Guest post: Holly Hyams and Jade Montserrat create a Museum of the Night at Scarborough Museums Trust

Today’s guest post comes from Holly Hyams and Jade Montserrat from Scarborough Museums Trust, who explain how they created a ‘museum of the night’ experience in two venues – including an art boxing match!

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Scarborough Museums Trust comprises two very different cultural venues in Scarborough: the Rotunda Museum – the William Smith Museum of Geology, and Scarborough Art Gallery, both housed in impressive 19th century buildings. Inspired by the desire to forge links between the worlds of geology and art, we applied for Museums at Night’s Connect10 competition, hoping to win artist Julia Vogl to create a large scale geological map at the Rotunda Museum.

a moon rising at dusk above a museum roof

Moonrise above Scarborough’s Rotunda Museum (c) Scarborough Museums Trust

Though we narrowly lost out to Newcastle’s mighty Discovery Museum, taking part in the competition was a fantastically rewarding experience. With the votes pouring in, it was incredibly encouraging to perceive the public’s support for our idea, whilst the competitive element helped create a real buzz amongst our staff. Having come second in the voting, we were determined not to let our supporters down and decided to stage alternative events both at the Rotunda Museum and Scarborough Art Gallery.

Exterior photo of an art gallery at night

Scarborough Art Gallery after dark (c) Scarborough Museums Trust

At the Rotunda, we took Museums at Night back to basics by creating a museum ‘of the night’. Museums have a unique atmosphere after hours, and we capitalised on this by displaying a selection of unexpected objects from our collections which wouldn’t usually be exhibited at the Rotunda. For one night only, taxidermy creatures of the night – owls, foxes, badgers, and hedgehogs – jostled with Victorian night-dresses, whale-oil lamps and candle-snuffers.

A taxidermy hedgehog

Hedgehog on display (c) Scarborough Museums Trust

The mood was enhanced through low-level lighting and the use of battery-operated candles which flickered eerily amongst the displays. The concept was simple but effective: visitors enjoyed the thrill of the strange atmosphere and having access to the Scarborough Collections – the name given to all the objects acquired by the Borough over the years and cared for by the Trust on behalf of the town.

taxidermy stuffed owl

Close encounter with an owl from the Scarborough Collections (c) Scarborough Museums Trust

At the Art Gallery, we again took advantage of the late night opening in order to offer visitors something different. Collaborating with Crescent Arts, a visual arts collective which supports emerging contemporary artists, we decided to host an evening of poetry and performance featuring local poet Jo Reed, Future Shorts films and an art book exchange, with events happening simultaneously at both venues (Crescent Arts being located conveniently within the basement area of Scarborough Art Gallery).

A group of smiling people in costumes

Art KO boxing match competitors (c) Scarborough Museums Trust

Thanks to the creative genius of Stuart Cameron, Director of Crescent Arts, the concept of the Big Art KO Boxing Match was born. A tongue-in-cheek performance, the boxing match involved staff members from the two organisations donning costumes and metaphorically ‘slugging it out’ in a makeshift boxing ring, whilst answering questions on art trivia. Light-heartedly embodying the age-old dispute between realist and conceptualist art, a pretend tryst between Scarborough Art Gallery and Crescent Arts was a novel way of celebrating our collaboration on the night, and one which certainly got the public talking!

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Two smiling women in a galleryJade Montserrat is currently a resident artist at Crescent Arts, Scarborough and works as Learning Assistant for Scarborough Museums Trust. She read for a History of Art BA at the Courtauld Institute of Art, followed by an MA in Drawing at Norwich University College of Arts.

Holly Hyams has worked and volunteered at a number of museums in London and Yorkshire, including the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Whitby Museum and York Castle Museum. She loves living on the North Yorkshire Coast and is currently Learning Manager at Scarborough Museums Trust.

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Thanks, Holly and Jade!

If you’re reading this and would like to write a guest post for the arts and heritage sector about any aspect of event programming, audience development or marketing, please email rosie@culture24.org.uk.

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