Museum sites offer guided tours of exhibits SMART SURFING

June 01, 1998|By Frances Katz | Frances Katz,COX NEWS SERVICE

In the early days of the World Wide Web, one of the coolest things to do was take a virtual tour of the Louvre (

Nowadays, most major museums have their own Web pages. While some offer only text listings and membership information, some museums take their mission of bringing art to the masses quite seriously and view the Internet as yet another way to accomplish this.

The Asian Museum of Art in San Francisco has devised an engrossing site devoted to its exhibit "Mongolia: The Legacy of Chinggis Khan" (

The site does everything short of beaming users away from their computers and into the museum. A floor plan of the exhibit is offered, along with QuickTime video of the exhibits and RealAudio commentary to make the virtual museum visit complete. The photos are beautiful, the explanatory text is well-written and the use of audio and video is lovely.

Fans of surrealist Salvador Dali can spend time pondering paintings such as "Telephone in a Dish with Three Grilled Sardines at the End of September" and other works of the 20th-century master on the site created by the Salvador Dali Museum Collection in St. Petersburg, Fla. ( Dali).

At first the site seems a little amateurish and busy. There's even a counter that keeps track of how many times you've visited the museum, which serves no real purpose. However, unlike a real museum, you can just click past all this and head directly into the museum to view Dali works, which are nicely reproduced.

A nice touch is a soundtrack that lets you listen to your choice of classical or rock music while you browse the collection.

Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum ( gardner), began its life as Isabella Gardner's private collection of Italian Renaissance art and later became one of the premier small museums in the United States. Web surfers can tour the museum's famous gardens, and gaze at some of its famous paintings and sculptures.

QuickTime video is put to good use at the Web site for the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (www. Users are presented with a map of the museum and can click on the area they'd like to explore, and off they go. The site also includes selected pieces from the museum's collection of Canadian art and artifacts.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art ( presents its exhibitions on the Web with as much imagination as it does on-site.

The Keith Haring exhibit uses a subway theme and design to guide viewers on a virtual subway ride through an exhibit of the artist who began his career scrawling graffiti on the New York subways.

The rest of the site is also worth exploring but you'll need a whiz-bang browser - version 4.0 of Internet Explorer or Netscape - but if you love art, it's worth the extra effort.

Pub Date: 6/01/98

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