To See or Not To See? Virtual Art During Covid-19 – Aubrey Roberts ’25

On March 6, 2020, I visited the Dallas Museum of Art – my first time ever visiting an art museum. As soon as I stepped foot into the museum, with its soaring ceilings and countless galleries displaying art from all across the world and throughout history, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. I felt a dizzying depth of amazement as I wound my way through each gallery, appreciating everything the galleries had to offer. 

A week after my visit, the national emergency was declared due to COVID-19. Cultural institutions across the country closed their doors to protect the health of their employees and of the public. However, the world was not completely cut off from art. When in-person galleries were no longer possible, virtual galleries began to rise. Major museums across the globe have some of their greatest pieces of art available for viewing online, yet I did not know about these resources until the pandemic made virtual art my only option. I began to explore museums from the furthest corners of the world all while sitting at my desk. 

While there are countless virtual resources for experiencing art, my favorite has been the Google Arts & Culture app. This app features collections from over two thousand museums, making the objects easily searchable by artist, medium, subject matter, art movement, or country of exhibition. Additionally, many of these items have explanations, making the art accessible even to audiences with no background in art history. The app also takes advantage of augmented reality, including a feature that allows you to view the art through your phone camera as if it were actually in front of you!

As COVID-19 restrictions continually adjust and reduce, I have had the opportunity to once again experience art museums in person. When Texas began reopening, the very first place I visited was the Dallas Museum of Art. However, I still take full advantage of the countless opportunities to virtually experience art from all over the world – art I would not be able to access without the virtual collections I discovered during the pandemic.. As the public becomes more aware of virtual collections and exhibitions, art becomes more accessible to people who may not otherwise be able to see it, whether because of financial constraints, travel restrictions, or even just geographic distance. Although the pandemic was indubitably a difficult time for the art museum world, the presence of virtual collections has been a wonderful way of exposing people to the art world who otherwise might never have had such opportunities.