Incredible Online Museum Resources for Teachers

Phoenix Art Museum- https://www.visitphoenix.com/things-to-do/arts-culture/museums/

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By Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

n the twenty-first century there are many outstanding resources for social teachers online with the availability of new technology. The advancement of multimedia capabilities on websites has allowed museums to offer the public access to many of their exhibitions and artifacts through digital technology, from the comfort of their own home. We have provided some good examples of museum websites that can offer social studies teachers great classroom resources. We encourage you to explore the museums in order to appreciate the vast amount of resources available for teachers, this includes lesson plans, primary sources and artifacts such as old letters, photos, journals, videos and documentaries that shed light on a wide array of topics from the past and present, and offering insight into the future.

Helpful Artifacts and Resources in Virtual Museums for Teachers
In order to offer an idea of the various teaching resources available online we highlight particular aspects of various websites that we felt might be useful or interesting to social studies educators.

The African American history museum at the Smithsonian has Harriet Tubman’s personal hymnal and also here, which can viewed online. There is also a newly discovered photo of a much younger Harriet Tubman that one may find interesting. Another interesting artifact is the freedom papers of a former slave named Joseph Trammell also at the African American History Museum.

There are a plethora of incredible resources at other museums online. At American History Museum there is an exhibit entitled “The Unforgettably Forgettable President: A Look at Mr. Buchanan” about the unremarkable presidency of James Buchanan. Another fascinating online museum resource is George Washington’s Mount Vernon. One of the highlights of the site is a virtual tour of his mansion. Mount Vernon’s website also has an amazing section for teachers including extensive lesson plans for all grades that can be very useful in the classroom. The Canadian Museum of History as a wonderful interactive exhibit on the history of toys.
The Anne Frank house is another remarkable museum with an incredible virtual museum online. The site includes many helpful resources for teachers including short videos, this timeline of events during the time that she lived. The Anne Frank House museum also has a great teacher resource that includes a digital lesson about Anne Frank and the history surrounding her life. The National Women’s History Museum also has a great section for teachers and students. Another interesting exhibit on the National Women’s History Museum website is on Claudette Colvin. She was the 15 year child that refused to give up her seat for white passengers nine months before Rosa Parks. This section includes some very well done interviews and videos on Colvin.   

Also particularly interesting is the work that Google has been doing in offering databases of seemingly countless digital resources with their Google Art Project. This an incredible resource for teachers, students and the general public to see digital imagery from past and present from all walks of life. The Google Art project “help its users discover and view important artworks online in high resolution and detail, Google partnered with more than 60 museums and galleries from around the world to archive and document priceless pieces of art and to provide virtual tours of museums using Google Street View technology. The Google Art Project features fine art from the White House, the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar, and even São Paulo street art from Brazil” (https://tinyurl.com/j8c98ch, 2019). For example, the Life Photo Collection on the Google website offers countless photographs from America’s past taken by Life Magazine photographers over time. Similarly is Google’s Arts and Culture site. We recommend visiting their exhibit entitled King’s Pilgrimage to India, showing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife visiting India, via a photo exhibit. The Hubble Space Telescope: Our Window on the Universe exhibit is also very fascinating, an well done integration of social studies, science and technology.

Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
National Museum of African American History and Culture
National Museum of the American Indian
National Museum of American History

Other Virtual Museums
George Washington’s Mount Vernon
National Cowboy and Western heritage Museum
The Museum of Science Fiction
National Museum of Women’s History
Jim Crow Museum
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice
Colonial Williamsburg
911 Memorial Museum
American Museum of Natural History

47 Comments

  1. Virtual museums are an awesome way to bring content to life for students! I think that so much can be learned from putting students on a virtual museum’s website and letting them explore what is interesting to them. This is also a great way for students at schools who may not have the funds to take field trips, or may not be located near any museums to take a peak inside and see what exhibits and information some great museums have to offer.

  2. Virtual Museums are a great idea because not all schools can go on field trips but its still an interesting way to learn. Also for younger students it might be hard for them to sit still and they can get antsy from having to behave, this way you can do a little bit at a time. Its really great that sources are coming together to help teachers so they can help educate.

  3. Virtual museums are an awesome way to spice things up in a classroom for students as it allows students to be engaged in the content while also using technology to learn. Virtual museums allow the students to dive deeper and explore a museum, where they can explore what’s interesting to them. Students can explore museums that may interest them instead of only looking at one museum that may bore them. I like how Virtual Museums offer virtual tours and even show videos of the Museum so the students can get an in-depth look at the different resources at the museum. This is also a great way for schools to take field trips if they cannot afford to go on visits to the museum.

