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Treasures at Your Fingertips: Explore Online Artifacts from Museums All Over the Country

05-18-2020
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Hebrew Scroll from Book of Books Exhibit, Photo, Museum of the Bible, Jerusalem

WASHINGTON – Schools are closed and field trips are canceled, but the nationwide shutdown is unleashing a torrent of online content as museums take their exhibitions online and bored curators stream free lessons on history and artifacts from their home to yours.   

In Washington, the Von Ammon Gallery is showcasing its artists' response to the coronavirus. Check out the jaw-dropping journey of a helicopter to a rock concert in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, featuring Elton John and Billy Joel floating on slabs of ice.  Or click on the noiseless roller coaster looping lazily past a monotonous series of empty rooms.

In New York, the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Queens is offering a virtual glimpse at the jazz legend's life at home.

The Museum of Modern Art is putting Salvador Dali's silent home movies online. 

Desolate city streets and empty national monuments and museums in Washington are leading lonely curators to take matters into their own hands.

Experts at the shuttered Museum of the Bible have taken to creating lessons of their own.

"Thank God for coffee," said Jesse Abelman, Curator of Hebraica and Judaica at the Museum of the Bible. 

In between guzzling a cup of joe himself, Abelman expounds on the connection between Kosher coffee, the Haggadah, and Maxwell House. 

"With two working parents and a child currently at home, it's hard to find time for a rest or to get any work done before bedtime. which has led to some late nights," he added. 

Cooped-up guides offer comic relief in an online video series called "The Lonesome Curator."

Strumming a guitar, Amy Van Dyke, the lead curator of Art and Exhibitions, sings, "You ain't nothin' but a hot dog…" before adding, "I've been getting a little bit distracted at home."

Van Dyke offers her take on Elvis Presley's favorite passages in the museum's Elvis Bible. 

"His favorite book from what it looks like is the Book of Psalms because in the Book of Psalms there's lots of notations and writing in there… so for a musician, that made a lot of sense, said Van Dyke. 

Not to be outdone, the curators at the International Spy Museum are bringing lessons of their own online. 

"We're going to call this spying from home," said Jaqueline Eyl, Director of Youth Education in an online video.

Head to the Spy Museum's "Curator's Corner" to learn the tradecraft of strategic and operational deception from the comfort of the living room.

"Invisible ink is really important to spies," said Eyl, in a lesson on how to make invisible ink.

In another, Eyl teaches viewers how to create their own disguise, adding, "If you dress up like Sponge Bob and get out there on the sidewalk and you think you're going to be undercover, you're going to be sadly mistaken."

For an intelligence analyst's view of the pandemic keeping us all at home in the first place, check out online spy chats led by former intelligence agents like Spy Museum Executive Director Chris Costa.

"When the pandemic is over, what are the lasting impacts on the intelligence community, on the society as we know it, on the world?" asked Costa. 

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