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. Virtual museum tours are a great resource to help bring content to life for students. Especially with covid currently, this is an exciting and new way to show different materials that can keep the students’ attention. Many of these sights provided give lesson content that can help the students learn more about the content as well as getting involved in the lesson rather than just reading. They can see it and watch videos that give more history about a painting, building, time, or person. I do believe that for a younger grade level it’s important to not make the full lesson about them watching a full video about facts and listening to a dull voice telling us about what we are looking at. This can make it hard for little ones to want to sit still. We need to make sure if we use this tool, to take breaks for discussion or activities to make it fun and not so overwhelming or boring.

  2. Technology can be a great resource, and honestly, I love the idea of being able to visit museums virtually. I think there is so much information students, and non-students can learn from museums. Unfortunately, not every school have the resources to take students to fields trips, or if they do, it is possible some students may not be able to attend, therefore, virtual tours are definitely a creative way to present information and to get everybody in the class involved. It also it breaks the monotony of the classroom while being an incentive to the student’s imagination. I am glad museums are willing to make their exhibitions available online for those who cannot live the experience in person.

  3. Before reading this I had no idea that resources like this existed. These are so valuable to students who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to learn about the past by exploring actual artifacts. I love that I can use this to help bring social studies to life for my students. I personally would like to take virtual tours of these exhibits and can imagine many of my students feeling the same way.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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