  4. What a great idea to have virtual museums! Not every school has the time or the funds to visit these amazing places that are piled with loads of information. I decided to visit some of those listed as well as used a search engine to see what others exist and I was amazed at how convenient and helpful it is to have such knowledge at our fingertips that can make learning so much more enjoyable. I wish I had known about some of these when I was in grade school, but I am certainly happy that I know about it going into my career as an educator!

  5. I think virtual museums are a great idea. Now days with a funds being low and lack of resources to visit actual museums not everyone gets the opportunity to visit. I think it is great with the way that technology can offer ways to explore and get information to students. Having virtual tours and videos is a great way to make things comfortable and enjoyable. Also, for special needs students who can be a little harder to gather to take on an actual field trip, this makes things easier for them to get the knowledge without having to leave the class or computer. I think it is a great idea and very resourceful.

  6. I think this is a great idea for teachers/schools to use as well as all public people. When it comes to online classes it may be hard for some students to stay engaged when they are not actually going to a classroom each week for their online classes. As well as people could be sick/ill and or maybe disabled. It is not as easy always for everyone to get out of their house and go to museums. This virtual museum can also offer those whom may find it difficult to get out of their home a great way of entertainment and or learning. Technology has came a long way, and is only improving to give teachers, students, and the public another option/opportunity to learn.

  7. In elementary school I was never a fan of social studies. I never found it interesting and it was hard for me t retain the information because it was taught in such a lecturing manner. I think that having this information of virtual museums will help provide my students will an exciting and engaging way to learn social studies by actually “doing social studies.” When they have memorable experiences while learning, they are more likely to retain the information that was presented. It can be difficult to set up field trips and not every school has the ability to go on many and I think that these sites will help make their learning fun even when we can’t leave to experience them in person.

  8. I never thought of virtual museums as being a thing because you would always see or hear “No flash photography”. I think this ideas is really neat because it gives those who aren’t able to physically and go see art because they physically can’t or it’s too far away. This is also beneficial to teachers because they have more access to history for their students to learn without having to plan an expensive trip to do so.

  9. I think the idea of virtual museums is a great idea for schools that maybe cannot afford field trips, or students that cannot go on trips due to being home schooled, health reasons, or whatever there issue may be. I also think it could be a fun interactive way to get a class involved in the classroom if a field trip is not an option. And I know for myself, I have never liked social studies, so I think this would be a great way to get everyone in the class to participate!

  10. I never knew virtual museums existed. This could be great for teachers who don’t have access for field trips, or as many resources! Teachers have to constantly think about over coming obstacles, like budget, to bring the knowledge to life for their students. One of the most memorable things I had as a child is when my teacher taught segregation. She told us everyone given a blue ribbon was on the Blue team and the red ribbon for the Red team. Our day was normal until lining up for lunch. She told us the Blue team would be going last. At first, no big deal. Until the Red team was given the chance to eat lunch in the classroom and watch tv. The Blue team wasn’t allowed. It was a complex topic to digest at the age of 10, but at the end of the day everyone agreed that separation based on a color team wasn’t right. I hope to motivate my students that same way!

  11. This is so cool and i love the idea of this. This is the future for education and could help teachers in so many ways when teaching their students and keeping them interested. Low income schools would love this considering insufficient funds and lack of transportation for field trips.

  12. I think the idea of a virtual museum is an awesome thought! It gives students the feel of being in a museum without all of the difficulties actually going. Although going on field trips is a great way to educate your students, some schools/students may not be able to afford that. So, this is a great alternative and a lot easier as well. It gets students involved and more interested in the subject. I think it is a great resource for teachers to have.

  13. I really enjoyed reading more about using online museum resources in the classroom! I think this is a great tool that would be engaging for students. I’m specifically interested in the virtual tour of George Washington’s mansion. That sounds like a great resource and I can’t wait to check it out. The Canadian Museum with the exhibit on toys also sounds interesting and would definitely be interesting for students. I’m excited to incorporate some of this into my teaching!

  14. Virtual museums offer a great learning experience to students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to take a field trip! Virtual museum websites are also great for students to explore on their own for different projects and things throughout the year. I can use virtual museums in my classroom for assignments and fun activities for my students including a virtual field trip.

