By: Peter Suciu
Even as the nation opens up from the mandatory stay-at-home orders, many museums are still shuttered. Fortunately, though, there are plenty of online exhibits and an increasing number of virtual reality (VR) experiences available to gun enthusiasts whose summer plans were altered.
For those who can't get out to the actual museums or famous battlefields, the computer screen might be the next best option. The best part of an online exhibit is that there are no lines to wait in and you view the exhibits at your leisure. Of course, there is no gift shop to visit, but for those with kids, maybe that's not such a bad thing.
Gunpowder Magazine offers a guide to the online and VR experiences to check out this summer:
NRA Museum Online Galleries
While the NRA Museums are still closed, there are 15 online galleries that showcase the history of six centuries of firearms evolution from the simplest hand cannons to modern sporting and military firearms. There are specific online galleries for the American West, the wars of the 20th century, and even Hollywood guns.
Load up the popcorn, get something to drink, and get your trigger finger ready – to do some clicking of the mouse. There is plenty to take in on your online visit.
This group of derringers represents the collecting efforts of one man in gathering examples of the standard and embellished variations of the Colt derringers marketed through London. (PHOTO: NRA Museum)
The Johnson M1941 rifle was designed prior to the Second World War by Melvin M. Johnson, a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School, and an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. (PHOTO: NRA Museum)
This Smith & Wesson Model 29 was used by Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry and Magnum Force (1972). It was a gift from Eastwood and Warner Brothers to film writer/director John Milius, who wrote significant parts of Dirty Harry and is credited with writing the screenplay for Magnum Force. (PHOTO: NRA Museum)
The West Point Museum
The actual West Point Museum at the United States Military Academy remains closed, however, YouVisit.com is now providing VR, panoramas, photos, and even videos – and not just from the museum, but the entire campus. While this doesn't include all of the galleries, it does provide a great way to see what is simply one of the finest military museums in the United States.
YouVisit.com offers 3D panoramas of the West Point campus as well as its fine museum.
National Museum of the United States Air Force
This museum, located outside of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio is open – masks are required for all visitors aged three and older, while social distancing is being enforced.
This museum has also gone truly above and beyond with its online programs. These include a virtual tour, which allows visitors to take a self-guided tour of the entire facility, while the Cockpit360 app (available for Apple and Android devices) provides a way to see the interiors of many of the aircraft on display in the museum.
The website also includes podcasts that can be enjoyed on the computer or in the car and provide the histories of specific topics about the history of the United States Air Force, while the YouTube Channel offers in-depth interviews, aircraft restoration projects, and highlights from past events at the museum.
There are no crowds in the VR experience of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. You can browse the famous aircraft including the B-17 Memphis Belle!
The Cockpit360 App lets users climb (virtually) into the cockpit of more than three dozen aircraft including a Supermarine Spitfire MK. VC.
National World War I Museum and Memorial
Located in Kansas City, Missouri this museum, which chronicles the First World War, is open as of June 1, and masks are required. Guests are also encouraged to purchase tickets online in advance.
A far easier way to take in this museum, which has been ranked the "Number one attraction in Kansas City" by TripAdvisor and is the "Number 5 ranked museum in the U.S." by Yelp, is to explore more than a dozen online exhibitions from the museum website. These include a curator's tour, an introduction to the museum that includes its history, a virtual tour of the trenches, and a visual history of propaganda and recruiting posters.
You can take in some truly big guns (of August) in the curator's tour of the National World War I Museum in the online experience.
The National World War I Museum features a full size replica trench and the VR experience allows visitors to enter it in ways that simply aren't possible in a physical visit.
National Museum of the United States Army
This museum was supposed to open in June, but this has been pushed back due to the pandemic. Currently, there are no virtual or online galleries to take in either. But! many of the objects in its collection are presented online, and this includes all sorts of firearms and other items of interest.
Think of this as a "teaser" for when you can finally get to visit the museum that has been a long time in coming!
Even if you can't get to the National Museum of the United States Army you can browse its collection via the newly built website.
Gettysburg: A Nation Divided AR360 App
To commemorate the 157th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, during the pandemic, QuantumERA has released this new AR360 app for the Apple iPhone and Google Android devices. It is narrated by actor Scott Eastwood and allows viewers to experience the battle and also to hear President Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address.
"Honoring the Battle of Gettysburg is just as important today as it was 157 years ago," said Michael McGar, president of QuantumERA, the content creation company that developed Gettysburg: A Nation Divided. "It was the turning point in the Civil War and the fight that led to freedom for slaves. Gettysburg shaped who we are as a people and as a country. It's critical that we take time to remember what those before us fought for and what they achieved."
Even those who travel to the actual Gettysburg battlefield are unlikely to find the Army of Northern Virginia massing for Picket's Charge – but on this app it can be enjoyed from the living room! (Image Credit: QuantumERA)
The Spy Museum
There are no worries that the KGB, Stasi, or even the NSA will be tracking your every move when you visit the Spy Museum online – but then again who knows today. It features several online exhibits including Agent Storm: A Life Inside Al Qaeda and the CIA and Wireless Aerial Surveillance Platforms, but visitors can also take in weekly "spycast" episodes that include interviews with fiction writers and chats with those who actually worked in the world of espionage.
The museum includes a multimedia gallery where all sorts of spy gizmos and gadgets can be found. While there is no invisible car (at least we didn't see one) or a martini shaker, there is plenty to uncover in an online visit.
KGB officer Bogdan Stashinsky assassinated two Ukranian dissidents living in Germany using a poison gas weapon hidden inside a rolled-up newspaper.
Kiss me deadly indeed! The lipstick pistol, used by KGB operatives during the Cold War, is a 4.5 mm, single shot weapon. It delivered the ultimate “kiss of death.”
Imperial War Museum's American Air Museum Virtual Tour
Those pesky Europeans aren't allowing Americans to cross "the Pond" just yet, but the Imperial War Museum has a few online/virtual galleries. Among those is the American Air Museum Virtual Tour, which tells the story of the collaboration between Britain and America in war. It focuses on how American air power has played a key part in conflict in the 20th and 21st centuries.
The Imperial War Museum in London has created a virtual tour of the American Air Museum, where users can take in the aircraft of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Peter Suciu is a freelance writer based in Michigan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.