A Virtual Escape: Take a break from lockdown

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The world has faced changes the likes of which have never been seen before in history. Indeed, there have been pandemics before, there have been political crises and armed conflict. History is littered with death, destruction, economic crashes and strict regulations imposed by states. But never before in times like these – when everyone is virtually connected, the world population nears 8 billion and information can be disseminated worldwide at the click of a button.

But these useful tools which are so readily available to keep us informed have also become harbingers of doom and gloom. Our news feeds, messaging apps and inboxes are flooded with news of death, economic loss and conspiracy theories.

Rand Rescue would therefore like to take a moment amid the chaos and infuse it with positivity – we’d like to take our readers on a momentary journey to offer some escape from the news.

Not only are many of us locked down, distanced from loved ones and unable to participate in activities which keep us mentally fit – but we’re literally locked away from all the beautiful places we usually visit around the world.

Luckily for us, there are thousands of resources available which allows us to visit some of these places virtually. 

US Natural History museum virtual exhibitions

The National Natural History museum in the US has made a whole range of past and current exhibitions available to visitors online. These unique tours allow users to access ‘maps’ of the premises online and choose different exhibitions in different rooms or even just walk through the corridors of the museum or explore its grounds. There are supporting clips and information pieces for the various exhibitions with input from scientists, historians, anthropologists and other experts in the respective fields.

Exhibitions with various sub-exhibits include:

  • African Bush Elephant & Rotunda
  • African Voices
  • Bone Hall
  • Butterfly Pavilion
  • David H. Koch Hall of Fossils – Deep Time
  • David H. Kock Hall of Human Origins
  • Eternal Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Garden Lounge
  • Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals
  • Kenneth E. Behring Family Hall of Mammals
  • O. Orkin Insect Zoo
  • Objects of Wonder
  • Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World
  • Q?rius, the Coralyn W. Whitney Science Education Center
  • Sant Ocean Hall
  • Sea Monsters Unearthed: Life in Angola’s Ancient Seas
  • Birds of DC
  • Museum Grounds

Smithsonian 3D portal

If you’re looking for something unique, the Smithsonian offers a 3D portal which features three-dimensional capture technology, analysis and tools used by the institution’s Digitisation Program Office which develops solutions for increasing and diffusing knowledge.

Most of the resources are open access and give users access to the 3D mesh plans, instructions, materials used as well as images required for recreating different items, objects, displays, artifacts, fossils, artworks and tools featured in various galleries via 3D printing.

This includes:

  • Orbiter Space Shuttle, OV-103, Discovery
  • Triceratops horridus, Marsh, 1889
  • Command Module, Apollo 11
  • Costume boots for the Wizard from The Wiz on Broadway worn by Carl Hall
  • Helen Adams Keller bust
  • Western Electric tangent galvanometer
  • Tanzania footprints
  • 3 Chon coin, Korea, 1882 – 1883
  • Bell X-1
  • Lidded ritual ewer (huo) in the form of an elephants with masks and dragon
  • Abraham Lincoln’s hands
  • 1903 Wright Flyer

If you want to view or download the plans, visit them at 3d.si.edu and read the fineprint for the documents which specify usage limitations.

Thyssen-Bornemisza Museo Nacional

The Thyssen-Bornemisza art museum in Madrid, Spain, hosts the second largest private art collection in the world and is one of Madrid’s ‘Big Three’ cultural institutions. The museum  has taken most of its resources online, offering users a tour of the entire building where you can walk around and peruse the art, thematic tours which lets you explore art related to different topics or immersive tours which is a best of both worlds.  They also have multimedia resources relevant to their current and closed exhibitions and have a range of interviews with lecturers and art experts. 

Some of the virtual tours include but are not limited to:

  • The Permanent Art Collection
  • Rembrandt and Amsterdam portraiture, 1590 – 1670
  • The Impressionists and Photography
  • Balenciaga and Spanish Painting
  • Balthus
  • Dali and Surrealism in the ABANCA Art Collection
  • Beckmann. Exile Figures
  • Monet/Boudin
  • Victor Vasarely. The birth of Op Art
  • Paloma Navares. From the garden of memory.
  • Sorolla and Fashion
  • Picasso/Lautrec
  • Sonia Delaunay. Art, design and fashion

Users can sort the virtual tour catalogue via tour type, exhibition year, artist, theme and other categories.

Virtual Travel Channel – Youtube

The Virtual Travel Channel offers a range of virtual VR tours with a 360-degree view in 4K and 5K.

The company, based in the Netherlands, is helping the travel and leisure industry take their stories online by creating VR tours of different locations and tours throughout the world.

Their channel has a wide range of tours, including:

  • Mexico – The Maya Temples (Chichen Itza)
  • South Africa – Safari in Kruger National Park
  • South Korea – Bicycle ride near Seoul
  • Nepal – Mount Everest Helicopter Flight
  • Netherlands – Walking on the sea bottom
  • Israel – JT Tours
  • Vietnam – Trekking through Sapa region
  • Suriname – Jungle tour
  • Iceland – Roadtrip

You can watch their VR tours here.

Explore.org live cams

The platform explore.org offers hundreds of live cam streams of locations throughout the world. The site focuses on the natural world, with cameras streaming from enclosures, parks, forests, wetlands, woodlands, canyons and other locations worldwide!

