Discovery Days: Desktop Excursions

July 2018

Discovery Days: Desktop Excursions

Desktop Excursions
Travel to the best museums the world has to offer – without even leaving your desk.

More and more museums are giving visitors online access to their most significant objects, curiosities, historical artefacts, and scientific and artistic exhibits. As iCademy Middle East is an online school, we thought that in this edition of Discovery Days, we would explore two of the best museums in the world, accessible at the click of a mouse.


The British Museum
Based in London, the British Museum is widely regarded as having some of the very best examples of antiquities from across the globe. Its permanent collection numbers some eight million works and is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence, featuring artifacts from ancient Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Anglo Saxons, Vikings, and Aztecs, to the Mayan, West African, Native American, and Polynesian, among many others. Its vast catalog is in essence the history of world civilization, all under one roof – a treasure trove of impossibly beautiful and historically important objects that is well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in the British capital. However, thanks to a superb collaboration between the museum and Google Arts and Culture, the museum’s unsurpassed collection is online for all to see.

The museum uses a virtual tour powered by Google Maps to navigate through the building which means that you can get up close and personal to the famous Elgin Marbles and the Rosetta Stone as well the famous Sutton Hoo hoard of Anglo Saxon treasures among many thousands of others.

But once you have finished exploring, the British Museum website itself also offers a tremendous amount in terms of resources and activities for students who wish to further explore the ancient world. There are slide shows and notes available which give a more in-depth guided tour of the museum and to also inspire them to begin exploring history in a new and more direct way as well as mini-lesson plans if you want to give them the chance to use the museum as an educational resource. The lessons and slideshows are available for children of all ages and abilities and also combine history with other subjects such as maths or art. It is superb, and best of all it is totally free – perfect for some extra-curricular investigation.

To explore the museum in all its splendour visit and to make use of the resource library online visit: The British Museum


The Smithsonian Institute
The Smithsonian Institute in the United States has museums that cover the entire gamut of human endeavor – be it art, natural history, culture, or science. They even have a zoo. There is so much on offer that to keep such an extensive collection private or only available to people on the ground would perhaps seem a little greedy. It therefore made total sense to bring the Smithsonian’s diverse exhibits online and to give the world the opportunity to instantly access its truly remarkable archives. The institute’s online portal is called the Smithsonian Learning Lab, and it is an outstanding example of a virtual museum experience. Students and teachers can sign up to the Learning Lab, completely free of charge and begin to curate their own private collection of Smithsonian artifacts.

In their own words the Smithsonian Learning Lab is a “major rethinking of how the digital resources from across the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, nine major research centres, the National Zoo, and more, can be used together, for learning”.

Exploration of a museum archive has never been more fun and the Learning Lab aims to inspire the discovery and creative use of its rich digital materials – more than a million images, recordings, and texts – to create your very own personalized collection. Using a simple search and save platform, each example in the Smithsonian’s collections has a complete listing and description of where the exhibit is held. But within the platform, community members can edit this information to create their own description, make notes on, and share thoughts about each exhibit – a truly unique concept and one which earned the Smithsonian the 2017 Gold medal MUSE Award in the education and outreach category.

The Learning Lab is a great community builder for learners who are passionate about adding to and bringing to light new knowledge, ideas, and insight. But more than that, it is a really inspiring resource where children (and adults for that matter) can explore the seemingly endless archives within the famed Smithsonian Institute.

To make use of the Learning Lab visit: Learning Lab

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