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image of MSO conductor Ben Northey conducting the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

How to get your culture fix online

We’ve rounded up the world’s best live-streaming experiences. From Belgian opera to penguin web cam.

If there’s one small bright side to global catastrophe, it’s watching the spread of human creativity, ingenuity and kindness. And if you need a reminder that there’s still a lot of good in this world, hop online and check out the thousands of cultural institutions that have switched to a live-streaming model. You can spend the morning watching the Brussels opera and the afternoon wandering the digital hallways of the Louvre. Australian organisations are getting in on the act, too, with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra beaming their performances out (for free) to anybody that’s watching.

We’ve rounded up the best cultural online experiences in one place. Here’s everywhere to get your culture fix online right now.


Museums Victoria has just released Museum at Home, which lets you visit Melbourne Museum, Scienceworks and Victoria’s Immigration Museum via Google Maps. The Guggenheim in Bilbao has moved most of its exhibitions online. America’s GRAMMY Museum is doing at-home music lessons and posting exclusive interviews with pop legends like Billie Eilish. Google Arts & Culture has helpfully rounded up virtual self-guided tours from all its top museums and galleries – about 2,500 venues at last count. And thanks to the Vatican Museum, you can even take a 360-degree tour of the Sistine Chapel



Every live concert on the planet has obviously been cancelled, but many have decided to push on and offer performances via live-stream. Boiler Room will be “streaming from isolation” and bringing you at-home sets from some of the world’s top DJs. Neil Young has announced a Fireside Sessions concert series, filmed and streamed by his wife, no less. Even industry giants like ASX (one of AEG’s companies) are staging online concerts every single day. So far they’ve hosted Josh Ritter, John Legend, Bastille and dozens of others. And don’t forget Isol-Aid, which kicked off their first Instagram Live Music Festival last weekend, and have already announced a follow-up.  



As we enter an indefinite period of social isolation, movies are obviously going to be the biggest cultural crutch. And most people already have a Netflix or Stan account to fall back on. But Australian cinemas aren’t going down without a fight either. You might not be able to visit the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, but they’re hosting a weekly movie night called Virtual Cinémathèque, which will closely follow ACMI’s scheduled 2020 program. And don’t forget new movie-sharing software like MetaStream either. It’s a browser plugin that lets you chat and watch movies with your friends at the same time.  



The Melbourne Comedy Festival unfortunately walked right into a global pandemic, forcing it to shut down. But several of the festival’s biggest comedians have already announced online stand-up specials on Amazon Prime (the list includes home-grown names like Zoë Coombs Marr, Judith Lucy, Celia Pacquola, Anne Edmonds, Tom Walker, Tommy Little, Lano and Woodley, Dilruk Jayasinha, Alice Fraser and Tom Gleeson.) Comedy institutions like NextUp and Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show have also moved their operations online. In fact, many comedians are live-streaming shows from home (often for cheap, $2 entry fees) via apps like Zoom.  



Online learning providers are going to be more important than ever over the next few months. And not just for keeping us sane. Online education and training is one of the few productive, long-term career moves you can make right now, especially when it comes to future-proof technologies like BlockchainData Science and Design Thinking. If you can’t commit to a university online accreditation, check out independent short course providers like Udemy or Skillshare. Even Ted-Ed is going to be useful during lockdown. Anything that keeps your mind flexible and strong is a good thing.  



Australian libraries are quickly trying to digitize as much content as possible, and they’re not the only ones. The New York Public Library has opened up its research databases for online use. Melbourne’s State Library has an entire online isolation section now, with e-books, journals, music and even the ability to ‘Ask a Librarian’. The National Library of Australia has luckily been building Trove for years: it’s an enourmous online database of books, newspapers, historical curios and old magazines (they apparently have Women’s Weekly editions dating all the way back to 1933). Don’t forget audio books either: Audible, the world’s biggest audiobook provider, just announced a free collection for kids during the coronavirus lockdown.  



Last but not least, Australian zoos have risen to the challenge and installed webcams in dozens of enclosures, allowing you to live-stream cuddly animals 24/7. Zoos Victoria was the first to kick this off with their Animal House initiative, and it wasn’t long till Sydney’s Sea Life Aquarium and WildLife Zoo followed suit. In other countries, San Diego Zoo have also set up ‘Ape Cam’ and ‘Baboon Cam’ for your viewing pleasure. Of all the things you could be watching right now, a live-stream of tiny penguins might be the best for your mental health.

This article was originally published on 30 March 2020