The Museum in Your Living Room

Maine winters are long, cold and snowy. They are known to keep people inside for long enough. But now, people across the state are asked to stay indoors just a little bit longer.

Spring is here in northern New England. But that’s what the calendar says. Like the rest of the country, Maine is fighting the COVID–19 pandemic in as many ways as possible. This means state orders for closing of schools, restaurants and non-essential businesses.

These closings don’t surprise anyone at this point. Everyone in Maine has been asked to stay home. Mainers must find new ways to entertain themselves. They have TV, social media, puzzles, board games or even moving furniture around. These are good options to have. But some people want more. They want to be able to look at something beautiful. Or look at challenging things. Or just bask in the presence of great art. But how can they do these things? Simple. The Portland Museum of Art’s entire collection is available online. It’s free. And it is made for times like these.

The PMA’s website, PortlandMuseum.org, clearly states that the museum is closed to the public. The website explains why it’s closed and how long this could last. The homepage has more than news. There is lots to read and watch. There are even some art activities for the whole family. These things are all new to the website. They are thanks to the communications team at the PMA. This team worked quickly to bring these things to the public.

Digging deeper, visitors find the whole PMA collection is free for their browsing. And the best part is that the collection has been digital, and free to view this way, for years.

In 2017, the PMA underwent a period known as “Your Museum Reimagined.” During early 2017, the PMA closed to remodel its spaces. It shuffled the galleries, added more space for art and improved the PMA Store. Around this time the museum also printed a book of highlights from its collection. The other major part of this work was bringing the collection online. The collection was brought online to prepare for the events of 2017. Thanks to these efforts, the collection has been accessible online since 2016.

This digital collection is a point of pride for the PMA. Robin Richardson, a painter and resident of Portland, is one of many people who appreciate this digital collection. “There’s a generosity in having the whole collection available. It’s great.”

Finding the collection online is easy. Visitors first go to the museum’s website, PortlandMusuem.org. Then, they select “Things to See” from the menu in the upper right corner. Then they select “Collections” from the drop-down menu. This brings users to the collections’ homepage. Users find it directly at Collections.PortlandMuseum.org.

Once on the collections’ homepage, visitors learn that, “It would take nearly 10 years of constant gallery rotations to see everything in the museum…” And that the collection has “…over 18,000 artworks, ranging from Andy Warhol and Winslow Homer to Louise Nevelson and Claude Monet.”

Visitors to the online collection can view groups of artworks. Some of the groups include new art, highlights or art on view. If selecting one of these galleries doesn’t satisfy, visitors can also search the entire 18,000 piece collection.

Robin Richardson enjoys this search function. She says, “I like that I can search by artist. It’s how I learned that the PMA has art from one of my favorite artists, Helen Frankenthaler.” This function allows users to search by artist, medium, period or title. Browsing this way provides countless options for visitors to curate their own art exhibition from the comfort of their own home.

The current state of social distancing and mandatory isolation gives an uncertain feeling that touches every part of society. But in this time, the PMA’s online collection is a beacon of peace and a welcome break from these trying times.