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Stuck at home? Take virtual tours of these Chicago museums.


Stuck inside? You can still experience some of the city’s best cultural offerings.

More and more Chicagoans are home these days as businesses, schools, and public institutions close their doors to comply with evolving city and state recommendations to stay home, limit group gatherings, and practice social distancing as a means to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

But just because you are stuck inside it doesn’t mean you can’t still take in the city’s best cultural attractions. Thanks to the power of technology, a number of museums provide remote programming with free access to exhibitions, media collections, and tours—all from the (relative) comfort of your couch.

A great place to start is Google’s Arts & Culture platform, where many Chicago institutions offer digitized access to their exhibits and in some cases an interactive “explore” function that allows you to virtually stroll from room to room at will.

The list includes downtown’s Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, and Art Institute of Chicago as well as smaller neighborhood museums like Washington Park’s DuSable Museum of African American History, the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen, the IIT Institute of Design, and University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute.

History buffs can use the time at home to head to the Newberry library’s website to browse more than 1 million images and texts or tune into an audio archive of past events, seminars, and lectures. Meanwhile, the Chicago History Museum offers access via both Google’s Arts & Culture website as well as its own portal to its online collections—including a nostalgic blast from the past in the form of the Studs Terkel Radio Archive.

Some of the aforementioned cultural institutions are also taking a more proactive and playful approach to engaging the public as circumstances require them to remain closed.

The Shedd posted videos to social media featuring a pair of penguins leaving their enclosure and going on a private tour of other parts of the aquarium, including the Amazon rainforest exhibit. Not to be outdone, an inflatable SUE the T. Rex costume ran amuck through the Field Museum this week while an Abe Lincoln look-alike explored the Chicago History Museum.

For animal lovers, the Brookfield Zoo is providing stay-at-home viewers a chance to see a different species up close every day with its “Bring The Zoo To You” broadcast, streaming each weekday at 11:00 a.m. on the zoo’s Facebook page.

And remember, there’s no reason to limit yourself to only local institutions and collections. Use this opportunity to take a virtual trip to New York or Boston to check out their best museums, libraries, and other temporarily closed attractions.

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