You Can Tour These Top Design Museums From Home

Institutions around the world have gotten creative to keep their audiences inspired.

Design museum virtual exhibitions

If you’re feeling the shelter-in-place burnout—you’ve finished your puzzle, watched everything in your Netflix queue, and conquered that tower of books on your nightstand—first of all, I feel you. And second, I have a solution. While none of us can physically take a leisurely stroll through our favorite art gallery right now, we can do so virtually. Many museums—some of the world’s top design museums among them—are offering online programming and virtual gallery tours to offset the fact that their doors are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown orders. From the traditional fixtures at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to the modernist structures of the Bauhaus Archiv, ED has gathered the best virtual design museum tours to distract you from the outside world, at least for a little while.

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1 Cooper Hewitt
Cooper Hewitt Nature by Design - ELLE Decor
Courtesy of the Cooper Hewitt

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, in New York City, is showing a number of its exhibits via Google Arts & Culture. Nature by Design: Botanical Expressions, shown here, includes vintage Tiffany jewelry and floral-inspired housewares. Additionally, the museum is delving into the history of some of its pieces on Instagram.

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2 Museum of Arts and Design
MAD Museum Chair - ELLE Decor
Courtesy of the Museum of Arts and Design

New York’s Museum of Arts and Design is keeping its audience engaged through artist talks and virtual learning labs. It’s also giving viewers a peek into its sixth-floor artist studios, which, before the shelter-in-place orders, were occupied by the museum’s resident creators. Seen here is Sebastian Brajkovic’s Lathe V Chair, 2008.

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3 Design Museum of Chicago
Design Museum Chicago Humanity - ELLE Decor
Courtesy of the Design Museum of Chicago

The Design Museum of Chicago is planning virtual events such as panels; moving all of its exhibitions online; and publishing student design projects during this crisis. To lift all spirits, one exhibition, “Great Ideas of Humanity,” is celebrating the “globalization and cross-pollination of ideas, societies, and cultures.”

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4 Victoria and Albert Museum
Victoria and Albert Vintage Cabinet - ELLE Decor
Courtesy of V+A

In London, the venerated Victoria and Albert Museum has opened its metaphorical doors to bring its stunning, diverse collections to the public. From furniture, like this Yatman Cabinet designed by William Burges, to photography and traditional fine art, the museum is granting unprecedented access to its archives—without the pesky crowds.

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5 Bauhaus Archiv
Bauhaus Architecture - ELLE Decor
Courtesy of Bauhaus Archiv

Berlin’s Bauhaus Archiv brings the design movement into your home with its #closedbutopen series. With a virtual tour of famed Bauhaus sites, creative worksheets, and an audioguide app, there’s much to explore here.

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6 The Design Museum, London
Design Museum London 2007 Exhibition - ELLE Decor
Courtesy of the Design Museum London

Each week the Design Museum is offering an in-depth look into one of its collections, past and present. Pictured is the museum’s first-annual “Designs of the Year” exhibition, from 2007. It’s also hosting “Design Dispatches” with museum director Tim Marlow as well as various learning sessions with renowned designers and artists.

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7 Vitra Design Museum
Vitra Design Museum Gae Aulenti Exhibit - ELLE Decor
Courtesy of Vitra Design Museum

In addition to making all of the objects in its collections available to view online, the Vitra Design Museum, in Weil am Rhein, Germany, is sharing insights via the hashtag #VDMHomeStories on Instagram, including a detailed look at the exhibition “Gae Aulenti: A Creative Universe,” shown here.

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8 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Guggenheim Exhibit - ELLE Decor
Courtesy of the Guggenheim

Even though you can’t visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic structure in person in New York, you can dive into the history of the Guggenheim on the podcast 99% Invisible. The museum is also making new and archived exhibitions available online, as well as artist interviews and virtual school tours for educators. Seen here are works from the new exhibition “The Fullness of Color: 1960s Painting,” which will be on view when the museum reopens.

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9 Whitney Museum of American Art
Whitney Museum Jordan Nassar Textile - ELLE Decor
Courtesy of the Whitney Museum

New York’s Whitney is giving the public access to more than 23,000 works of art from its various collections. It’s also offering special audio tours designed to capture children’s attention and video profiles of a number of artists—a good excuse for screen time. Pictured is a textile work by Jordan Nassar.

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10 National Building Museum
National Building Museum Fallingwater - ELLE Decor
Courtesy of the National Building Museum

In addition to a number of online galleries from this Washington, D.C., museum, the exhibition “House and Home,” which includes this model of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, is especially poignant during this time. Though it was on view long before the pandemic hit American soil, the show both highlights and challenges the meaning of “home” throughout history.

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