  15. Using virtual museum tours in the classroom offers rich social studies experiences for ALL students, but especially those students who do not have the ability or opportunity to visit museums outside of school. I believe this is also great because it can be completed in a class session, rather than taking a whole day to take a field trip and missing instructional time in other subjects. I believe this is a great way to bring rich experiences and learning opportunities into the classroom while utilizing technology which is such a large portion of children’s lives today. Also, this is something that some students may enjoy so much that they can go home and do the virtual tour themselves, learning more than what was covered in class. This offers learning opportunities outside of the classroom.

  16. Perhaps on of the most difficult things about teaching history is that unlike other subjects, there is little to no things that are observable to students, and history because it is the story of humanity, often dose not follow logic. This can make history difficult for students to understand. When students can see artifacts and exhibits of what they are learning, it helps make history more real and tangible. However, schools are often not in close proximity to these artifacts and museums, even if they are, they often lack funding. Having access to virtual artifacts and museums can change not only the methodology in which we teach history, but the perspective in which students see history.

  17. I feel that museums in general are an excellent resource for teachers and they’re students. The only trouble is not having those resources right at our finger tips. Planning a field trip and doing all the necessary things to make this possible, are tricky in schools. Having online museums helps in more ways than one. I’ve used visual museums, and I’m a student. Having that resource at hand, will change education and the ways teachers teach, in an extraordinary way. It also helps students. It allows them an opportunity to explore and learn about ideas, especially when they have trouble getting to museums out of the classroom.

  18. I did not know virtual museums were a thing but I think that it would be a great way of teaching history to students while making it less boring. This is a wonderful thing for schools that do not have the funds or resources for taking a field trip to the museums. This is also a great way of “going” to a museum that may be too far to travel to. I never liked history class, so something like this would have been really cool.

  19. In the preschool classroom I always used lots of virtual fieldtrips online and the children absolutely loved it. They have always learned so much. I had no idea virtual museums even existed! This is a great idea! This is not only fun for children but so educational. It keeps them interested in learning. This is also a great idea for classrooms that may be limited on taking trips due to lack of funds or transportation.

  20. Art in any form is valuable to students, including a virtual museum. The list of resources here is a great start. I think what I like about the idea of a virtual museum is that it is incredibly valuable in terms of inspiring student’s creativity and desire to know more about the world. I believe art can also be a basis for learning to think critically, to learn compassion and diversity. I really enjoyed looking at the links you included in this article, Dr. Childs.  

  21. What an amazing resource for a range of educators! Virtual museums would be a great tool to incorporate into any classroom. Field trips are fun but most are out of range or very costly. Virtual museums will bring the exploration and learning into an everyday class and enhance engagement. I also really like the Google Art Project! I feel like a lot of times when you go to find a famous photo, it is not the best quality. When exploring the, King’s Pilgrimage to India, I was amazed. I really liked how the information was added to the photos and they also included actual pictures of their airline tickets. Overall, this is an awesome resource that I will be taking advantage of in my future classroom.

  22. I definitely plan to utilize these virtual online resources in my future classroom. After viewing several links, I’ve saved this page for future reference. These virtual museums are such a valuable resource- so many schools are unable to provide funds that allow students to experience things outside of the classroom, and many of these would be impossible for most students to visit. This is a great way to expand students’ cultural views and understanding of diversity all while bringing the culture alive in their own classroom! Giving students the ability to access these digital resources will assist them in establishing their technology skills as well as helping them become more of a well-rounded citizen who is aware of their world.

  23. “The advancement of multimedia capabilities on websites has allowed access to exhibits and artifacts through digital technology”. This is a little off putting at first. My first thought was the money- I feel operating a museum has a high cost and they must depend on people spending money once they are there. It also enables people to be slightly more boring- and less active, which has already been a problem for some time. People get obsessed watching tv and you can very quickly lose a day staring at the screen. On the positive side, there are many people, especially those who belong to a low SES status, that cannot drive or simply do not have extra money to spend on a trip there, and with this they have nothing stopping them. This opens up a world full of very practical information that can help young adolescents form decisions and perform actions that are coming from a more educated expression.

  24. Virtual tours are such amazing resources for social studies teachers. They offer so much rich content of primary sources. Online museum resources allow the students to become historians and explore the content around them which would typically be missed in a textbook oriented setting. I feel like the idea of a web quest would be an amazing lesson plan idea to utilize these online resources. The online resources provide an opportunity for students to experience social studies in a cost-effective way that is engaging and different.

