Can’t Get to New York? Try the New It's Almost Like Being There

It's pricey—$20 a ticket for adults. Often crowded. And two hours of parking in the 'hood will set you back $18. But for art lovers, a visit to New York's Museum of Modern Art is a jaw-dropping experience—like walking into the highlights reel of the best art history course you've ever taken.

But, if you can't get to Manhattan or are feeling the recession's pinch in your art-appreciation budget, check out the new MOMA website, that launches today, for a pretty impressive virtual tour. It's not really a match for being 18 inches from a Rothko (the artist's recommended distance), but it has all kinds of bells and whistles that make playing around with art and design an easy way to fritter away an hour.

MOMA homepage

The site makes use of all kinds of social media tools—from MOMA communities on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, iTunes U, and Flickr—to let users share the experience, or a favorite work of art, with others. There's also a multimedia section that shows off the museum's extensive collection of audio commentaries and videos. And, in a delightful display of democracy in action, MOMA is inviting citizen photographers to upload photos they've taken to the photo portfolio on MOMA's Flickr group. The best will be featured on the site, complete with photo credit (allowing you to brag to friends that you've "shown" your work at MOMA.)

For the launch, a section called "MOMA Voices" will open with a series of 30-second video portraits of MOMA members and staff by the Swiss artist Thilo Hoffmann. They range from a member talking about favorite secret rainy day spaces in the museum, to a whimsical tour of the place through the eyes of a child, to a staffer turning cartwheels in an empty gallery.

MOMA voices

Much like the recommendation engine and wish lists that power Amazon, the new site will allow visitors to set up an online account and save or share favorite works—from paintings to films and exhibitions. It will also make suggestions for other things the user may have missed based on those preferences. Love that Picasso? Be sure to check out Rauschenberg!

MOMA collection

If you're lucky enough to get to the museum itself, there are tools for planning beforehand—a useful feature, as anyone who has pooped out long before getting to "Starry Night" will appreciate.

MOMA van Gogh

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