Cultural Travels from Home: online adventures!

Liz Nicholls

After venturing online during lockdown, Cultural Travels from Home are still flying high and taking happy travellers to far-off destinations virtually with a highlight on 28th September, thanks to art historian Siân Walters

Art tour and event company, Art History in Focus has been much loved by Surrey residents for over 20 years who have regularly followed its impressive programme of local courses and overseas tours around the world. The focus of the company changed however during the Covid pandemic when its director, art historian Siân Walters devised pioneering approach to cultural travel, bringing galleries’ art collections to people at home. At a period when all museums were closed and when people were unable to travel, she worked with directors of many major European art galleries and cultural sites, enabling people to enjoy exclusive, live access to their collections.

Museums at your fingertips

The programme, entitled Cultural Travels from Home, has gone from strength to strength. Led by expert guides and art historians, each tour is live and interactive, with an opportunity to ask questions and spend time savouring details of artworks which cannot be seen with the naked eye, thanks to the high-resolution technology used during the visits. The programme has become particularly popular with art followers who now find it difficult to travel or who are challenged physically, meaning that in-person visits are not so easy. There’s also a sense of friendship and camaraderie: as one regular puts: “I feel as if I have a new ‘art family’!”

Private exhibition visits

Another innovative feature is the exhibition tour programme, enabling viewers to enjoy a private online tour of a major art exhibition, from anywhere in the world. This October, viewers will enjoy an exclusive tour broadcast from a Titian exhibition at the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice, led by its curator. Later in the year there will be a broadcast from the Belvedere in Vienna with a special focus on Gustav Klimt, and a tour of an important upcoming exhibition dedicated to the enduring popular artist Rosalba Carriera and her career as a miniaturist.

Cultural Travels from Home

Since its creation, Art History in Focus has devised and presented the world’s first livestream tours of the Basilica of San Marco in Venice, the Medici Palace in Florence, the Brera Art Gallery in Milan, the Palazzo Colonna and Galleria Doria Pamphilj in Rome and very many more.

There are also regular walking tours throughout Europe from Lisbon, Ljubljana and Amsterdam to Madrid, Bruges and Barcelona. The special expertise of the Art History in Focus guides often lends a unique touch to the experiences – for example, participants recently attended an unforgettable twilight tour of Pompeii in the company of a well-known local archaeologist, who showed them some of the site’s most recent excavations.  

Another highlight was a tour from Kyiv in which viewers were able to learn about the history of Ukraine and celebrate its beauty and cultural heritage. One happy traveller commented: “Thank you so much for another beautifully presented course… Travel and galleries and museums are difficult for me, so I very much appreciate particularly the live visits.”

Worldwide following

Siân, who alongside running Art History in Focus lectures for the National Gallery in London – and for many years lectured at the University of Surrey – says: “It has been heart-warming to receive such wonderful feedback from our visitors and students as well as the participating museums, and I’m so glad to be continuing with these programmes which are enabling us all to enjoy art and culture in new and varied ways. Our followers now join us from all over the world and it’s such a pleasure to welcome them each week.”

Coming soon

Amongst the events scheduled for the coming months are a live virtual guided tour of Titan 1508 at the Gallerie dell’ Accademia in Venice and Rosalba Carriera: Miniatures on Ivory at the Ca’ Rezzonico, commemorating the 350th year anniversary of the artist’s birth in 1673. These visits form part of an online course entitled “Europe’s Great Galleries”, starting on 29th September and exploring a different museum each week. 

For further information, please visit Cultural Travels from Home: The Frari Basilica in Venice – Art History in Focus