  25. A virtual tour of a museum is a great way to introduce students to a new topic. Something I would really like to try is having all students complete a web scavenger hunt where it primarily focuses on one of these websites. I also must say, I think it is amazing that they have a tour about Mr. Buchanan who is known for doing nothing. It might be odd to say but I would like to show students Buchanan website because, all though he didn’t really do anything while office there were small things he accomplished. I think its important for children to understand not everything they do will make huge gains, but every time you try after you fail is another accomplishment.

  26. I had not previously thought about the resources that museums have available online. It provides students with the engagement and experiences that going to a museum brings, but it is free and in the classroom. There are so many great museums that would be very educational and exciting experiences for my students if they could go. The online resources provided by these museums make that possible, even for some places that are international. Virtual field trips like these could easily be incorporated into centers or by creating “scavenger hunts” online at these museums. These are definitely sites that I will be using in my classroom.

  27. In elementary school, I always had an interest for social studies/history. Most of the times, the way and style the teachers would present it; is why most people couldn’t get into it. There are different types of learners; visual learners, auditory learners, etc. With this new innovation, I feel more students can really follow the lessons and have a sense of fun; while taking a virtual tour of a museum. I feel more teachers should use this, to help get the message of social studies and history across to their students. I wish I was back in elementary school now, lol.

  28. This article provides such great and interesting resources that will be useful in any teachers future classroom. These sights offer great availability to student engagement and research over a topic to be used as one of their resources on a social studies topic. I have used Scholastic’s website to access a virtual tour of Ellis Island that provided several primary resources and a detailed look at the history that is within the events that took place. I’m looking forward to using these resources in the classroom going forward.

  29. Virtual museums are such a great resource for all teachers to have, especially those who work in low-income communities and don’t have access to going to these places. The best part is that the students don’t even have to rely on the teacher to explore the sites – they can do it all on their own! As nice as it would be for teachers to be able to take their students to all these different museums, it’s unlikely that any teacher would be able to take their students to more than one (if that). So this is a great tool for the teachers to use and they don’t even have to leave their classroom. It’s definitely something I plan on using in my own room one day.

  30. Museums are a great way to learn and see artifacts from the past and even the present some times. Museums often tell stories and teach us history, no matter what the museum is focused on. Having online options is a great thing in today’s society. We live in a tech savvy world and having the option to access so many museums online is a great way to give our students these amazing stories and historical aspects. While field trips to an actual museums are wonderful, there are only so many available due to placement, time, and money.

  31. Having online resources for virtual Museums is a great alternative to bring into the classroom when going to actual museums isn’t accessible. The article provides several options for students to explore on their own.

  32. Having students look at virtual museums in class brings another dimension into the classroom. It allows students to go beyond the classroom and explore different historical aspects. They can also look at different exhibits that are interests them and it allows teachers to understand their students better on an outside basis.

  33. Virtual museums are a great tool to be used in the classroom. They allow students to explore and become engaged with something that is otherwise not easily accessible. Nowadays, schools are limited on funds and field trips don’t happen as often as they used to so using virtual museums in the classroom can help students feel as if they are there. Additionally, many assignments and projects can come from using these resources. I also enjoy how you mentioned the use of the Google Art Project which can lead students into an endless amount of interesting archives from all over the world.

  34. Virtual museums are interactive and will keep the students engaged as they learn. The teacher will also have less prep time for a lesson that incorporates this resource. Visuals will also help the students to remember key information. Like the Anne Frank virtual tour will put a vivid image to the scenery and help provide a visual to key information to what the students should learn about that time period. The teacher could possibly make a quiz for the end of the “virtual museum tour” so that the students can test their knowledge.

  35. Virtual Museums could be very beneficial to teachers if there are ways for students to be engaged. I think that showing pictures of artifacts on the projector would get boring after a few. Recently I went to the Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati and the only thing I remember was a film I watched in a theater. I think reenacted films would be a great asset to Virtual Museums because it helps students better understand historical content.

  36. I have to say, Virtual Museums would be beneficial to teachers, with the prep time and the not having to plan too much, but it wont benefit the students. Students need the real deal teacher right there. They need to be able to stop the professor and go back over something if needed. Some kids need you to restated in a different way that they might understand it better. There are some perks, but I think it is safer to just stick with real deal teachers. The students can go off on the weekend or have homework to just look up a virtual museum every once in a while, but I wouldn’t use it all the time as a new coming middle grades educator myself.

