You are here:

Humanities from Home

Over the past few weeks we’ve witnessed the extent to which people turn to the arts and humanities in times of crisis – seeking the wisdom, escapism, creativity, solace, and understanding that the humanities bring to an increasingly uncertain world.

Humanities from Home

This is a time for humans to work together - so over on our Twitter we've been seeking to highlight the wonderful ways in which organisations and individuals have been coming up with imaginative, fun and innovative ways to enjoy and engage with the humanities from home. Whether it’s a virtual retreat into arts and culture, creative ways to keep busy and boredom at bay, or pondering critical reflections and responses to this global crisis, here are just a few we’ve discovered.

1. Museums from home

First off, take yourself on a tour of that museum you’d been hoping to visit and head over to Google Arts and Culture. This wonderful online resource includes virtual guided tours of hundreds of museums and galleries worldwide, including the Uffizi Gallery, The Rijksmuseum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If you need a break from the news and some time out from the chaos, follow the hashtag #MuseumMomentofZen for moments of quiet contemplation through peaceful works of art. Or perhaps you've got kids to keep occupied? The folk at Kids in Museums have created this fantastic list of online child-friendly museum resources. #MuseumFromHome and #MuseumsUnlocked have really taken off on Twitter - check out the hashtags to discover many more ways to enjoy museums and their collections from the comfort of your sofa.

2. Explore archives

There's a wealth of digitised archives available online. The National Archives have just made their digital records free to access for as long as their site is closed to visitors. Our friends at the Victoria Country History project have also compiled a great thread of local history resources available to access online. The British Library is sharing its wonderful online archives in lots of creative ways (Hello, online jigsaw puzzles of manuscripts! #FridayJigsaw) with the hashtag #LetsGetDigital. Dr Tom Thorne (@LoveArchaeology) has compiled a great Twitter thread of online museum archives, including those at the Museum of London, and the National Library of Scotland’s map collections.

A #MuseumMomentofZen from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. "Springtime" (1880–1928), watercolor on paper © Museum of Fine Arts Boston

3. Free online learning

Discover a whole range of totally free humanities short courses online through Coursera, where you can access free online taster courses from our very own University of London, alongside other leading universities. Other great resources are Open Learn, the Open University’s home of free learning, and FutureLearnA History of Royal Fashion, from Historic Royal Palaces and University of Glasgow, caught our eye.

4. Get creative

The Royal Academy of Art’s #RAdailydoodle and the Ashmolean Museum’s #IsolationCreations are just two ways to get creative with a daily challenge inspired by museum collections. If you want to take it (several steps) further and you’re feeling especially resourceful, the #tussenkunstenquarantaine campaign and the Getty Museum challenge are all about recreating great works of art from the comfort of home.

Van Gogh's Irises on the left--purple flowers with bright green stems. Mixed media recreation on the right.

'Irises' 1889, Vincent Van Gogh. Oil on canvas, 29 1/4 × 37 1/8 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 90.PA.20. Re-creation via Twitter DM by Cara Jo O’Connell and family using Play Doh, carrot slices, and wooden beads

5. Free Thinking

Check out the BBC Free Thinking podcasts to discover all kinds of great humanities research – from lost words and language, to 100 novels that shaped our world (including some Being Human festival research from the archives).

6. Shelf-isolation

Book sales have reportedly soared during the pandemic, and according to The Guardian, the existential classic The Plague is spearheading interest in pandemic fiction during the lockdown (see ‘Albert Camus novel The Plague leads surge of pestilence fiction’). What can we learn about a global health crisis from literary history? What other great pieces of literature are on your #shelfisolation reading list?

7. Culture in Quarantine

The BBC and Arts Council England have announced the Culture in Quarantine campaign as an effort to keep arts and culture alive in people’s homes. The Royal Shakespeare Company is broadcasting six plays on the BBC between now and September as part of the initiative, alongside the Big Book festival, a four-part ‘Museums in Quarantine’ series and much more. Finally, CultureFix is a fantastic free resource listing all kinds of cultural events that are streaming or available online, including theatre, music, opera and art - from the National Theatre to Sydney Opera House.

Enjoying the humanities from home in other ways? Let us know by using the hashtag #HumanitiesfromHome.

Header image credit: Flowers and Insects’ by Jan van Kessel, the Elder © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (image)