The National Museum celebrates its 119th Foundation Day with a 360 virtual tour
The 360 virtual tour of the National Museum of Fine Arts features nine galleries that trace the stories of Philippine art and culture
October 29, 2020
Written by Gabrielle de la Cruz
Images courtesy of pamana.ph virtual tour
Concurrent with the declaration of October as the Museum and Galleries Month, the National Museum of the Philippines announced its 119th Foundation Day in a Facebook post earlier today, October 29, 2020. The post read that the museum was originally established as the Insular Museum of Ethnology, Natural History, and Commerce on this day in 1901, a foreshadowing of how it is now distributed in three: the National Museum of Fine Arts, the National Museum of Anthropology, and the National Museum of Natural History.
Originally the 1926 Old Legislative Building, the neoclassical National Museum of Fine Arts was designed by Filipino architect Juan Arellano. It is probably the most prominent branch of the National Museum, as it stands as a vision in Padre Burgos Avenue in Manila and is within the vicinity of cultural and historical landmarks such as Intramuros and Rizal Park. The museum has provided free admission to Filipinos through the years, boasting a collection of renowned artworks, paintings, and sculptures by famous Filipino artists such as Juan Luna, Felix Hidalgo, Fernando Amorsolo, and Vicente Manansala.
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With travel and quarantine restrictions brought by COVID-19, the National Museum launched its #MuseumFromHome program. The 360-degree virtual tour of the National Museum of Fine Arts was made possible through the Museum Foundation of the Philippines’ Sulyap Museo project and the photography of pamana.ph founder Fung Yu. A total of nine galleries can be enjoyed by the audience, with navigations that allow them to transfer from one location to another. Throughout the tour, the Visayan love song, Usahay, performed by the University of the Philippines Manila Chorale plays in the background. As the kundiman was written to depict the writer’s longing for his past love and is continued to be sung as a lullaby to children in Visayas and Mindanao, it serves as a musical complement to the entire virtual cultural experience.
The 360 tour starts with an aerial view of the National Museum of Fine Arts, leading to the building’s facade. This first scene captures an image of Padre Burgos Avenue, depicting the museum as a street centerpiece. Welcoming participants of the virtual tour in the museum’s interiors is the legendary Spolarium painting of Juan Luna, which is located in the first hall named after it. A clickable PDF icon is embedded in each immersive scene, which reveals information about the hall once opened. Virtual marks are also placed near each artwork, which read the description of the piece once clicked. The virtual experience gives the illusion of walking through the halls of the museum, with interactive arrows that lead to the next location. Users are able to zoom in on each piece, enabling them to appreciate and examine the detail of each artwork.
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One of the famous pieces inside the National Museum of Fine Arts is Carlos “Botong” Francisco’s stretch of paintings in the Session Hall. This visual narrative demonstrates Filipino struggles through centuries, including the execution of GOMBURZA, the Cry of Balintawak, and the entry of Americans in the Philippines. This part of the tour basically sets the mood of the virtual experience, with the succeeding parts elaborating on stories of war, courage, and faith.
The remaining halls center on various art forms and themes, with the last scene presenting a collection of large-scale paintings by Vicente Manansala and the Narra reliefs installation by Jose P. Alcantara inside the International Rice Research Institute Hall. Both declared as National Culture Treasure and Important Cultural Property, these works “bear the themes of rice cultivation in the Philippines and the rituals, festivals, and local belief systems that surround it.” The tour ends with a festive portrayal of Philippine culture and progress, an artistic testament to how it survived the tests of evolution.
Click here to explore the creative halls of the National Museum of Fine Arts.
Yu of pamana.ph said that this National Museum of Fine Arts tour was an endeavor sought to be produced even in the midst of the pandemic. The entire production took a total of almost three months, “from conception to execution, and finally, to the exhibition.” The photographer shared with BluPrint that this tour is the first of three, with virtual tours of the National Museum of Anthropology and the National Museum of Natural History to be released in the coming weeks.