Today’s post comes from Sophie Serraris, one of the panel of judges for Museum Night Fever in Brussels. This is similar to Museums at Night’s city-wide events such as Liverpool’s Light Night and Newcastle’s Late Shows, but in Brussels the whole city comes alive with excitement and new visitors have the chance to discover 24 museums in one night!
Some say visiting an art museum is just an excuse to look at pictures of naked women. But when can you actually see women in a state of undress dancing around a museum in real life?
Burlesque dancing at the Museum of Elsene © Dieter Telemans
The annual Museum Night in Brussels was the reason this teasing burlesque dance act appeared in the Museum of Elsene.
Like all the activities that took place in the 24 museums and galleries participating in Brussels’ Museum Night Fever, this performance was programmed by young people, for other young people to enjoy. Over 14,000 visitors came to see music, dance and theatre performances, and joined guided tours and workshops in museums all over the city.
Performer at the Natural Science Museum © Dieter Telemans
Every museum took the opportunity to shine a new light on their collections, with activities and performances inspired by their objects. In the Museum of Elsene, the dance performance and silk-screen printing workshops really illuminated their collection of frivolous posters from the 1930s!
Visitors queueing outside La Fonderie, Brussels © Patrick Van Vlerken
Engaging (with) young people
Museum Night Fever started in 2008 with 7 participating museums, and has grown to include 24 museums and galleries in this year’s programme. The Brussels Museums Council organises the event, and supports the participating museums by putting them in touch with schools, artists and youth organisations.
Museums and young people work together on a regular basis in the months before the event to develop programmes for the night. This level of engagement also pays off in terms of promotion: when the programmers feel motivated, they are very likely to invite their friends to Museum Night Fever.
Tango between the dinosaurs at the Natural Science Museum © Dieter Telemans
The museums offer a range of activities, most of them interactive, to make these young friends and all other visitors from the target age range of 18 – 35 feel involved. For example, a graffiti workshop was part of the programme in the Old Library, and the Comic Strip Museum provided a photo studio with writeable balloons.
Snorkelling through the Museum of Ancient Art © Dieter Telemans
Visitors who buy a pass for the night to enter all 24 museums can make use of special buses that circulate during Museum Night Fever. They can also use their pass once more to get free entrance to one of the museums within the next 3 weeks (during daytime, of course).
Visitors queue on Koningsplein to get into Museum Night Fever venues © Dieter Telemans
Over 400 young people volunteer in venues during Museum Night Fever. It’s very challenging to recruit, support and coordinate this high amount of volunteers for the Brussels Museums Council – a lot of work, if not too much.
In the future, participating museums might have to find their own young volunteers if they want to save on costs for paid staff members who work during the night. However, the investment of time and energy in coordinating this is certainly repaid with more positive associations with each venue, a great atmosphere on the night, and lots of new visitors having a good time and discovering the museums and collections in a new light.
Sophie Serraris is on the judging panel of the Museum Night Fever in Brussels. Dutch-born, she runs an international museum consultancy specialised in visitor engagement. Sophie is also actively involved with Kids in Museums in the UK.
Follow Sophie on Twitter, where she tweets in English, as @Sophie_iMuseum.
See more pictures from Museum Night Fever on Brussels Museums’ Facebook page.
Follow the Brussels Museums Council on Twitter (Tweets in English, French and Flemish): www.twitter.com/BrusselsMuseums
Thank you, Sophie, for sharing the highlights of a Museums at Night experience abroad! If you’re reading this and you’d like to write a guest post or case study for this blog about any aspect of event planning or marketing in arts or heritage venues, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 01273 623336.