If 2020 was supposed to be your year for a little more exploration and culture, COVID-19 might have you rethinking this humble resolution. With nations in complete lockdown, museum outings are off the cards for the foreseeable future…
But, fear not. Thanks to a little thing called modern technology, you can now peruse the halls and galleries of some of the world’s most famous museums with virtual reality (VR).
Smartify, the VR app known as “the Shazam for art” for being able to identify the title and artist of thousands of artworks, is making all of its audio tours free for the rest of 2020.
Exhibitions that were due to open, but have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, will also be launched on the app as audio and visual tours. The Museum of London, for example, is soon to add an audio tour of its Clash: London Calling display. All the objects in the show are already listed on the app.
Usually, the award-winning app allows visitors to museums and art galleries to scan artworks with their smartphone cameras to find out more about the artist and what is going on in the scene.
Smartify does this by cross-referencing the scanned image with a vast database that the company is constantly updating.
The Smartify app was founded in the UK by three art lovers who are passionate about supporting museums and believe that art should be accessible to all.
Now, as hundreds of museums and cultural institutions close around the globe, this sentiment is more poignant than ever.
“Obviously we have seen a change in the way the app is used,” Anna Lowe, one of the co-founders told the Guardian. “We started the app from a love of visiting museums and galleries and seeing and connecting with art. At times like this, really strange times, people look to art and music and culture for inspiration, solace … a sense of normal.
“Anything we can do to help that and help people access art and culture is important at a time like this.”
The app started with around 30 museums, predominantly in the UK. Now Smartify is global with 2 million artworks from over 120 venues on the platform and is the world’s most downloaded museum app.
During these trying times, other museums and galleries are starting to add virtual and audio tours for those stuck at home. Smithsonian Magazine made this useful list of “ten museums you can virtually visit.”
If there was ever a time to learn the stories behind treasures such as the Mona Lisa or the epic 1506 painting of the Last Supper by Gianpietrino, a contemporary of Da Vinci’s, it is now.