If you are housebound or want a "try before you buy" museum trip then these great virtual tours will be right up your street. These are just the tip of the iceberg but also happen to be some of the best around.
Happy virtual ramblings.
What does a virtual tour mean?
As the term suggests, a virtual tour is a simulated visit around an existing location, like a museum. They may be composed of a series of videos or still images, virtual reality, or telepresence devices.
Such tours can also include other multimedia elements like sound effects, music, narration, and text, etc.
What science and tech museums offer virtual tours?
Quite a few, as it turns out.
Here are 11 of the best science and technology museums that offer virtual tours. This list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.
1. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has one
Washington D.C.'s world-class National Museum of Natural History is one great museum that offers an amazing virtual tour. It is one of the most popular museums in the world, and its virtual tour lets you see its amazing exhibits from the comfort of your own home.
While not quite the same as actually visiting it for yourself, their virtual tour takes you on a 360-degree tour around the museum, starting at the rotunda. Some of the highlights include the Hall of Mammals, Insect Zoo, the Dinosaur exhibits, and the Hall of Palaeobiology.
One real benefit of virtual tours like this is the ability to see some of their great past exhibits that are now long gone.
2. Why not tour NASA's Langley Research Center online?
NASA's famous Langley Research Center in Virginia, as well as its Glenn Research Center, also provides some cool virtual tours of their facilities. With these tours, you'll get to see some of the most important technological inventions in history without ever having to leave your own home.
The Space Center at Houston also offers an awesome app that provides virtual tours, augmented reality experiences, and videos and audio stories about space exploration.
3. The National Museum of the United States Air Force's virtual tour is cool
Another great science and tech museum that offers virtual tours is the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Being the official museum of the USAF, this museum is the place to go if you live and breathe aircraft.
The tour centers around the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, which houses a wide array of military planes and weapons. It also includes the presidential airplanes of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon.
With the virtual tour, you can view its entire grounds and see many decommissioned aircraft from WW2, Vietnam, and other wars at your leisure.
4. Explore the history of science online with Oxford University's History of Science Museum's virtual tour
Another world-class museum that offers virtual tours is Oxford University's History of Science Museum. The tour lets you explore their magnificent exhibits in ultimate comfort -- your own sofa.
You'll get to explore their fantastic exhibits and artifacts from some of the most important scientific discoveries in science history. The museum, ever ahead of the times, has been offering virtual tours since 1995, so you can trust the quality of its current offering.
5. Virtually tour the wonders of The Museo Galileo
Another awesome virtual tour option you might want to check out are the videos offered by Museo Galileo. Located in the city of Florence, the museum houses some of the most important instruments in scientific history.
Virtual tours of the museum might actually be the best way to see the museum, as it can be a bit tricky to actually physically visit the place. It is a pretty small building and tends to be very popular over the summer months.
6. Tour The National Museum of Computing, um, on your computer
If computer history is more your bag, then you might want to take the National Museum of Computing's virtual tour. Take a 3D tour of the history of the ongoing development of computing from, fittingly, your own computer.
The museum is home to the world's largest collection of working historic computers and includes examples of the history of world-changing tech from the 1940s to the present day.
7. The Museum of Science in Boston also has a great virtual tour
Yet another amazing science and tech museum that offers virtual exhibits is the Museum of Science in Boston. The museum has a long history of being a leader in producing digital exhibits, videos, and audio presentations, and it is no surprise that their virtual material is world-class.
8. Visit The Natural History Museum, London from your own home
If you love all things natural history, you might want to take a virtual tour of the world-renowned Natural History Museum (NHM) in London. Developed in part by Google, the tour is a great, and interesting way to tour the museum's exhibits if making the trip is difficult. The options include 3D and virtual reality offerings, as well a virtual talks and tours of the museum halls.
Sadly "Dippy" the Diplodocus is no longer in residence, but the virtual tour is still very impressive indeed.
9. Belgium's Museum of Natural Sciences' virtual tour is brilliant
Another awesome virtual tour of a science and tech museum comes to us courtesy of The Museum of Natural Sciences in Belgium. Containing tons of Dinosaurs and other interesting scientific exhibits, this virtual tour and augmented reality is definitely worth a gander.
Like the NHM in London, this tour was partially developed with the help of Google's Cultural Institute.
10. Tour The German Oceanographic Museum with its virtual tour
Also brought to you with the help of Google, this virtual tour is pretty cool and incorporates virtual reality too. Take a tour of the German Oceanographic Museum without ever having to get off your backside.
Physically located in Stralsund, Germany, the museum is jam-packed full of exhibits about the wonders of the deep. This really is an interesting virtual tour if you cannot leave the house for whatever reason. It includes some 300,000 fossils, exhibits, pictures, and videos online, all making use of the latest technologies
11. The Museum of Mines of Mercury is something a little different
This virtual tour is something a little different. The tour takes you around the Museum of Mines of Mercury Monte Amiata in Santa Fiora, Italy.
View the 360-degree exhibits and mock-ups on the history of mining from the comfort of your own home.
Bonus - The Louvre also offers virtual tours
And finally, the world-class Louvre is now also offering a selection of virtual tours of its incredible collections of art and artifacts. Located in Paris, the museum recently announced that it has put almost half a million items from its collection online to view for free.
While not quite the same as visiting the museum in person, this unprecedented access is not to be sniffed at. If you are looking for something to do for a few hours, this virtual tour is definitely worth a look.
And that, museum-lovers, is your lot for today. If you are stuck at home with nothing better to do, why not get your daily dose of culture by taking one of these great tours right now?
You won't regret it!
Editor's note: Please note that this article has been updated to include the Louvre virtual tour.