Collections from the likes of IMMA and The Hugh Lane can be browsed on their websites. While Marsh’s Library and the Library of Trinity College have some of their exhibitions online – and you can take all the time you need to read their featured texts. Abroad, some Irish interest museums have put up online content. Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum in Connecticut highlights key pieces on its site – as does the Irish American Heritage Museum in New York. But if you really want to immerse yourself in a museum environment, there are lots of virtual tours out there too. These allow you to learn and explore museum spaces from the comfort of your sofa. Here are some of the best virtual tours available from Irish museums right now.
EPIC’s virtual tour features some of the best stories from its exhibition. You can learn about the likes of Ninette de Valois, the founder of the Royal Ballet, or Kay McNulty, the first female computer programmer. The tour takes you through the story of why over 10 million people left Ireland and the impact they had around the world. As you move through the space, you can listen to audio snippets, watch videos or read about Ireland’s most interesting emigrants. For parents and teachers, there’s worksheets and tips to help you guide children through the museum. This tour will work on VR headsets too.
You can take a virtual tour of four different sections of the National Gallery. Check out the Grand Gallery for a variety of 18th century paintings which all have a link to Ireland. Or discover some portraits and busts of famous Irish men and women in the Shaw Room. Each section is introduced with a paragraph of text and, if a particular piece catches your eye, you can find out more by viewing it in the museum’s online collection. There’s also a virtual exhibition of works by the Spanish Baroque painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. Click on any of his six paintings of the Prodigal Son and the relevant text panels will pop up.
The ESB’s Georgian House Museum lets you explore what life was like in one of Dublin’s elegant townhouses from around 1790 to 1820. Back in 2017, when the museum closed to accommodate an adjacent development, a comprehensive online experience was set up for visitors. There’s a virtual tour, which allows you to step inside No. 29 using your screen or a Samsung VR headset. You can click on furniture, glassware, ceramics and paintings to find out more about them. If you want more information about anything you see, there’s a gallery with further details on each room and key artefacts. There’s also a ten-minute video tour led by “Ms. Reilly”, who was the head maid for the house back in 1794.
Chester Beatty’s virtual tour remains true to the real life experience of visiting the museum. You can browse every part of the building – from the atrium to the café. When you walk through an exhibition, every text panel is available too. You can check out the permanent collection, which features texts and treasures from Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. A selection of past and present exhibitions are also available – there’s one on Buddhist Tales and another featuring photos of 19th century Thailand. Conveniently, if a piece is too small to see clearly in the virtual tour, the museum provides a link to the collection where you’ll find high quality photos and further information.
If you enjoy being led around by a tour guide, Kilmainham Jail’s Facebook Live videos may be just what you’re looking for. Though they aren’t technically virtual tours, the videos are filmed from the guide’s point of view to make you feel like you’re walking through the building yourself. Each video is just a few minutes long and covers a different area of the jail. Cell by cell, the tale of who stayed there is told. In the chapel, you’ll hear the story of how Joseph Plunkett married Grace Gifford – the night before his execution. You can also visit the basement and other parts of the jail that aren’t normally accessible to visitors.
Limerick’s Hunt Museum features everything from prehistoric artefacts right through to contemporary artworks. But, right now, you can take a virtual tour of New Small Work: Harper Hogg Shinnors – an exhibition which showcases the work of three well-known local artists. You can browse through the exhibition by yourself or take a guided tour, which is like viewing a slideshow. Some pieces even come with audio recordings with commentary from the artist. The museum’s older online exhibitions aren’t quite as sophisticated and come in various formats. But they’re worth checking out if you’re interested in fashion design or the work of Sir John Lavery and Walter Frederick Osborne.
Dublin’s print museum features a selection of printing equipment and print pieces. In its virtual tour, each machine is labelled and there are a series of videos demonstrating how they work. This one-floor tour is short and sweet, but it should appeal to lovers of history and design. The museum has also set up a standalone website to display the contents of its exhibition: The Legacy of the Printers of 1916. Check out EPIC’s virtual tour here – or discover more resources from available from museums at home and abroad using the hashtag #MuseumFromHome