This is the first in a series of guest posts on the Museums at Night blog.
Night at the Museum: where everything comes to life! T-rex skeletons wandering down the corridor, battles within display cabinets, and an Easter Island Head demanding chewing gum… brilliant! It’s one of my favourite films, and it’s what I imagine happens in every museum once the visitors leave, the doors are locked and the lights are turned off. But I never thought I’d be able to experience a museum at night…until last year.
In May 2009 I was involved in a Museums at Night event at Geevor Tin Mine Museum (www.geevor.com); a community-run heritage site near Penzance in Cornwall. Geevor is located on the historic site of the one of the largest preserved mine sites in the country, housed in 2 acres of listed buildings. Its outstanding collections tell the story of Cornwall’s industrial mining past.
The standout highlight of the month of May was our Museums at Night event. Lots of people turned up raring to go with flashlights and head torches, and off we went! We toured several of the buildings that would have had a night shift when the mine was running. Although we couldn’t completely recreate the sights, sounds, smells and activity of a working mine, we were able to offer the opportunity to visit the mine in the darkness and soak up the ambience.
It was a brilliant evening, so atmospheric, and it gave the visitors a real chance to experience what it would have been like working at the mine during the night shift. It’s amazing what a different experience visiting venues at night can offer – it heightens the senses and makes all the nooks and crannies that you don’t notice during the day come alive.
We made the front page of the local newspaper, and even had a slot on Radio 4! It was such a popular event that Geevor are going to run it again this year too.
For anyone thinking of participating in the 2010 Museums at Night campaign, it’s definitely worth it! It offers such an unusual experience for visitors and staff alike, opening up a new dimension to your museum and getting new visitors interested who perhaps wouldn’t have come during the day.
I really enjoyed the Geevor Night shift, and I’m hoping to attend more Museums at Night events this coming May – in fact I can’t wait! The countdown has already begun…
You can see an animoto movie of photos from Geevor’s event here.
Claire Ross is a researcher in the Department of Information Studies at UCL. Her background is in archaeology, museum interpretation and e-learning, and she blogs about museums, learning, and social media at http://claireyross.wordpress.com. You can connect with her at www.twitter.com/clairey_ross or http://uk.linkedin.com/in/claireyross.
And if you’re inspired to write a guest post for us, please contact Rosie on firstname.lastname@example.org!