The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. (Image Credit: Sracer357/Wikimedia Commons)
Culture matters even in times of adversity and strife. It is a fundamental part of who we are, reflecting our shared heritage as humans and serving as a way for us to manifest in this world and express our beliefs, ideas, and inspiration. The Coronavirus pandemic has kept many of us from the cultural heritage sites and museums we had planned to visit this spring and summer. But there are scores of digital alternatives that provide a virtual experience mirroring a physical visit, allowing us to responsibly stay at home and still see the world and celebrate our cultural inheritance.
The Google Arts and Culture platform is the most invaluable single source for virtual cultural content. Through the app and website, one can visit the Taj Mahal from the top, tour the Great Mosque of Kilwa on the Tanzanian island of Kilwa Kisiwani, and browse through the collections of well-known museums such as the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, as well as more obscure ones, such as the Fakir Khana Museum, which is located in a house Lahore, Pakistan.
Queen Victoria’s Durbar Room at Osborne House
Michael Hunter, the collections curator at Osborne House, the family home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, provides a tour of the site, including a 360-degree view of the famous Durbar Room.
Durbar or darbar is an Urdu and Hindi word loaned from Persian used to refer to royal courts or reception halls. Queen Elizabeth commissioned John Lockwood Kipling, the curator of the Lahore Museum, to design the Indian-style room. It was built by Sikh artisans and houses gifts from what was then the British colony of India.
The Al-Sabah Collection of Islamic Art
Only forty-eight of the 20,000-plus objects that form former Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Sabah al Ahmed al Sabah’s collection of Islamic art are available through the Google Arts and Culture platform. But they are nonetheless a treat for its virtual visitors. The objects are a diverse array of mediums and materials: including an illuminated 15th-century manuscript by the famous Persian Sufi poet Jami.
Benaki Museum of Islamic Art
The Benaki Museum of Islamic Art is a satellite of the museum established by Antonis Benakis (1873-1954), a Greek art collector born in Alexandria, Egypt. The Islamic art collection at this Athens museum today consists of contributions by Benakis as well as thousands of other objects donated by others. Clay and ceramic objects make up the bulk of the collection. Its textile objects include a stunning 16th-century Ottoman silk caftan.