From dinosaurs at dusk to moonlit sarcophagi, get ready for Museums at Night, which will be taking over London from 14-16 May, allowing visitors to explore a huge range of museums and galleries after hours.
Destinations from familiar national institutions to tiny idiosyncratic collections hidden all over the city will be taking part, so the best way to approach the event is to 'museum hop'. Special events will include music, theatre, dance, curator talks, behind the scenes access, tours and panel discussions, so check out the programme then spend the weekend pottering from show to show.
With over 50 events in London it'll be tough deciding where to go, so we talked to some of the organisers and asked them to reveal what they’ve got on offer, as well as giving their own personal recommendations:
Fiona Smith: "We’re opening Late on 14 and 15 May with a special edition of Lateshift, inspired by our current exhibition Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends. Our Lateshift on Thursday includes a bar and guest DJ Mr Madam. On Friday RADA Graduate workshops will also be doing a staged reading of Devon O’Brien’s play American Portraits, about Sargent’s life and work. The performance is followed by a Q&A with the playwright and curator Richard Ormond."
Marie Klimis: "We’re working with contemporary artists on a night of cross arts performances. The artists have all been inspired by nature to create art that responds to the flora and fauna around us. From reinventing taxidermy, 1920s nature films with an electronic live score to street artists painting wildlife, tours, cocktails, food and more."
Her recommendation: "I’d go to the smaller museums that you usually don’t visit, as the festival is designed to give them a slice of the publicity."
Morag Calderbank: 14 May will be Retro Richmond Fashion Night. We're told: "It’s a fashion show of vintage pieces from our costume collections and contemporary designs by local students who’ve been inspired by them. There’ll be a catwalk display and many items will be on sale. Visitors can come dressed in their own favourite vintage outfit and pose for our photographers. The audience will see a more glamorous, visually enchanting side to our small local history museum, the whole community is involved. I’m particularly excited about the Edwardian marble staircase of the Old Town Hall being used for the catwalk. You should come because it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the delights of our costume collection, usually hidden away in our store room."
Lucy Woodbridge: "Our Cold War inspired event on the 16 May is top secret, in fact the only way to find out more is to book. Ticket holders have access to a private website where all will be revealed. I can say that we are going to take our visitors on a journey full of lies, mischief and games. There will be hidden treats in the darkest places of the museum and live theatre. Everything will be polished off by a live AV show by DJ Yoda. Visitors will have lots of silly fun and be surrounded by Cold War aircraft including a Vulcan and Meteor."
Kate Rolfe: On 16 May, the Night Safari offers a rare chance for visitors to meet scientists working on ground-breaking new research. "We’ll be taking guests through a journey of over three hundred years of the Museum's history. Visitors will get to see parts not usually open to the public, learning more about the technology of DNA research from eminent in-house academics. They will get to look at microscopic examples from the Museum’s collection of 80 million specimens."
Her recommendation: "The Museum of Brands events look topical and lots of fun, I’m a huge fan of Madmen."
Theresa Macaulay: "On Thursday’s Mad Men and Bad Men, Sam Delaney will be talking about his book which charts the murky rise of advertising within British Politics from the moment Margaret Thatcher met the Saatchi brothers to all-day champagne binges in Westminster and four decades of high-profile election campaigns. We’re also hosting a Mad Men themed late on Friday 15. Dress up Don Draper style in your sharpest gear and get along for a night of live entertainment, tours, themed cocktails and 60s music."
As the only festival of its kind there is far too much going on at Museums at Night to mention it all — check out the full programme here. A few other highlights to watch out for are:
- Head north for Shadow Puppetry at Keats House and south west for the Royal College of Music at Fulham Palace.
- To the London Transport Museum for the launch of their new exhibition The Illustration Prize: London Spaces and Places.
- To the V&A for a late night viewing of Alexandar McQueen: Savage Beauty and to the National Gallery for behind the scenes access to their framing workshop.
If you don't get chance to visit Museums at Night in May, it'll also run in October. Most events are free but booking is highly recommended.
By Lettie Mckie