by Angela Terrab

If you can’t make it to the nation’s capital, you can still enjoy the National Gallery of Art. Like the mammoth institution itself, NGA’s sprawling online presence is packed with images and information. And like the gallery itself, you could get lost in the collections for ages. This highlight tour can help you scratch the surface:

Homepage of the National Gallery of Art website.

Homepage of the National Gallery of Art website.

For those of you in search of open access, high-quality digital downloads, the first stop on the tour is NGA Images. This large and growing digital collection contains public domain images from the galleries, including collections on French paintings and self portraits. While not as glossy as other NGA offerings, this portion of the site is perhaps most admirable because of its explicit dedication to the open access mission:

The Gallery’s open access policy is a natural extension of this mission, and in applying the policy in a global digital environment, the Gallery also expands and enhances its educational and scholarly outreach. The Gallery believes that increased access to high quality images of its works of art fuels knowledge, scholarship, and innovation, inspiring uses that continually transform the way we see and understand the world of art.

The second stop on our tour is the Education portal. While many of NGA’s educational programs Lesson Plans for K-12 teachers, documentary-style videos, and art-emulator games. The NGAkids ArtZone (“Interactive art that you can make online”) contains emulators to

Layer images to create a digital collage in the NGAkids Art Zone.

Layer images to create a digital collage in the NGAkids Art Zone.

help kids ages 5-10 create digital art in the style of a still life, an abstract painting, a collage, and more. Looking for a new site to bookmark on your children’s area computers? This is a great option.

While often forgotten, the NGA’s coverage of conservation deserves a look. The NGA offers a sneak peak into the science behind restoring and preserving aging pieces. Layman-friendly articles on conservation concerns like light exposure or temperature and humidity provide an introduction to the important work that goes on behind the scenes at the museum.

Haven’t had enough? Continue your tour with notes and images from 70+ years of exhibitions; a searchable collection featuring works from over 12,000 artists; and an introduction to the archives for researchers. Like the museum itself, there’s plenty to explore, and multiple visits are a must!

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