Public Service Broadcasting play at RAF Museum Henley in 2014

Museums at Night festival kicks off

Eleanor Mills, 11.05.2016
The biannual UK-wide festival takes place from 11-14 May
More than 500 museums are opening late as part of the Museums at Night UK-wide festival.

This year, the biannual festival Museums at Night falls across Friday the 13th, an unlucky day for some, but clearly not the museums sector.

Visitors can attend events ranging from talks and workshops to pub quizzes and ghost walks. Run by Culture24 and funded by Arts Council England the festival gives museums a chance to open their doors in the evening, host engaging events and broaden their audience as a result. 

Museums across Scotland are hosting a wide variety of night-time events, many alcohol-related. To the west, near Glasgow, there’s Japanese whisky tasting at the Auld Kirk Museum, and the Robbie Burns Birthplace Museum will transform into Burns Heid Inn, a rowdy 19th-century Scottish ale house in the village of Alloway, which will be serving local beer, providing themed entertainment and a pub quiz.
To calm any Friday the 13th nerves further, Dundee’s Jute Museum, at the Verdant Works, holds an education in gin through tastings. The Victorian Late Gin School takes participants from the alcohol’s birthplace in Holland through to the gin craze of the 18th century.
Visitors may need some Dutch courage to brave St Fagans National History Museum in Wales, which is running an over-18s torchlight ghost tour from 10pm until midnight – well-researched chilling local tales will be interspersed with knowledge of Welsh superstition.
On the opposite side of the UK, in Great Yarmouth, the National Trust’s Elizabethan House Museum offers the chance to learn a graceful Tudor dance accompanied by a live wandering minstrel player. Visitors can also make Tudor accessories.
There are a number of tours that take in live animals, from Knebworth House’s ghost tour and bat walk, to a newt walk and survey at Gilbert White’s House and Garden on the Isle of Wight.
Feeling lucky? In London, the Bank of England Museum has banknote experts on hand, and is letting visitors lift a real 13kg gold bullion.
Those less lucky, indeed lifted from their graves, are eulogised at the Old Operating Theatre Museum near London Bridge, as a body snatching history expert gives a talk on the people involved with this disturbing pursuit.
In central London, another less-than-lucky candidate affords Whitehall’s Banqueting House its theme: King Charles I and his beheading. The venue turns into a 17th-century drinking den aptly called the King’s Head, and will have bawdy Stuarts leering under its famous Rubens painted ceilings.
There’s another chance to visit the huge wealth of venues taking part in Museums at Night this autumn, from 27-29 October.