Incredible Online Museum Resources for Teachers

Phoenix Art Museum-

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” (, 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


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. “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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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