Museums after dark

  • 2015-05-07
  • By TBT staff

RIGA/TALLINN/TRAKAI - Berlin hosted the first Museum Night in 1997 and since then the concept has taken the continent by storm. Over 100 cities across Europe, and even in South America, now celebrate an evening when their best cultural institutions remain open throughout the night creating a festive atmosphere of exhibitions, performance art and even music. This year’s Museum Night in the Baltics will take place on May 16.

“The number of museums participating in the Museum Night continues to increase – as are the attendees, and organizing the Night of Museums events is increasingly difficult because people are always expecting something new,” says Janis Garjans, head of the Culture Ministry’s Department of Museums.
This year, about 127 museums will participate, but besides museums, there are also cooperation partners participating, including libraries and theaters, plus several churches.

“Museum Night takes place at the beginning of the museum season. May is the month when seasonal museums reopen to the public after the winter; whereas permanent museums offer new exhibitions to not only locals but also tourists,” says Garjans.
The traditional exhibitions are accompanied by several special events - creative workshops, concerts and theatre performances.

Estonian museums will also open their doors for visitors for a night of special events and exhibitions, celebrating Museum Night on May 16. In 2015, the Museum Night will take place under a theme “Music in the Night.”
Last year 84,000 people participated in Museum Night, which was an all-time attendance record for the event. Since a wide variety of museums and other cultural organizations participate in the special program, the Museum Night makes it possible to discover a wide variety of perspectives on the topic. Music does not just encompass singing, dancing and music, it can also stand for articulation and acoustics, vibration and ring tones, and even silence. How are sounds born? How do our ears receive them? How does math help us understand music?

According to Laura Kipper, one of the main organizers of the big museum event, there are more and more tourists visiting Museum Night events across Estonia. “Visitors from Finland, Latvia and Russia have definitely discovered our Museum Night and our museums are recognizing this as well, trying to provide more English tours and events during the night – or to make sure the event can be enjoyed to the full regardless of what language you speak.”

For tourists staying in Tallinn center, the program of the Museum Night is always just a few steps away: most of Tallinn center museums are participating in the program. Tourists willing to drive out of Tallinn might consider either the beautiful Viinistu Art Museum on the Northern coast – an evening there will include piano concerts and a light and music installation programme. Another option is travelling to the spa city Haapsalu on the north-western coast of Estonia, which has five exciting museums open during the Museum Night, from Haapsalu Episcopal Castle to the magical Ilon Wikland book illustration discovery centre and the romantic old Haapsalu train station, which has become the Railway Museum.

On Museum Night the gates of Trakai castle in Lithuania will remain open after working hours and its guests can enjoy the extraordinary event. Museum staff and history enthusiasts will be dressed in medieval costumes, craftsmen and merchants will line up in the courtyard alongside defensive wall, cooks prepare food on fire, recapturing an authentic atmosphere of medieval castle. As it gets darker, the event will continue in a dim light of torches and candles; the usage of electricity is limited to minimum. In the castle, an unusual life for a museum boils up: visitors can talk to the Duke’s painter, meet noble courtiers, play chess with the Duke or talk to a monk… An ominous executioner, the Duke’s joker and other residents of the castle mingle around.

Throughout the event, combats of knights, various concerts and theatre performances will take place in the courtyard and in the Great Hall of the castle. Traditional ritual of the event is a theatrical sacrifice to Galve Lake. Monks, dames and their maidens will take the most curious guests to excursions through labyrinths of the castle. A search for hidden treasure will take place as every year. The castle will be full of life until the event ends, well after midnight.