Chinese travelers can’t visit their country’s museums right now. So the museums are bringing the exhibits to them – virtually.
Museums around the country have been forced to temporarily close their doors due to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.
In response, China’s National Cultural Heritage Administration (NCHA) has asked them to stay active on social media and offer their services digitally.
In a special meeting in January, the government body said they would “encourage cultural heritage museums and institutions around the country to utilize existing digital resources and launch online exhibitions as appropriate, providing the public with safe and convenient online services.”
As a result, many museums have opened the doors of their galleries virtually, including Beijing’s world-famous Palace Museum, which sits inside the Forbidden City.
A special team is in charge of coordinating with China’s museums, gathering resources that are already available and developing a one-stop platform.
Accessible via the National Cultural Heritage Administration’s website, sadly it’s only available to those inside mainland China.
But 100 online exhibitions and galleries are linked to from the NCHA website – here and here (both in Chinese). These are accessible to all, regardless of location, though only some offer English info.
“It will promote the combination of new technology and inheritance of our country’s cultural heritage and gather resources of the museums through ‘cloud’ displays,” says a statement from the NCHA.
Virtual tours of famous attractions
With the Forbidden City celebrating its 600th anniversary in 2020, the Palace Museum had planned an impressive line-up of exhibitions for the year. On January 23, museum staff announced that it would be closed until further notice due to the coronavirus outbreak.
One exhibit focused on how Spring Festival was celebrated in the Forbidden City in ancient China. It can now be found online (in Chinese only).
The museum also offers a virtual tour named The Panoramic Palace Museum, allowing travelers to roam around its complex. This one is worth checking out even if you can’t read Chinese.The button on the top left-hand corner allows users to switch between a sunny blue sky background and a snowy background.
Meanwhile, Beijing’s National Museum has also uploaded its latest exhibition,” The Journey Back Home: An Exhibition of Chinese Artifacts Repatriated from Italy” online. The virtual tour allows you to zoom into the exhibits – bilingual labels included.
Other institutions have also created virtual tours, allowing visitors to move through their halls and galleries freely.
For instance, the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall lets online visitors access the museum from the entrance as if they were really there. Users can simply click on the multi-lingual information on the walls or click on the video icon to look at different displays closely.
You can also zoom into the faces of each of the terracotta warriors at the Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum in Xi’an.
Learn about Wuhan’s history
Regardless of the outbreak, these new online resources also offer culture seekers an opportunity to experience museums in less-visited cities, including historically rich Wuhan, where the coronavirus broke out.
These include the red brick house that was the former Site of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the Museum of Wuchang Uprising of 1911 Revolution. (The 1911 Revolution broke out in Wuhan, leading to the overthrow of China’s imperial system.)
You can also check out Dunhuang’s murals and carvings and the extensive dinosaur fossils in the Inner Mongolia Museum in Hohhot city.