Incredible Online Museum Resources for Teachers

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

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

In 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

10 Comments

  1. 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.  

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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