Compiled by Aishwarya Sahasrabudhe
Self-isolation, quarantine or a work from home gig, the social distancing put into effect on account of the coronavirus pandemic has most of us staying at home for longer hours than what we are used to. Being confined to the four walls of the house can make us irritable and angst-y, but there are a number of cultural and artistic virtual experiences that can make the isolation more bearable, invigorate our spirits and keep up those positivity levels.
Several museums and art galleries have opened up their collections for viewers to enjoy from the comfort of their couch. Google Arts and Culture has teamed up with hundreds of these museums across the globe digitising some of their art collections. Here is a map for a comprehensive look at all of these digital spaces.
It is possible to soak in the history, heritage and stories of these masterpieces through virtual tours such as the one offered by Musée d’Orsay, Paris. From impressionism to modern art, the digital archives have on display some 278 pieces of artwork along with a glimpse into the museum itself. Some of the collectibles include Vincent Van Gogh's self-portrait as well as Pierre-Auguste Renoir's painting of Claude Monet.
For those interested in the works of Nobel Prize-winning scientist Marie Curie, there is also a collection from Musée Curie, that houses the last laboratory and office of Curie, Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie at the Radium Institute.
Online exhibits from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, Florence's Uffizi Gallery and the Johannesburg Art Gallery are also available, carrying information about every piece of work on display. Guided tours of multiple paintings such as Monet's water lilies and John Piper's views of Windsor Castle can also be enjoyed online.
As well, a tour of Frida Kahlo’s diary, that of the Gandhara Sculptures in Pakistan's Lahore Museum are also some of the notable collections up on the digital storehouse. Also a wonderful experience is diving into the street view of the graffiti artist Banksy's 12 artworks.
Another interesting way to get through the quarantine and make productive use of this free time is to doodle, draw and write. Mo Willems. Artist-in-Residence at The Kennedy Centre, has been posting one episode per week day which will help learners to write and create meaningful artwork.
It is possible to also sketch a concise history of the world through a virtual timeline created by the British Museum, London which can be paired well with a BBC podcast narrated by Neil MacGregor, the Director of the British Museum.
The Smithsonian Institute has also created immersive experiences, one of which includes toying with a 3D model of a woolly mammoth's skeleton and others such as online exhibits about the jazz artiste Ella Fitzgerald and centuries-old paintings of Pocahontas.
Collections at one of Mumbai's iconic cultural spaces, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), are up for viewing on Google Arts and Culture. Along with that, the museum's YouTube channel has several clips and films such as one that narrates the curatorial process behind creating exhibitions as large as India and the World: A History in Nine Stories.
Manuscripts in the Walters Art Museum’s collection in Baltimore, mobile tours of audio recordings and artworks at the Jewish Museum, Van Gogh's Starry Night housed in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), watercolor drawings and bronze sculptures on display at the New-York Historical Society are also among some of the virtual experiences to be enjoyed from home at this time.
Yale’s Digital Library of art and natural history has also made available around 1.5 million works of art, natural history, books, maps, photographs, audio and video inclusive of the collections at Yale University Art Gallery, Yale Peabody Museum, Lewis Walpole Library and Yale Library Map Collection. For its part, Harvard University Press has also announced that it will provide schools and universities affected with COVID-19 free access to the digital Loeb Classical Library until 30 June.
Moreover, as children continue to remain at home, Amazon's book-reader Audible has also made available numerous collections of stories, across six languages, to help them learn and keep themselves engaged. From folk tales to popular classics, audiobooks on Audible Stories are provided for free streaming on desktops, laptops, phones and tablets. So also, Scribd, which is a giant library of magazine articles, ebooks and audiobooks, will be open to all for 30 days as everyone adjusts to the social distancing that continues in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
And then, there's the publishing house, Juggernaut Books which has, as part of its #ReadInstead campaign provided its entire catalogue of bestsellers and curated-for mobile reads at no cost, to the entire country. The books will be available on Juggernaut's app along with a library of short reads comprising 20-minute collections curated around topics that Indian readers are interested in.Juggernaut has also announced that it will be flagging off on 27 March a month-long, #ReadInstead Online Literature Festival complete with conversations, workshops, masterclasses and more.
Now, the Attorney General of India, KK Venugopal has also created a digital repository of a number of rare books from his personal library making them available for the public. His collection uploaded on the KKV Repository consists of as many as 570 books on a plethora of subjects ranging from mythology and the Vedas to historical battles and the British Empire in India.
Amar Chitra Katha, which has played a phenomenal role in popularising Indian mythology through its comic books has recently made its entire catalogue available for free for the next 30 days as citizens cope with social distancing. So also, Tinkle's Supandi, Shikari Shambhu and Tantri Kalia can also be read online for free during the next 30 days.
Among the comic book collections available digitally are Vault Comics' Submerged, Friendo, and Fearscape. Not only that, Image Comics has put up ginormous amounts of its comics online opening up the first issue vault of some of its greatest hits like Descender, The Walking Dead and Monstress.
Now is also the time to delve into some lesser-known works such as publisher Valiant Comics' worlds of the Eternal Warrior and Geomancer as it is engaged in posting a new free comic or trade collection every day. For those looking to binge comics, the critically acclaimed work, Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 5 is also available for free download. The 400-paged collection includes a plethora of Judge Dredd stories such as The Mega-Rackets, Judge Death, Block Mania and The Apocalypse War.
