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Museums Around the World Open their Doors at Night Offering Special Attractions
Of the more than 2,200 museums from 41 countries that opened their doors last night, 1,200 were French, where this event has been celebrated since 1999.
Photo: EFE/Lucas Dolega.

PARIS.- More than one thousand French museums showed their most original presentations and free of charges, this Saturday night to attract the public to the 5th European Long Night of Museums, which this year had the support from UNESCO.

The most unusual intitiatives were to contemplate Rodin’s sculptures under the lights at the museum that bears his name, or listen to traditional Vietnamese music at the Cernuschi and even listen to stories from primitive cultures at the Quai Branly.

Of the more than 2,200 museums from 41 countries that opened their doors last night, 1,200 were French, where this event has been celebrated since 1999.

The first Long Night of Museums took place in Berlin in 1997. Since then, the number of participating institutions and exhibitions has risen from 12 to 125. A common entrance pass both allows visitors to access all spots and to access public transportation to reach the various spots.

Because the concept has been so well-received, the nights have now expanded and taken place in over 120 cities. In addition to the Langen Nacht der Museen in Berlin, a Nuit Blanche has taken place in Paris and a museums-n8 event in Amsterdam. Coordinated long nights organized by ORF have also taken place in Austria, Italy, and Liechtenstein. In Switzerland long nights have taken place in Basel, Bern, Lucerne, St. Gallen, and Zrich.

In Poland and Hungary, this event is called simply Night of Museums (Polish: Noc Muzew; Hungarian: Mzeumok jszakja). The first Polish edition took place in 2003 in Poznań in Poznań National Museum.

In Bulgaria under the name Night of museums and galleries this event was successfully held for the first time on a national scale on the 30th of September 2005 in Plovdiv thanks to the initiative of Sariev Galleryand the civil committee “Night of Museums and Galleries – Plovdiv”. Now The Night becomes a really successful cultural product emblematic for Plovdiv that attracts many tourists, guest of the town and specialized public.

The current all-night festivals have their roots in several cities. The first Long Night of Museums took place in the newly re-united Berlin in 1997 with a dozen participating institutions and exhibitions; the number has risen to 125, with over 150,000 people taking part in the January 2005 night. The idea has spread to other cities: in addition to the Langen Nacht der Museen in Berlin, there is a museums-n8 event in Amsterdam.

It drew on a European heritage of all-night cultural events. St Petersburg, for two hundred years capital of the Russian Empire and still a major European cultural centre, is one of the world's most northerly cities, and as such has long summer days and near-endless twilight from mid-May to mid-July, the celebrated phenomenon known as the white nights. This led to the annual celebrations known as the White Nights Festival, which features months of pop culture (e.g. the Rolling Stones in the open air at Palace Square) and high culture events ("Stars of the White Nights Festival" at the Mariinsky Theatre), street carnivals, and the Scarlet Sails celebration, known for its fireworks. So "white nights" in the Russian context is both a natural phenomenon of the summer, and a long-standing cultural festival that spreads over weeks or months in midsummer.

The Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delano took the idea in 2002 and spread it to culture more broadly, including performing arts, and under the banner of Nuit Blanche (White Nights, and various related names) the concept has spread. (See the Nuit Blanche article for many examples around the world.)

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May 17, 2009

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