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Museum sites offer all the art with none of the tourists

July 8, 1996
Web posted at: 9:00 a.m. EDT

From CNN Interactive Writer Liza Kaufman Hogan

(CNN) -- Want to know what "Venus de Milo" looks like but can't make it to Paris? Want to catch the Cezanne exhibit in Philadelphia but can't get a ticket? Most major art museums and many that you've probably never heard of are on the Web for your viewing pleasure.

Museum sites on the Internet generally come in two varieties: those that are extensions of off-line museums and those that exist only in cyberspace. The former offer a whirlwind tour of famous collections via your computer screen; the latter challenge you to consider what is art.

For a sampling of fine arts offerings on the Web, check out these sites:

The National Museum of American Art:
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Among the most engaging museum sites on the Web, this is one of several institutions in the Smithsonian with a presence on the Internet. The NMAA site is filled with Web- specific content including special on-line exhibitions, slide shows, audio files and photos in multiple sizes for detailed viewing. In addition there are photos of more than 1,000 works from the museum's 37,000-plus collection of American arts and crafts.

Highlights include an "in virtu" tour of the White House Collection of American Crafts, no longer on display on Pennsylvania Avenue but preserved for posterity on the Web.

The site's mission statement says it is committed to sharing the collection with people who may never set foot through the doors of its museum in Washington. It delivers.

Musee du Louvre:
Mona Lisa
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So it only has only 20 or so of the famous Paris museum's more than 300,000-plus works on-line. It's the Louvre.

Here, on this unofficial site, you'll find digital versions of Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa," Eugène Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People" as well as "Venus de Milo." While it's hardly the same as seeing these masterpieces in person, it beats waiting in line and saves you 40 francs.

The Louvre site also includes a brief history of the grand museum, an overview of its extensive collection, tourist information and photos of the facade. It's a good place to go if you're planning a visit to Paris or simply want to relive wonderful memories.

WebMuseum, Paris
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As long as you're in the city of lights, check out WebMuseum, Paris, an on-line gallery of famous works by famous artists.

Compiled by Web consultant Nicolas Pioch, WebMuseum is Art History 101 for net travelers. The Famous Paintings exhibition is an exhaustive survey of paintings from the Gothic period to Pop Art, including thorough essays on major artists and movements. Most of the images are borrowed from Mark Harden's Fine Art Site at Texas and can also be viewed in Texas. Yee-Ha.

Apart from the paintings, WebMuseum's graphics leave much to be desired, but as a bonus the site includes snapshots of Paris compiled for a virtual walking tour -- should you choose to venture beyond the austere museums -- and an auditorium with classical sound files to put you in the mood for highbrow art.

If it's lowbrow art you're after, point to the Museum of Bad Art, a Web site that truly lives up to its name.

Other museum sites :

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