Food for the Soul – Museum Night in Europe

Magic Fountain light show at night next to National museum in Barcelona, Spain

By Nina Heyn – Your Culture Scout

If you are a city school kid in Europe, no matter if attending an elementary or a high school, your class will be going to museums a lot. There will be field trips for history, geography or literature curriculum. There will be days of school holding final exams and all lower grades will be shipped off to day trips. There will be art class assignments or special projects. On top of that your parents will often drag you for a free trip on the Museum Night every May and when you get older, you will go out on that night with your friends anyway. Many European kids have the habit of going to museums formed by those field trips and free museum nights, remembering the excitement of getting out of school, seeing some old weapons or mummies, and having a night on the town past their bedtimes.

The first Museum Night took place in 1997 in Berlin as an initiative of UNESCO’s International Council of Museums and it has soon spread to 120 other European cities. On that night, not only all the city museums are open till midnight and offering free admission. The doors also open for hundreds other, normally not accessible places in each city – candy or liquor factories, university halls, libraries, some embassies, police stations, old palaces, trams depots, local galleries or manufacturing businesses, city water and power stations- the list is as long as the creativity of city hall planners. Young people are excited about roaming the city at night, families get an annual and unusual outing, curious residents have an opportunity to check out that place around the corner they never had a chance to visit. Museum fans get to visit places for free, employers have a chance to introduce places that might inspire someone to choose a profession, publicists can market their companies. The city has a major cultural event and a lot of happy residents. This year France is opening doors to its 3000 museums where some castles offer murder parties or costume balls, some present archeological digs and some museums offer reenactments of famous battles. Dubrovnik in Croatia and Malta offer events around the Game of Thrones show that was filmed in these locations. In England, Bristol offers a “Tattoo Live” event and Bath prepared an event to sample both the Roman baths and a local bar. All this is in addition to all major national museums throughout Europe opened for free late for visiting and special events.

While many museums on other countries hold special nights at local museums, these are events specific to some towns or cultural centers. European Museum Night is something else –a unique cultural experience to people throughout the continent on the same night everywhere. A little bit like a European Song Contest with a little more culture thrown in.

This year, the European Museum Night takes place on May 18. Perhaps this is one of the European customs that could spread to other parts of the world?

Check It Out!