Engaging with Museums, Galleries and Keeping Places in the Time of Social Distancing

Last updated 14 August

Although most museums, galleries and Aboriginal keeping places are now closed due to COVID-19, there are still many ways to engage with them whilst maintaining social distancing practices. Below is a list of online resources and activities to keep your cultural curiosity piqued.

? Programming

Many organisations with programs scheduled over the coming weeks and months are working to convert them into virtual offerings. Tune in by clicking the links below.

do it (australia)

The newest Kaldor Public Art Project invites audiences to follow instructions from Australian artists including Jonathan Jones, Tracey Moffatt and Latai Taumoepeau. The project is presented in partnership with Serpentine Galleries, Independent Curators International and Google Arts & Culture, and includes more than 50 newly commissioned artworks. Find out more here


NIRIN, the Biennale of Sydney, will launch its online activations and experiences from Monday 6 March. Programming will follow the themes of the exhibitions: Bila (river/environment); Gurray (transformation); Muriguwal Giiland (different stories); Ngawaal-Guyungan (powerful ideas/ the power of objects). Stay up to date by following the BoS website

Blue Mountains Cultural Centre

“Blue Mountains Cultural Centre is launching its VIRTUAL INSIGHT program, a curated selection of digital content, featuring DIY art making activities, staff insights into our collection and exhibitions, book and game recommendations, wholesome food recipes from our café and many more. We will feature local artists, creatives and makers and invite you to contribute with your ideas and stories. During these uncertain times and with many events and programs suspended, we aim to provide our community with some positive content and activities to keep you sane, busy and inspired – all accessible online and for free.” Find details at the BMCC website

The Public History Hour

Run by the Australian Centre for Public History (UTS), the Public History Hour will be captured on Zoom and broadcast live from the ACPH Facebook Page on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 1-2pm, starting from 20 March. Find out more here

Head On Photo Festival

The annual Festival has announced that its program will be held online from 1-17 May and will include a program of online seminars and events. A scaled-back physical festival will be held later in the year. Stay up to date here

Fashion Hub 2020

The 10-day Fashion Hub 2020 event, organisaed by the Sherman Centre for Culture and Ideas, was scheduled to take place at the Museum of Sydney but will now be a virtual hub delivered online. Talks from leading fashion thinkers are scheduled to speak – find out more here

Virtual Cinémathèque

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and Melbourne Cinémathèque are presenting a weekly movie night available “anywhere with a decent internet connection.” Read more here and check out ACMI social media accounts for weekly film announcements


The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia has launched an offering of online experiences aimed at inspiring and sparking creativity. Start exploring here

Together in Art (Art Gallery of NSW)

The AGNSW has launched a series of online content around the theme #TogetherInArt. The project includes new commissions, pocket exhibitions, behind-the-scenes tours, soul-stirring performances, art classes with some of Australia’s great artists, and deep dives into their collection. Learn how to draw a face with Ben and Livvy Quilty or read COVID-19 for Dummies. View more here

From Our House to Yours

Tune in weekly from Thursday to Sunday for live broadcasts, archival footage, and premieres from the Sydney Opera House. Find our more here

Taronga TV

Taronga Zoo has just launched their 24/7 live cams. Tune in to Tiger Cam, Seal Cam or Elephant cam here

? Community

Although physically separated, many organisations are creating digital ways to connect and share experiences. Here are some ways to get involved:

Bridging the Distance

This public Facebook group is run by the National Museum Australia (NMA) and encourages people to share anecdotes from their daily life in isolation. Read the submissions and share your own here

Share your COVID-19 stories in Millthorpe

Golden Memories Museum Millthorpe are requesting COVID-19 stories in an effort to capture history. If you live in the area, you can download the PDF or word document form on their website

? Online Archives & Collections

Many collections have been digitised for conservation and accessibility purposes. High-resolution images are freely available to view at the following websites, including many objects that would not normally be accessible to the public or on display.

