Experience these museum adventures from behind the screen

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These five virtual exhibits free for public viewing allow us to explore museums that would otherwise be inaccessible to us in both cost and distance. Illustration by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Being stuck in quarantine has many of us staring at the same four walls day in, day out — which for others is a solitary exercise. Prohibited from physical interaction and hounded by the struggles of subsistence, it is all too easy for spirits to sink and anxieties to grow in this “new normal.”

It becomes almost an imperative then for us to seek solace anywhere we can find it, even if it means simulating human connection from across our LED screens. Sometimes this means chatting up a friend; other times, seeking digital versions of physical activities we used to enjoy — from e-numans to Netflix parties. Museums worldwide have also picked up on the need to inspire everyone quarantined at home, and have opened their virtual doors to our search for a pastime, a distraction, a connection to the art that reminds us there are still beautiful things out in the world.

In the time of the pandemic, viewers are free to choose their own virtual museum adventure. Here are five online exhibits launched during the quarantine that allow us to momentarily shrink the social distance we’ve built, revisit old loves, and explore new museums that would otherwise be inaccessible to us in both cost and distance.

"The Night Watch" (1642) by Rembrandt. Screencap from RIJKSMUSEUM

For a day with the classics: Rembrandt's “The Night Watch”
Found at Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands

The Rijksmuseum has created a master digital rendition of “The Night Watch” by Dutch painter Rembrandt, which it claims is the “largest and most detailed” photograph ever made of this 1642 piece. The original painting, which stands at 3.63 m x 4.37 m, was photographed in 528 exposures, creating a photograph with the size of 44.8 gigapixels. The online version can be zoomed in to see every crack in the paint, every brush stroke, and every blemish.

After all, the photograph was intended to help researchers undertake a restoration of the painting, which was unfortunately delayed because of the pandemic. At least in this way, this Rembrandt masterpiece can still be appreciated by art lovers worldwide.

Another Rembrandt online exhibit is being hosted over at Madrid, Spain by the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza. Called “Rembrandt and Portraiture in Amsterdam, 1590-1670,” the exhibit was launched on February 18 during the outbreak, before the museum closed its doors. The 360-degree tour offers even a V.R. option, and walks you through the nine rooms showcasing works from the different periods of Rembrandt’s art career and even works from his contemporaries.

"The Rotting Donkey" (1928) by Salvador Dali. Photo from THE DALI MUSEUM

For a dreamlike tour: “Midnight in Paris, 1929"
Found at The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, USA

If you’re seeking art more along the lines of the bizarre and the unconscious, you should check out the Surrealism exhibits at The Dali Museum. One such exhibit on their page is “Midnight in Paris, 1929,” which celebrates the works of artists such as Salvador Dali, Luis Buñuel, André Breton, Max Ernst, and René Magritte. The exhibit celebrates the energy and confrontations that shook the Surrealist movement as it blossomed in the 1920s, straight from the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

The site features a gallery of artworks that celebrate the dreamlike and the curious, accompanied not only by labels but also by audio narrations for each piece. The online exhibit runs from March 31 to December 31 — a welcome accompaniment for the year that has so far been anything but easy.

"Infinity Mirrored Room - The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away" (2013) by Yayoi Kusama. Photo from THE BROAD MUSEUM

For an immersive experience: Yayoi Kusama's “Infinity Mirrored Room”
Found at The Broad Museum in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

Fans of Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama can now enjoy her world-famous installation “Infinity Mirrored Room - The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away” in their own homes. The installation is an immersive piece which makes use of mirrors and lights to produce an out-of-body experience, and used to attract swarms of visitors at its home in The Broad in Los Angeles, before it closed its doors to the public last March 13.

To continue bringing the experience to the public, the museum launched the exhibit both as an Instagram T.V. series and a YouTube playlist. The series called “Infinite Drone” tries to simulate the multi-sensory experience using both visuals of the room and music by L.A. musicians and sound artists — best played in H.D., full screen, and full volume. Pro tip: If you happen to have a projector, try projecting Kusama’s cosmic infinity onto your bedroom wall or ceiling for maximum immersion, too.

"The Space of Wonder" at Studio Ghibli Museum. Screencap from STUDIO GHIBLI MUSEUM/YOUTUBE

For lovers of Japanese animation: Studio Ghibli Museum
Found in Mitaka, Japan

Ghibli fans rejoice! The Studio Ghibli Museum — which usually prohibits videos of its interiors — has created a YouTube channel this April that allow fans worldwide to take an exclusive peek at the fantasy world filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki has captured inside.

The videos take you on a tour down your childhood memory lane, from Totoro greeting you at the museum’s entrance, to "The Space of Wonder" which features a fresco ceiling of beloved characters such as Kiki from "Kiki’s Delivery Service" and siblings Mei & Satsuki from "My Neighbor Totoro."

You also get to tour "A Boy's Room - A Gift from Grampa" which is a mock studio covered in sketches and film props that recreates how a Ghibli film is born; "The Central Hall" with its spiral staircases and bridges; and the "Straw Hat Café" whose menu was inspired by the culinary wonders from different Ghibli films. Too bad we can’t book a flight to Japan just yet; everyone in the YouTube comments section will just have to do with reminiscing together through this virtual tour.

“Libuo Isnan Nemnem” (2019) by Kankanaey artist Jayson Duclan. Photo from BAGUIO ARTS AND CRAFTS COLLECTIVE, INC./FACEBOOK

For a look into local indigenous art: “Binadang Di Kordilyera”
in Baguio City, Benguet

The Philippine arts scene also has its fair share of online exhibits, such as those of the National Museum and the Presidential Museum and Library, but one exhibit created specifically in response to this pandemic is “Binadang Di Kordilyera” or "Bayanihan of the Cordillera." It was launched last May 11 on Facebook by the Baguio Arts and Crafts Collective, Inc. and the Council for Baguio Creative City (CBCC) to not only promote Baguio craftsmanship but also raise funds for the participating artisans from Baguio and Benguet through the sale of the artworks posted. The exhibit runs until June 11.

Furthermore, if you’d like to turn your newfound burst of inspiration into action, participating in “Binadang Di Kordilyera” will even allow you to provide care packs to cultural workers, since a portion of the exhibit’s proceeds will go to the CBCC's continuing “Good Acts” project.