ALVA Press releases

The UK’s top visitor attractions may be closed but they’re open online to the world Millions of online visitors are creating their own ‘UK tourism must-visit list’ of places to visit when attractions re-open their doors

25 March 2020: Millions of people around the world, and us Brits, are at home, online and being inspired by members of ALVA (Association of Leading Visitor Attractions); they are discovering the breadth, depth and diversity of the UK’s visitor attractions through websites and digital galleries, science podcasts, virtual tours of Parliament, through to web-cams of zoos and safari parks, as well as being able to take part in church and cathedral services and watching opera and theatre.

Bernard Donoghue (Director) of ALVA, explains; “in the last week or so there has been an explosion in the number of people, here and around the world, virtually visiting the UK’s top visitor attractions. Our members are creating amazing new online experiences and tours to inspire people who are at home and encourage them to create their own 'UK tourism must visit list' of places they will visit, or re-visit, when attractions re-open.”

He continues: “All of our attractions have fantastic websites and we encourage members of the public to visit them to see their collections, people, places and stories, and use this time at home to plan for the future. It’s really clear from interest from around the world that when our members re-open, the world would like to turn up.”

Members such as British Museum, Natural History Museum, V&A, Science Museum and National Gallery have seen a substantial increase in visitors to their websites. The number of visitors to has doubled in the past two and a half weeks, with many viewing their online content and virtual tours. “Virtual tours” has been the second most searched for term on their website this month, and the ‘Collection’ section of the website, which contains articles and stories about highlights from the Museum’s 8 million-strong collection, is where the majority of visitors are heading. The Natural History Museum’s Discover has had five million visits over the last year, from readers all around the world and visits to the National Gallery’s Virtual tour pages are up 796% compared to last week, and 1144% over last year. All of the Gallery’s collection is represented online with a dedicated webpage, zoomable images, key facts and description. V&A's blog is up by 81% year on year, 147% week on week and over 80% of objects from their collection can be explored in more detail via the collections database website. Science Museum has also seen significant increase in web visitors – particularly for their Learning Resources (double that of this time last year) and games (over x3 times the views of a typical day).

Other members such as Durham Cathedral have been live streaming daily services, and providing digital prayer resources, and from today, Canterbury Cathedral will be streaming services again by individual clergy in their own homes rather than inside the Cathedral as earlier this week.

Zoos such as Edinburgh have seen huge interest in their ‘zoo cams’, while ZSL London and Whipsnade’s Zoo website is packed with fun educational resources for those who are homeschooling or simply taking this time at home to find out more about animals and wildlife. Chester Zoo’s array of online learning resources includes The Zoo, which is an education and conservation charity, that has made lots of learning resources available online for parents, kids and teachers to carry on having fun at home and keep on learning and people are contacting Longleat via social media wanting updates on their animals. The RSC, Royal Opera House and the National Theatre are screening some of their past productions online and the National Museum of the Royal Navy’s webcam from HMS Warrior at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is attracting interest from all around the globe and today, for example, shows that one of the new aircraft carriers is coming back from sea trials.

Virtual Tours are attracting a lot of interest, London Transport Museum celebrates its 40th Birthday this week and on its Google arts and culture page, there are more than 500 artefacts and artworks from the collection that have been digitised including many objects housed at the Museum’s Depot in Acton and not on display in the Museum in Covent Garden. The majority of the British Museum’s galleries can also be explored virtually via Google Street View: as can be the National Museum of Scotland Street View and the Natural History Museum’s The life of a blue whale is an interactive experience showcasing the Museum’s flagship specimen, the blue whale in the main hall. Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG) has everything from behind the scenes, stories to fun quizzes, while Waddesdon in Buckinghamshire has virtual room tours and garden trails and a street view tour of the Roman Baths is also available. Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon offers a video tour of the five Shakespeare family homes. Behind-the-scenes footage of the V&A’s exhibitions can be found online including Tim Walker: Wonderful Things, Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk and Cars: Accelerating the Modern World and National Museums Liverpool as part of their World Cultures Gallery project have been working with Immersive Arts student at LJMU to create a virtual tour of the gallery, while a virtual tour of Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is available and at the end of this week, Old Royal Naval College will be launching its microsite, which will be a 360 degree flythrough of the Painted Hall.

Now that so many children are at home, websites that provide educational tools are proving popular – British Museum offers a wide range of downloadable resources for school pupils on subjects from across the curriculum and all key stages with Popular topics including Ancient Britain, Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. The Natural History Museum’s Naturenauts, is a free web app that anyone can access on their phone which allows you to get outside and explore nature and the Dino Directory, is a family-friendly encyclopaedia of dinosaurs created with leading palaeontologists. National Museum of Scotland has a variety of online games and the Roman Baths have Roman-themed online games. RMG has put together a helpful selection of learning resources created in collaboration with the museums teacher forum and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has educational resources for learners of all ages, including over 300 free Shakespeare Week resources for primary school children, and its online encyclopedia, Shakespedia for a glimpse into the life of the man behind the works and RSC’s Shakespeare Learning Zone has a large range of fun and educational information about Shakespeare’s plays and themes for children and students.