City of Sydney Archives & History Resources

The three-year redevelopment of the City of Sydney’s Archives & History Resources were only recently unveiled to the public. The collection has objects dating back to 1842 and 450,000 items are accessible online now. Start uncovering Sydney’s history here

State Library of NSW

Just earlier this year, SLNSW launched beta testing of its brand new digital catalogue which spans books, journals, magazines, newspapers, pictures, manuscripts, maps, objects, audio and music. Start exploring here

Kaldor Digital Archive

Late last year, Kaldor Public Art Projects launched their digital archive, including over 18,000 digitised A4 pages spanning correspondence, logistics, negotiations, planning documents and reviews produced over the past 50 years. Miscellany such as posters, maps, charts, artworks and tshirts are also included on the site, providing a robust resource for researchers and curious members of the public alike. Click here to start browsing

AM Inside Out

Deep dive into fascinating stories and learning materials from the Australian Museum’s collections and programs. Make your way through reading lists curated by staff; learn about museum expeditions; or discover homeschool resources. See everything here

Museum of Arts & Applied Sciences

The MAAS Collection spans art, science, fashion design, object design and exhibitions. A great way to access their extensive collection is by exploring the curated ‘sets’ such as Anatomical & Botanical Models; Speedo Swimwear Collection; 200 Years of Wedding Fashion; Joseph Box Shoe Collection; Early Meteorology in Australia; Absolutely Mardi Gras; Berlei Underwear Archive. View all the sets here

Art Gallery of NSW

The AGNSW has over 30,000 artworks from its collection available to view online, including over 20,000 from their Australian Art collection; over 2,000 from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Collection; and almost 5,500 from the photography collection. Browse by categories or highlights here

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

Discover a selection of the MCA’s collection online by browsing through artworks or artists’ stories. Access the collection here


The online library database Trove was launched in 2010 and is run by the National Library of Austrlaia. Rather than searching individual library collections, people can now search for photos, manuscripts, books, music, videos, newspapers from 1803 onwards, maps and archived websites through Trove directly which will collate search results from over 1,000 libraries instantaneously. A vast expanse of Australian history and culture at your fingertips

The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia 

NFSA has curated parts of their collection into digestible and entertaining themes, including vintage cats; fashion history; true crime; trains; historic Australian theatres and cinemas; 1980s. View all categories and begin a trip down memory lane here

Coffs Collection / The Coffs Coast Heritage & Arts Digitisation (CCHAD)

Take a sneak peek at the newly online Coffs Collections – open to the public for a three-week window from 27 March 2020. The collection includes photographs, oral history, art, documents and local Honour Boards. To find out more about the project and to access the site, click here

Carriageworks Journal

This is an online hub of new and archived work produced by Carriageworks projects, artists and curatorial team.New content will be released each week including interviews, performances, essays, films and photography. Start exploring here

Free collection image Zoom backgrounds

The Chau Chak Wing Museum has put together a pack of 10 background images to use in your next Zoom meeting!
Choose bat wings from the natural history collection, a stunning artwork or a 19th century visit to the Parthenon. Find out more

Port Macquarie Museum’s Tourist Paradise

Take a virtual holiday to Port Macquarie by visiting the online exhibition Tourist Paradise. Discover how generations have enjoyed the river and coastal settings through local history, stories, objects and photographs. Start exploring here

Wollongong Heritage and Stories

Dive into the local history of Wollongong by exploring curated stories, people and objects including Industry, Hard Work & Innovation; Women & Children; Our Environment and Our People. Find out more

Moruya and District Historical Society Museum 

Discover over 600 objects from the Museum’s collection on eHive, ranging from pre-European settlement to the modern day. The museum also houses an extensive collection of documents, microfilms and photographs for those who are interested in researching local history. Find our more

I am Blacktown

Captures memories as shared by Blacktown residents and students from Evans High School and Mitchell High School during a series of workshops by local artists Mike Moore and Jeff Lees at The Leo Kelly Blacktown Arts Centre. Find out more

Miss Porter’s House – National Trust NSW

Almost 5,000 objects and archival documents from the collection are available to view online, making it a time capsule of life in the 20th Century. Start browsing here

Hawkesbury Regional Gallery and Hawkesbury Regional Museum – Online Collection

Photographs, paintings, prints, convict tools, historical records, clothing, military paraphernalia, sculptures, farming equipment, household items, boat building tools and much more can now all be accessed remotely as the collections of both the Hawkesbury Regional Gallery and Hawkesbury Regional Museum has recently been made available online. Find out more

