French museums offering art, culture and history from home

Museums in France have upped their digital offerings this year, with many creating special content for the European Night of Museums last weekend

16 November 2020
Virtual reality Mona Lisa from the Louvre. French museums offerings art, culture, history from homeThe Louvre's virtual offerings have been extremely successful with international audiences this year
By Joanna York

The European Night of Museums is normally an opportunity to enjoy museum collections, free visits and special events by night. But, this year, due to lockdown restrictions, the event was held digitally last weekend on Saturday, November 14.

Museum tours, Zoom discussions, tutorials for adults and kids, and podcasts were just some of the cultural events on offer from French museums, even though the buildings themselves are closed to the public due to confinement.

Many of the events are still available for free online.

Modern art at the Pompidou centre

The Pompidou Centre in Paris released a guided tour of its Martin Barré exhibition on November 14, which is still available on YouTube

The art gallery has launched a video game Prisme7, allowing players to interact with 40 modern artworks, as well as a web series called Quèsaco, which gives two-minute explanations of different works. 

Ancient civilisations at the Musée du Quai Branly 

Le Musée du Quai Branly in Paris has launched a three-part video series explaining the mysteries of Olmec society, an ancient civilisation that lived in what we now call Mexico. 

They have also been sharing highlights of their collection online using the #BestofBranly hashtag.


A historical restoration at Versailles

The Chateau de Versailles is offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse at renovation works currently in progress in the royal chapel via a website and a YouTube web series. The project will soon reach the thousandth day of restoration works.

Virtual tours in the Musée des Beaux-Arts

The Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyon provided a music-themed guided tour on November 14, led by musicians Christophe Collette and Cédric Conchon. 

It also has a self-guided virtual tour, available online

Close-up with the Mona Lisa at the Louvre

Meanwhile, at the Louvre, Paris, participants enjoyed candlelight tours around the building on Saturday night.  

Since confinement, the museum has created a podcast Les enquêtes du Louvre, telling true crime stories relating to famous artworks in its collection, such as the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911. 

It is also been offering 360° virtual reality viewings of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, which has attracted 16,000 downloads so far.

The museum’s virtual offerings have been exceptionally successful this year, especially among overseas viewers.

During the first confinement in France which lasted 71 days, the Louvre website received 10.5 million visitors, compared with 14.1 million visitors total in 2019.

Virtual tours of the museum in English have so far had 10 million views.

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French cultural digest: November 2020

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