Dinosaurs casts from Paleo Hall are some of the things you can view virtually at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Photo courtesy of the Houston Museum of Natural Science/Mike Rathke

Dinosaurs casts from Paleo Hall are some of the things you can view virtually at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Photo courtesy of the Houston Museum of Natural Science/Mike Rathke

Without a doubt, COVID-19’s impact can be felt in every industry, from hospitality and dining to beloved sources of enlightenment like museums. Fortunately, many museums and art galleries in the state—and around the world—are showcasing their renowned collections online. If you’ve always wanted to visit Texas’ best-known institutions, this is your opportunity to experience them from the comfort of your own home. Here are five top-notch museums you can “visit” today.

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

Get a virtual view of this North Texas gem, currently showing a variety of sculptures, murals, and photographs, including the distinctive Mark Bradford: End Papers showcase, which will go live online next week. “Like everyone else is experiencing now, this is a new frontier for us at the Modern, and we want our permanent collection and our special exhibitions to be accessible to all during these trying times,” says Andrea Karnes, senior curator. Unfortunately, the special Bradford exhibit was only open for a few days before the museum closed its doors to the public because of shelter-in-place orders. “Bradford, who is an international superstar in the art world, makes paintings that probe social and cultural norms and differences— it’s an important exhibition and we hope visitors will see it now virtually, and in-person as soon as we are up and running again, along with the rest of the world,” Karnes adds.

Blanton Museum of Art

Founded in 1963, Austin’s Blanton Museum of Art focuses on collecting modern and contemporary American and Latin American art, Italian Renaissance and Baroque paintings, and a variety of prints and drawings. “Visitors can view many of the more than 19,000 works in the Blanton’s permanent collection through our online collections database,” says Cassandra Smith, head of collections and exhibitions. “We invite our community to use this online tool to appreciate great works of art while the museum is temporarily closed.”

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is launching #MFAHatHOME, a virtual museum experience. Followers can tune in via social media and the MFAH email newsletter to access the e-museum and films, plus recorded lectures and artists’ talks, available on the museum’s website and Google Arts and Culture. This past week, the MFAH made Brazilian film Bacurau accessible online, and offered a narrated glimpse of objects from the exhibition Glory of Spain: Treasures from the Hispanic Society Museum and Library. 

Houston Museum of Natural Science

The Houston Museum of Natural Science offers a virtual tour of the online-only Gordon Smith Collection as part of the Google Cultural Institute Collection. HMNS received the collection nearly a decade ago, and decided to place it online for visitors to view and learn. In the collection, you’ll find an insect zoo, dinosaur casts, and a Foucault pendulum. Nicole Temple, vice president of education at HMNS, says they have a “great privilege of bringing science to life for learners of all ages. Our advantage for educating students is we have the real objects, specimens, the live animals, the chemical reactions and so on that allow us to bring science to life.” The biggest challenge the museum faces right now is transferring hands-on experiences into a digital format. Staff members are working hard to ensure that mesmerizing “ah-ha!” moments still occur via the online exhibits.

Witte Museum

This San Antonio mainstay recently launched Witte Where You Are, a virtual, interactive experience that families can access via Witte Museum’s social media channels and online. “Museums are wonderful places for learning and inspiration for kids of all ages,” says Thomas Adams, curator of paleontology and geology. “It is more important now than ever to keep kids engaged and we can do that by bringing Witte Where You Are to families.” The Witte aims to post educational resources (including videos) daily, with a downloadable activity or recipe to go along with the content. It’s the perfect way to keep kids engaged at home—and parents will get some enjoyment out of it, too.


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The July 2020 cover of Texas Highways Magazine, Secret Rivers


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