? Listen

Audio described tour of UTS Gallery

Explore UTS Gallery’s exhibition Fit For Purpose through an audio descriptive tour. The exhibition brings together six international fashion designers and collectives whose work is driving change through explorative, sustainable, ethical and collaborative practices. The tour provides a spoken description of the visual material in the exhibition and enhances a remote experience of the exhibition content. Listen now


This article from the New York times highlights 10 Binge-Worthy art podcasts to listen to, including Awaye! produced by the ABC. Read it here

QAGOMA Spotify

Listen to curated playlists made by the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art and featured artists, including music selected by Ben Quilty, Patricia Piccinini, and Angela Tiatia. Other playlists include DJ and artist Hannah Brontë’s selections to accompany Tony Albert’s works and classical music inspired by Margaret Olley. View all here

Museum audio tours

Take an audio journey to a museum on the izi.TRAVEL website or app. In NSW, visit the Museum of Fire or the Port Macquarie Museum, or head abroad and listen to a tour of the Metropolitan Museum (USA). Discover all audio tours here

Creativity on Gadigal Land

In this episode of Speaking Out with Larissa Behrendt, Jonathan Jones (UTS), Wesley Enoch (Sydney Festival), Keira Lindsey (UTS) and artist and curator Emily McDaniel reflect on the complexities, challenges and opportunities of the creative process when a project is curated on Country. Listen online.

? Virtual Tours

Many cultural institutions have created virtual tours of their galleries. Start wandering their spaces and discovering displays by clicking the links below.

‘1945: From Hot War to Cold War’ – Anzac Memorial

Examines the experience of Australians in the final phases of the war in Europe, in the campaigns in New Guinea and Borneo, Australia’s role in post-war Asia and the recovery and return to civilian life of Australian service personnel and the domestic wartime economy. View the virtual tour

On Stillness – National Art School

On Stillness is an evolving online exhibition presented across the social media accounts of public art galleries in New South Wales. Initiated in April 2020 by the National Art School and Newcastle Art Gallery, the exhibition draws focus to the collective experience of stillness imposed by the COVID-19 lockdown by highlighting artworks that embody the idea of stillness from the collections of each institution. Participating museums and galleries now include: NERAM, Orange Regional Gallery, Wollongong Art Gallery, the Museum of Art and Culture, Lake Macquarie and Tweed Regional Gallery. View On Stillness

Customs House

Explore the streets of 20th Century Sydney in this two-level virtual exhibitions at Customs House, curated by Historian Laila Ellmoos. To view Developing Sydney: Capturing Change 1900-1920 click here.

Google Arts & Culture

Through this long-standing project, Google Arts & Culture has documented over 500 institutions from across the globe. Here are a few NSW-based spaces to get you started:

Bankstown Arts Centre

View two of BAC’s exhibitions online through their virtual galleries. Bara: embers is an exhibition Indonesian-Australian Woven Kolektif and The Somali Young Women’s Art Project is a collaboration with several aspiring artists from the Somali community in Western Sydney. More upcoming online programming is underway including a VR experience and podcast with Travis De Vries of Broriginals and a digital exhibition with Barkindji artist Badger Bates. Stay up to date through the BAC website

Not Young Or Free – Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-Operative

View Boomalli’s latest exhibition online, curated by Kyra Kum-Sing. Not Young or Free! responds to the 250 year anniversary of Cook’s arrival in Australia. Click here to view

Newcastle Art Gallery

In 2018, Newcastle Art Gallery created virtual tours of two of their exhibitions PAINTING MEMORY: From the collection and EVERYTHING CHANGES: Tim Maguire 2002 – 2017. The experiences are powered by Matterport and function similarly to Google Street View. View iconic works from the Newcastle Art Gallery collection now

White Rabbit Gallery 

Get your dose of cutting edge, contemporary Chinese art through White Rabbit Gallery’s virtual tours. View the exhibitions THEN. , HOT BLOOD, SUPERNATURAL and THE SLEEPER AWAKES here.

UNSW Galleries

View the Galleries’ most current exhibitions Skye Wagner: Opacity Shift and Samuel Hodge: The Wit of the Staircase virtually on their website.