The British Museum has worked extensively with Google Arts and Culture developing online exhibitions and stories and also on a project looking at the Maya World as has the Natural History Museum giving access to 300,000 specimens within the collections, along with 14 digital exhibitions, virtual tours and an interactive gigapixel photo of Hintze Hall’s ‘gilded canopy’. The V&A collections can also be explored digitally on Google Arts and Culture – an insightful, easy to navigate platform which allows users to take a close look at objects and the stories behind them.

Several members offer Podcasts such as the British Museum’s monthly edition which is downloadable and features a variety of behind the scenes content and Southbank Centre’s new weekly Culture Fix email is promoting their literature podcasts including Louis Theroux, Hilary Mantel and Hillary & Chelsea Clinton, plus playlists and archive imagery of past Hayward Gallery exhibitions can be explored via the Google Arts & Culture hub.

New films will be launched on the website of the National Portrait Gallery including a series of newly filmed interviews with Robin Muir, curator of their Cecil Beaton's Bright Young Things exhibition that will be shared on social media over the next few weeks and a new online performance by Faustin Linyekula has been released on Tate's channels. The Congolese choreographer and dance artist was due to perform at Tate Modern as part of this year’s BMW Tate Live Exhibition: Our Bodies, Our Archives. In addition, The Art of… podcasts introduces listeners to art and artists through a different theme each time, including Protest, Dreaming, Hip Hop and – most recently – Love. Science Museum’s Science Director, Dr Roger Highfield, has published an in-depth look at the science of the coronavirus, exploring what we know and don’t know about the virus and examining its ongoing impact - more science blogs will be published in the coming weeks.

The Royal Horticultural Society will continue to share images and video of its four Gardens (Wisley in Surrey, Hyde Hall in Essex, Harlow Carr in Yorkshire and Rosemoor in Devon) during their closure. The Curatorial teams have been tasked with creating short films and photos to show the nation what they are up to while the Gardens remain closed, which will be shared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube as well as online. The Society hopes that this content will educate, entertain and inspire people at home, particularly those who are turning their attention to their own gardens, perhaps for the first time, and those without easy access to a garden or green space. In Scotland, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is creating a Virtual Spring by sharing images of its four Gardens – Edinburgh, Benmore, Dawyck and Logan – online via its website and social media platforms. It will also be sharing a series of new five-minute films which bring its international plant science and conservation work to life. Harewood House in Yorkshire will be launching a series of hands-on practical tips for learning at home, together with a regular series from Head Gardener of 20 years on what to do in your garden at the moment, in addition to shining a spotlight on the Collections through videos, podcasts and virtual tours. They are also working to keep their 200+ volunteers engaged, many of whom are in self isolation. Eden Project has an array of online resources available to virtually enjoy Eden and to learn about the natural world, with more being added daily.

Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology has launched #IsolationCreations a new social media campaign which encourages their followers to ‘create’ one thing inspired by their collections every day whilst we are social distancing. Each morning, they are sharing an object from their collection and ask people to share with them their own creative responses to it. In its first five days, the campaign has reached tens of thousands of people, seen 14,000 engagements, and received more than 250 creative contributions, including poems, animations, prints, cross-stitch, stories, interpretive dance, knock-knock jokes, fashion designs, and more. Day 1’s object and some of the responses can be viewed online here.

Senior curator at World Museum (Liverpool), Emma Martin says: “Staying at home doesn't mean you miss out on visiting our museum. Thanks to public feedback on what people would like to see while our doors are temporarily closed, we’ve created a virtual tour of the World Cultures gallery with our friends at John Moores University.” link

Janine Eason, Director of Engagement at Birmingham Museums Trust, said: “Our doors may be closed for now, but we are still there for our visitors. Art and culture can help us make sense of the world and often gives us an escape. We are lucky to have some excellent online resources so that people and families can explore the collection and continue to engage with us. We hope we can bring some joy and distraction to everyone who needs it during this concerning time. link”

And other members such as National Museums Northern Ireland have confirmed that they are working on exciting digital projects and will have more details in the coming days.

For further information on ALVA, please visit
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Notes to Editors
ALVA members are the UK's most popular, iconic and important museums, galleries, palaces, castles, cathedrals, zoos, historic houses, heritage sites, gardens and leisure attractions. The 57 ALVA members manage some nearly 2,200 tourist sites and normally welcome over 119 million domestic and overseas visitors each year; some 28% of the visits made annually in the United Kingdom.

For further Press Information and to arrange interviews, please contact
Rachel Aked
[email protected]
Tel: 07790 732448

March 2020

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