Armchair Art #Funfindfriday

There’s nothing quite like gathering up the family and spending a rainy Saturday wandering the halls of a favorite museum. You may not recall your very first visit to a museum, but most adults can still remember a distinct impression made by a visit during their childhood, whether it was the excitement of a scientific discovery, an unanswered historical mystery, or a modern piece that inspired the artist within.

The largest, most glaring issue with museums, however, is that they don’t always translate well to the digital age. Yes, famous collections located outside the travel budget can be accessed online through virtual tours, but they typically lack a sense of interactivity. Part of the appeal of many museums is that the docents are eager to lend their expertise and can scale their knowledge to benefit the age and interest of the group at hand. Sure, there are some standout instances of museums finding a presence through smartphone apps, but for the most part our cultural centers aren’t involved in one of the greatest markers of modern culture: the internet.

In trying to remedy my displeasure regarding the disconnect between museums and their virtual presence, I happened across a rather amazing site representing a group of cultural centers in the UK. Schools Liaison goes to great lengths to make their online content accessible and interesting for younger crowds (which arguably makes an eventual visit even more palatable). My favorite section of their site showcases the Birmingham Museum and Arts Gallery. (Click the clock tower icon in the lower right hand corner to visit the kids’ site.) It provides a list of five different eras featured within the museum, each with corresponding pages chock full of interactive games, printable activities, factoids, and more. As an adult, I found myself pouring through the site and learning much more than I would have expected—including a brief lesson in landscape painting!

owlI recommend starting in Ancient Egypt and learning your way to the present day. If you find that the Birmingham Museum just doesn’t tickle your fancy, simply click on the menu item titled “Our Museums” to get a taste of their other offerings. And when all else fails, click on the small blue bird. It’s an animated version of a piece of pottery made by Robert Wallace Martin. Nicknamed “Wally,” this bird helps users navigate through the pages on the site and offers fun tidbits of additional information.

As a singular site, Schools Liaison is an absolute standout. Even if your family is unable to physically visit the museums listed, I highly recommend perusing their collections as a way to prepare for a visit to your hometown museum, or simply as a way to immerse in both culture and fun on a lazy Saturday afternoon.