Cement Fondu

Take a virtual tour around Cement Fondu’s current exhibition, Contact Us, featuring Emma Finneran, Tom Polo and Campbell Patterson. Presenting video, installation and painting, the artists in Contact Us trace ethereal and tangible actions that speak to how we connect in silent contract. View the exhibition here

Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Casula was required to close the exhibition the Pulse of the Dragon early. For those that missed the exhibition or for those that want to re-visit this fantastic exhibition they have a 3D Virtual Tour for you to explore. View the exhibition here

Glasshouse Regional Gallery Virtual Tour

The latest exhibitions at the Glasshouse Regional Gallery, Port Macquarie. Their 3D virtual tour features their three current exhibitions. View the exhibition here

Dubbo Regional Museum – Virtual Tour

Take a virtual walk through our Museum’s permanent display ‘People, Places and Possessions’. View the exhibition here

‘White Guilt 2.0’ by Nathan Beard on Animal Crossing

After the lockdown-mandated closure of his Firstdraft exhibition, White Gilt 2.0, Perth-based interdisciplinary artist Nathan Beard, like millions of players across the globe, escaped to the parallel world of Nintendo’s popular new video game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Watch a video, or find out how to visit the exhibition in the game, here

? Learning & Creating

There are many avenues for online learning and creativity that provide a way to keep cultural curiosity active. Here are a few places to get started:

Aboriginal Sydney

Learn more about First Nations culture and history through this Sydney University course (offered entirely online through Coursera): Cultural Competence – Aboriginal Sydney. The course includes videos, an extensive suggested reading list, and local history. The course takes approximately 10 hours to complete and is free to enrol in.

Bega Valley Regional Gallery Kids’ Activities

BVRG has teamed up with leading NSW creatives to launch an online series of studio tours and tutorials. This includes a weekly drop of kids workshops, the first of which featured artist Rosie Deacon’s take on pom pom and Kusama-inspired sculpture making. Get out the craft box and start creating

Create @ Manning Regional Art Gallery 

Manning Regional Art Gallery in Taree is now providing online creative programs through their Facebook page and website. The after-school programs series Art Central, that had been available at the Gallery, will also be delivered online after the holidays. Staff will be working with tutors and artists to create content and build new programs that will be available to launch in term two. For now, MRAG also has pre-school and primary activity booklets downloadable on their website (hard copies can also be mailed).

UTS Open – Making History in the 21st Century

UTS launched this free online course just a couple of weeks ago. It introduces students to the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) sector and explains the skills, context and critical ideas required to source archives in online environments. Start learning here

Artist Activity Pack

Firstsite gallery (United Kingdom) has collaborated with well-known artists to create activity packs, free to download. The first activity pack includes contributions from Antony Gormley, Gillian Wearing and Idris Khan, alongside many more. View the project and download the artist activity pack here

Virtually visit your local library

In addition to their physical locations, many local libraries offer free digital access to resources with a library card. Depending on your library, this could include eBooks and audio books through Libby and BorrowBox apps; access to Lynda for professional development; access to movie and music streaming; language learning and computer learning apps; access to ProQuest and EBSCO for research; coding through BusyCode; and picture books through Story Box Library. These could be especially great resources for parents who a homeschooling during this period. A directory of public libraries in NSW can be found through SLNSW here

Hazelhurst At Home

Hazelhurst has shared a variety of art activities online, spanning activities for people with dementia, HSC art tips and tools, and film club favourites. See all the family-friendly resources here

Sydney Dance Company

The Sydney Dance Company will be launching online dance classes through their Virtual Studio soon, targeted at all skill levels. Their dance styles cover ballet, contemporary, hip hop, jazz, JFH, Latin funk, lyrical, pilates, stretch, and senior tap/jazz. Follow their website for details 

Online Private Tuition – Australian Centre of Photography

These one-to-one digital sessions give you complete control over your learning experience and provide access to specific, practical tuition in whatever field you choose. You’ll work with tutors who have decades of hands-on experience as leading professional photographers, award-winning photographic artists and world-class educators at a time that suits you. Find out more

TAFE – Free Courses

TAFE is offering a number of fee-free* short courses that can be completed in just days or weeks, offering practical skills and experiences across a range of industries. Find out more

Art class with Ken Done

Well-known Australia painter Ken Done has shared educational resources for primary, high school and seniors on his website, free to download. Check them out here


Learn from artists first-hand and learn a new skill through Skillshare – an online platform with a large variety of courses. A few suggestions to get you started:


If you are a NSW-based museum, gallery or Aboriginal keeping place and would like your remote offering added to this list, please contact Vanessa via comms@mgnsw.org.au

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