Culture24’s Campaigns Officer Rosie Clarke explains why the annual festival of after-hours excitement in museums and galleries is well worth going along to.
What is Museums at Night?
Museums at Night, coordinated by Culture24, is an annual festival of arts and heritage that explodes into life each May on the weekend nearest to International Museums Day.
Every year, hundreds of museums, galleries, libraries, archives and heritage sites take advantage of this opportunity to throw their doors open later than usual, offering events ranging from music and dance performances to spooky ghost tours, Future Shorts film screenings, craft workshops and author talks.
History will come to life in places like Beamish, the Living Museum of the North, while a whole range of historic houses will be throwing their doors open into the evening, from London’s imposing Apsley House to the beautiful secret garden of Scaplen’s Court in Dorset.
What might you see at a Museums at Night event?
Some of the most unusual collections feature objects you might never have seen close up before: discover the mighty choppers at the Helicopter Museum, the land-sea behemoths of the Hovercraft Museum, or marvel at the delicate, deadly glow of uranium glass at Callington Heritage Centre.
Museums at Night weekend offers the whole family intriguing chances to explore new places. Whether you’re curious about museum sleepovers or fancy taking a torchlight tour, there will be something to interest you.
Who will you meet at a Museums at Night event?
Museum staff and volunteers unite to deliver fantastically creative after-hours events, whether bringing suffragettes to life at the John Gray Centre in Haddington or dressing up as cuddly mascot Brampton Bear to welcome visitors to Borough Museum’s curiously-titled event, Return of the Leeches!
Artists in unexpected places
There’s always a wide range of artistic events throughout the festival, but this year an extra strand was created with an exciting competition called Connect10. Museums could suggest an event idea involving one of 10 top contemporary artists, then the top ideas were put to a public vote. Over 21,000 votes were cast, and the artists will be travelling across the UK to inspire visitors who wouldn’t usually have the chance to see them.
In Bristol, marvel as ambitious jellymongers Bompas & Parr surround Brunel’s SS Great Britain in a sea of lime-green jelly, while in Liverpool, taxidermist Polly Morgan will be performing a live demonstration at Victoria Art Gallery & Museum. Meanwhile, installation artist Bob & Roberta Smith will transform Eastbourne’s Towner Gallery into a Museums at Nightclub!
Why should you go to a Museums at Night event?
Museums, galleries and heritage sites take on a special, magical atmosphere after hours. You can relax, sometimes to the sound of live music, enjoy a glass of wine and explore at a leisurely pace. As the sun sets, historic buildings can easily transport you back into the past: some will be illuminated by candles or perhaps your own torchlight.
These fantastic places, full of stories, are right on our doorsteps all year round – yet so often we don’t have the time to visit them. Museums at Night weekend offers the perfect excuse to round up friends or family and explore the culture and heritage on your doorstep.
Find events to visit near you
This is the biggest ever Museums at Night festival, with over 500 events taking place at 444 venues across the UK. See all the event listings, read about some of the highlights and find out what’s happening in your area at www.museumsatnight.org.uk. It will be a terrific weekend and we hope you have a wonderful time!
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Children looking at a fossil © Leeds Museums & Galleries
Museums at Night brochure cover © Create Studios Brighton