You can choose to view the live stream, watch highlights or take a look at past films released on the platform

Some of the live cams include:

  • Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa
  • Grace Gorilla Centre, DRC
  • Brooks Falls Brown Bears, Katmai National Park, Alaska, USA
  • Panama Fruit Feeder Cam at Canopy Lodge, Panama
  • Decorah Eagles, Iowa, USA
  • Polar Bears Ouwehand Waterfall, Netherlands
  • Wolong Grove Panda Yard, China
  • Aurora Borealis – Northern Lights, Canada
  • Great Spirit Bluff Falcons, Minnesota, USA
  • Sharks in the Atlantic, USA
  • Sheep Barn, NY, USA
  • Olifants River, South Africa

Take a look at all the streams they have to offer and take a virtual safari from your home.

Anne Frank House

Anne Frank’s name is synonymous with both sadness and hope – a reminder of life’s atrocities and the resilience of the human spirit in the darkness. But most of us will never get the chance to view the Anne Frank house or will have to wait quite a while before such undertaking will become a reality.

Not to worry though, as the Anne Frank House can be toured from the comfort of your home.

The museum’s digital showcase includes:

  • Anne Frank video diary
  • The Secret Annex online tour
  • The Secret Annex virtual tour (using Anne Frank House VR app)
  • The home of the Frank family in 360 degrees
  • The life story of Anne Frank in 20 languages
  • A view of the Secret Annex as it would have looked like with furniture.

Visit the organisation’s website to see their online resources.

Louvre virtual Tours

Since the Louvre museum is closed to the public, they’ve put in an extra effort to offer people from around the world access to their remarkable premises and exhibitions.

The museum has 7 virtual tours available to visitors, including:

  • Egyptian Antiquities
  • The Advent of the Artist
  • Power Plays
  • Founding Myths: From Hercules to Darth Vader
  • The Body in Movement
  • Remains of the Louvre’s Moat
  • Galerie d’Apollon

They also have other online resources about the respective artworks, artists and exhibitions, tales of the museum, room descriptions and art in general which visitors are welcome to view online.

Travel the world with AirPano

Want to take a trip to the New Zealand Fiordland, see Whale Sharks swimming in the Maldives or take a walk in Kyrgyzstan? Well you can do all this via AirPan.

The site offers 360 web and VR tours of numerous locations around the world, and some of the tours include:

  • Snowy Fairytale, Lapland, Finland
  • Ancient city Petra, Jordan
  • Tokyo at night, Japan
  • Paragliding, Rosa Khutor, Russia
  • Fukushima Robot Test Field, Japan
  • Marlon Brando’s Tetiaroa atoll, French Polynesia
  • Chad from N’Djamena to Ennedi Massif

You can choose your viewing location via a map, through their gallery or search functions. They offer virtual tours, 360 panoramic creations, timelapse clips and 360 videos.

Visit AirPano for more.

Virtual Yosemite

If you just want to unwind for a bit and don’t know where to go, Virtual Yosemite allows you to explore the Yosemite National Park like you’ve never seen it before. 

The virtual tours allow you to pan the display to view the park from different angles, and markers on screen allow you to move from one location to another through a simple click.

Sites of interest include:

  • The Swinging Bridge
  • The Diving Board
  • Tuolumne Meadows
  • Nevada Fall
  • Hetch Hetchy
  • The Ahwahnee Hotel

5 hour One-take of Russia’s Hermitage museum

If you have time to waste and are tired of Netflix, Facebook and news, then the official Apple account on Youtube offers you a 5 hr 19 min and 28 sec journey through the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The one-take features 45 galleries, 588 artworks and live performances in 4K

If you want to watch the highlights only, you can skip to the following timeframes:

  • Jordan Staircase – 00:01:25
  • The 1812 Gallery and the young cadet – 00:49:00
  • See Rembrandt like never before – 02:06:02
  • Hermitage Theatre contemporary ballet duet – 02:55:56
  • Study the ceilings of the Raphael Loggias – 03:03:50
  • Close-up on Caravaggio’s The Lute Player – 03:56:25
  • Kirill Richter live performance – 04:50:32

Google Arts & Culture

If you’re unsure what you’re looking for or have visited most of the popular spots before, Google Arts & Culture offers you a myriad of virtual resources to keep you entertained. 

The platform offers access to virtual resources from more than 2 000 museums in 80 countries. In addition to the virtual museum tours, the platform has a host of other fun features such as:

  • turning everything around you into art using your phone
  • flying through fort ruins in AR
  • finding out which artwork looks like you,
  • a list of portraits whose ‘eyes follow you’
  • viewing modern or literal recreations of old paintings
  • art quizzes
  • hidden detail ‘I spy with my little eye’ famous artwork games
  • art instructionals
  • viewing artworks in HD

Virtual dive with sea lions

Whether you’re an avid diver or have never participated in this pastime, a virtual dip in the ocean is certainly something you can do with right now.

The National Marine Sanctuaries Organisation in the US offers site visitors the opportunity to take a virtual dive with sea lions in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. The virtual dive allows you to click and drag to experience the kelp forest from 360 degrees or take the dive on your VR headset.

You can download the virtual dive from their website.

Explore the UK National Trust locations

The National Trust in the UK has made their locations available to the public through virtual tours.

Visitors to the site can explore various locations supported by the trust, including:

  • Hidcote’s gardens – Gloucestershire
  • Giant’s Causeway – Northern Ireland
  • Anglesey Abbey Garden
  • Sissinghurst Castle Garden – Kent
  • Wicken Mill, Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire

There are also more than 200 gardens and parks to explore, 300 historic buildings and homes to walk through and various world-renowned digital art exhibitions.

Visit the National Trust virtual tours to take a look.

Happy travels!

We wish you happy virtual travels. If you’re not looking for museums, attractions or natural scenes, you can also take always take a look at the nightly MET opera streams, join a digital dance room on the Dream Stream to chat, dance and listen to music with friends and strangers online or view some Together At Home concerts by famed musicians worldwide.

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