Inspiration After Hours in Museums at Night 2012

Inspiration After Hours in Museums at Night 2012

Arts May 24, 2012 / By Mark Sheerin
Inspiration After Hours in Museums at Night 2012

A report on the Europe-wide phenomenon of Museums at Night. Can there be a better way to spend an evening than imbibing knowledge at your local museum or art gallery?

It is the week after the weekend that was Museums at Night 2012, so what could be more worthy of comment? But first a bit of disclosure; I also write for the coordinators of this annual UK event, Culture24. So I am biased. I am pro-late opening. And here’s why I think you should be too.

416 institutions opened their doors late on Friday 18th and/or Saturday 19th May. To give a just glimpse of the range: there were air raids and storytelling at Dunblane Museum, Scotland; there was stargazing at the National Space Museum in Leicester; and there were underground tours of the Geevor Tin Mine in Cornwall.

Galleries and artists also get in on the act. Towner in Eastbourne hosted a nightclub by Bob and Roberta Smith; QUAD in Derby invited visitors to star in a soap opera; and there was a jelly-based extravanganza aboard the ss Great Britain in Bristol courtesy of foodie artists Bompas and Parr.

I was sent out to report on the weekend’s festivities and saw dusk slowly cloak the artworks in Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, (Friday) and then a fascinating talk about medical history by artist Claire Barclay at the Old Operating Theatre, London, (Saturday). Both events were packed with visitors. Imagine a crowded bar at the weekend and take away the aggressive jostling.

But while there may be wine or beer on offer at a Museums at Night event, there is no suggestion that alcohol is top of the agenda. Far from it, in fact, and so for at least one annual weekend it is possible to have a top night out and, briefly, halt the corrosive effects of too much drink on your brain cells and liver. Museums’ were just not built for heavy sessions.

At this point you may claim your idea of a good night out is a slap up meal in a favourite restaurant. But another advantage of heading out to a museum on your Friday or Saturday night is this: there’s no need to loosen your belt at the end of the evening. In fact, if you traded every two or three course meal in your life for two or three hours at a museum, you would stay whippet thin.

At this point, some deluded fools may argue in favour of the social potential of a night in the pub. But they and you may be surprised to find museum exhibits and works of art lubricate the wheels of conversation every bit as well as glasses of wine. I spoke to half a dozen people at Kettle’s Yard and enjoyed a lengthy discussion about Damien Hirst with one of the guests at The Old Operating Theatre. In pubs, face it, you rarely meet anyone.

You may not binge on alcohol or food at a Museums at Night event, but you will feed your brain. Just stepping across the threshold of a museum or gallery makes a person hungry for knowledge and inspiration. And such institutions are liable to run a special talk or activity to ensure your grey cells are fully catered for.

No discussion of the merits of this night out would be complete without a comment about the romantic potential of a soiree in a place of learning. True, you are not likely to come across a semi-comatose potential mate who can be talked into bed with the mere offer of one more drink at your place. But, should you take a date to Museums at Night, you will on the other hand discover plenty to talk about before, during and after the event. And if a potential partner doesn’t like museums, you know they are not worth much anyway.

So there is the case for Museums at Night, an idea which started in Berlin in 1997, came to the shores of Great Britain in 2009 and deserves to make the leap across the Atlantic. In fact, I would argue that museums should open late every night, for the reasons set out above. Hitting the pub yet again next weekend, many of us will feel pretty jaded.


Image courtesy of Modern Toss

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