Why pay for the museum when you can see the painting for free?
More Americans are scrolling through paintings, listening to symphonies, and visiting cultural landmarks online rather than in person, according to a study released Monday by the National Endowment for the Arts.
While the study suggests bad news for museums and opera houses (and really for everyone, considering the role these institutions play in preserving some of our national treasures - it would be a shame to see them shutter due to a lack of support), it's also pretty cool that you can see this stuff online. It opens the door for a wider audience to experience the art and music housed in institutions that have traditionally catered to the well-to-do. And where a trip to Florence to see Michelangelo's David used to be a serious investment of time and money, the web has made it free and instantaneous.
Here are six ways to see amazing art without leaving your couch.*
1. Google Cultural Institute
Want to know what van Gogh's The Starry Night looks like, but don't have time right now for a trip to New York? Google's got your back.
The tech giant has partnered with hundreds of museums to put some of the world's most prized paintings and artifacts online, including the World Wonders. You can even check out Pompeii and the Great Barrier Reef online using Street View and Google's 3D modeling.
World-renowned symphonies like the San Francisco Symphony have begun putting excerpts of their performances online so you can hear the Overture from Mendelssohn's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in your own living room. The sound quality is always improving, too.
The Public Broadcasting Service has put entire ballets and operas online and made them available at no charge. Want to watch the Milwaukee Ballet perform Peter Pan? Just click play below and you've got the best seat in the house.
England's renowned Royal Ballet has made its performances available on-demand. There's a small charge, but it's nowhere near the price of an actual ticket. The service they use, Digital Theater, also offers musicals and other plays.
The Smithsonian offers virtual tours of some of its museums, including the National Museum of Natural History. Go room-by-room at your own pace, crowds and crying children mercifully not included.
5. Library of Congress
The digital collection of what amounts to the nation's library is a veritable treasure trove. The archive houses everything from historic photographs to sound recordings from the 1920s. The library also puts webcasts on a YouTube channel. You can watch everything from Irish step dancing to Korean traditional music. Navigating the archives can be a bit intimidating, but the rewards are worth it and you won't have to physically wander the aisles of a library to find what you're looking for.
YouTube is one of the more obvious places people go to watch performances online but it's also one of the more controversial. Unauthorized clips of concerts and plays end up on the video sharing site daily, which can undermine the work the artists are doing - and their living. Sometimes, though, museums and theaters incorporate YouTube into their official presence. If you're into poetry, but can't get to the National Poetry Slam, you're in luck. You might be sitting in sweatpants by yourself, but the chills you feel when you watch Mr. Yamazawa deliver his beautiful truth are real.
*Seriously, though, if you can, go support museums and theaters in-person. They need the love.
Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.