Among the sci-fi and horror comics, the ones to look out for are Contact High, a sci-fi love story in a world in which human contact is illegal but people come together despite all odds. On A Sunbeam, that explores love, loss and the future and Old City Blues, a neo-noir story set in a not-so-faraway future are two works that can be consumed while in quarantine. For the young adults missing school, there are comics such as Wrapped Up, the story of a 12-year-old boy and Nutmeg which narrates the adventures of a bunch of middle school kids.
Matthew Rosenberg, known for the popular work, X-Men has also posted some free comics that can be read online including We Can Never Go Home and 4 Kids Go into a Bank. If that's not enough, Conan the Barbarian, Dungeons & Dragons, and Samurai Jack's Jim Zub has shared two of his works Wayward and Skull Kicker to be enjoyed for free.
Enjoy the orchestra of the Vancouver Symphony while reading that book long-been on the reading list, or changing that light bulb, or cleaning out that messy shelf. The symphony live-streamed its final performance at the BeethovenFest and it is now available for viewing. Performances of the Berlin Philharmonic can also be enjoyed online with the help of a special limited-time code. These include renditions of Bach, Beethoven and Gustav Mahler. Jacksonville Symphony's collection of performances can be availed via Spotify for those looking to immerse themselves in the works of composers such as Thomas Adès or Igor Stravinsky. The Social Distancing Festival is another valuable resource that has been gathering live streams of concerts and performances under one roof.
YouTube is a treasure trove at this time: of videos posted by The Royal Opera House, London's channel which contains snippets from Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Alice in Wonderland and lots more. Glasgow's Scottish Symphony Orchestra also has a wonderful collection of concerts and live streams such as Shostakovich No. 5 and Wagner's The Ring among others. London Symphony Orchestra's YouTube channel is an additional source for accessing concert clips. Vienna State Opera and the nightly streaming of New York City's Metropolitan Opera are two other resources for viewing and listening to this age-old performing art. Rehearsals and archived performances from the iconic opera house, Paris Opera Ballet, can also be accessed online. For those looking to introduce themselves to a new art form, there is nothing more dramatic and intense like an opera.
Furthermore, The National Theatre, London which houses one of the greatest archives of cinema-quality recordings of stage plays, has announced that from 2 April, it will be streaming one play every Thursday at 7 pm on its YouTube channel. To be staged online under the banner, National Theatre at Home, each play will be available for free for one week along with content such as Q&As with the cast and post-stream talks. The first show will be Richard Bean's One Man, Two Guvnors, starring James Corden, followed in the second week by a production of Jane Eyre adapted by Sally Cookson.
Now, select Broadway shows are available for streaming too via Amazon, iTunes and YouTube and more importantly, BroadwayHD, which offers a one-week free trial period.
For connoisseurs of Hindustani and Carnatic music, the YouTube channel First Edition Arts is a wonderful storehouse of performance by stalwarts including TM Krishna, Rama Ravi and Raghunandan Panshikar. And now, music aficionados can also stream Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band's 2009 concert, London Calling: Live in Hyde Park in its entirety on YouTube and Apple Music.
It is possible to experience a virtual tour on Google Art and Culture of the Palace of Versailles complete with its Baroque art and architecture, of the Prambanan Temple in Jakarta, Indonesia, known for its carvings that depict numerous tales and the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.
The San Diego Zoo and the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta are also offering live cams and live streams to take a look at the animals and sea life housed in these spaces. While school remains closed, these webcams are an easy way to engage children in productive activity.
One of the most fruitful methods for students to cope with social distancing is to keep up with coursework. In keeping with this idea, Adobe has announced that users will have greater access to Adobe Creative Cloud desktops to facilitate distance learning. As well, higher education and K-12 institutional customers (in universities affected by COVID-19) can put in a request for a temporary 'at-home' access to students and educators to continue learning using the Creative Cloud apps. This feature will be accessible till 31 May 2020.
Skillshare, which offers classes and workshops, along with its free trial sessions has also announced an initiative that gives a free two-month access for those with .edu and .k12 email addresses in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Up for grabs is also a limited two-month free membership based on need. So also, the British Library, even as it closes its public-facing services will provide its consumers a full range of digital content including its collections, learning resources and remote access research services.
Furthermore, the online academic resource space JSTOR is currently in the works to expand the amount of free content already available on the site for students accessing the database through subscribed universities. It is also working on making accessible as many as 20,000 books to academic institutions and secondary schools that do not participate in JSTOR's books program.
For university students and researchers operating from home, Cambridge and Oxford have enabled public access to the archives of their respective university presses which will in effect help students read more than 700 textbooks online for free until the end of May. University of Michigan has also made its content 'free-to-read' for the remainder of its term.
Other institutes to have made all their books and journals available for free online on MUSE include: John Hopkins University Press, Ohio State University Press (till 30 June, 2020), University of North Carolina Press (only books, till 31 May, 2020) among others. For a full list of free academic resources available on Project MUSE, click here.
Internet Archive has also set up since 24 March, the National Emergency Library to provide displaced students access to assigned readings and library materials as well as to help those in quarantine or under lockdown engage themselves in reading during this turbulent time. The library has books collected from Philips Academy Andover, Marygrove College and houses a bulk of Trent University's collections, supplemented by books donated from several other libraries for readers from across the globe.