  37. I love how much technology has been incorporated into the education system. I love the thought of this “online museum resource for teachers”. One reason I think this is such a great thing to have is because it’s something anyone can access and it’s easy for everyone to figure out. I think the use of technology like this in the education field is helping us advance in how we display knowledge and how we get people physically involved with the work.

  38. Virtual museums have always interested me because they allow us to view a museum that may be far out of our reach. Virtual museums allow people to experience the exhibits and learn about them from the comfort of a home or classroom. It is also another way that we as teachers can incorporate technology into the classroom. I believe virtual museums to be a valuable asset to future teachers and their students.

  39. I am so excited to learn of this information on virtual museums. I have always been fascinated with history in general, a topic which does not interest my husband, so I’m always trying to find time to explore things on my own. Now that I know about virtual museums, I think I’ll be able to explore those museums that I may never get to visit. I just think it’s so interesting to see how we have evolved over time from us as people to our architecture and engineering and our popular culture and “fads”. These resources can be a great tool for teachers today. Most students are interested in anything digital; so being able to use a virtual museum may be able to encourage better learning for today’s youth.

  40. Virtual museums are a great way to bring content to students who go to schools that may be near any museums or can’t afford to pay for them. This way the information will be retained as seeing actual artifacts makes history seem more real. I know when I was taking social studies classes, history seemed so far away and almost like made-up stories. I often had a hard time believing many things actually happened. These virtual museums are coinvent, fast, interactive and will keep students engaged. I only wish I knew of this sooner! Technology has come a long way.

  41. I think the idea of online museums is amazing! This would allow many people who might not have the means to visit museums, still interact and reap the educational benefits that museums have to offer. This would allow students to gain knowledge of important historical movements or view art in the comfort of their own classroom. Outside of the classroom, this could also be extremely beneficial to those without the means to visit a museum. People who have mental or physical disabilities may benefit from staying at home and being able to experience what a museum has to offer. Online museums could also be advantageous to those without transportation or the financial means to go to a physical museum location.

  42. It is crazy and amazing how technology keeps evolving in todays age. The learning opportunities that these museums have created for students is a great resource for them. These are helping students learn more and the teachers to provide the students with more visual learning. I do think that social study teachers should use these virtual museum tools in class for the students. Actually going to a museum can be a hassle and many don’t have the time to, so by having these virtually it allows the students to learn and see more information that they wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

  43. Virtual Museums are a great way for students to learn! Technology is advancing so quickly and knowing that this is a tool that teachers can use makes me excited as a future educator. It is a great way for students to take a break from lectures and can really open up their minds and experience a new way of learning. I wish they had these tools when I was in high school because I think this would be an amazing and fun way to learn.

  44. Virtual Museums are an amazing resource for teachers and students. Many schools and parents don’t have the funds required to go to actual museums. This new technology allows for students to get an experience that is interactive and informative just like the real thing. What an amazing way to switch up the classroom.

  45. I love this article. I spent a summer as an intern at the Cincinnati Art Museum and it is so neat to see all of the resources which they have for teachers. It’s so neat to see the variety of museums which keep a collection of resources for educators on their website. Virtual field trips are a fun way to get students out of the classroom without ever leaving its four walls. I wish I could see these resources being used in a practical way in the classroom, however I have yet to do so. I think it is hard for schools which do not have a device for each student to implement stuff like this, or maybe the teachers just don’t think about it. I am curious to see how you could use these resources in a classroom that simply has a projector or a Smart Board.

  46. Virtual museums are a great way that for teachers to bring their lessons to life. It is also a great way to have a “field trip” for students without leaving their classroom. I think that these virtual museums will also get students more involved in the things that they are learning. I think this is a very important want to incorporate different types of learning because all students learn in different ways. Personally, I was never a student who was interested in social studies but I think if my teachers were to incorporate something like this I would have been more interested in class. I think that this is very beneficial to the teachers as well because they have more access to things other than a text book and worksheet for the students to complete.

  47. There are many ways to bring technology into the classroom and virtual museums are one of those ways. I honestly love the idea of virtual museums. It is a free and fun way to bring resources into the classrooms that they may not get to see in person. These virtual museums can bring the art aspect into social studies or even writing.

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