Author Archives: Culture24

Successful Museums at Night event ideas: The Big List

A Museums at Night event can be as simple as keeping your doors open later than usual into the evening, or allowing free entry to exhibitions that usually charge an admission fee. However, take a look at the list of inventive events that venues have staged in the past: do any of these ideas resonate with you, and could you adapt them to suit your space, collections, exhibitions, and team?


A man and a woman dance in a museum after dark

Dancing at Museums at Night (c) Pal Hansen

  • Site-specific performance art / twilight promenade
  • Dance inspired by artworks in collection
  • Live music from local bands and DJs / cabaret / choirs / juggling
  • Poetry reading
  • The Wake of Lost Souls: eulogies for fictional characters
  • Storytelling, e.g. hear Conan Doyle’s Egyptian stories in the Mummy Room
  • Graffiti artists creating mural throughout evening
  • Magic lantern show, Victorian entertainment, shadow puppet workshop
  • Costumed re-enactment: meet characters from the past / ghosts / historical characters as tour guides or coming to life amongst artefacts from their lives
  • Horror / historical / family film screening, short films, documentaries, local moving image artwork, artists films
  • Meet the artist- or writer-in-residence
  • Talk by or interview with designers / artists / experts / curators / authors
  • Re-enacting night-time events that took place in the venue in the past
  • Courtroom drama
  • Recreated air battle


  •  Help record a sound collage
  • Writing workshop
  • Open mic jam session
  • Craft activities: all-night printmaking, life drawing, sugar crafting, knitting, Stitch’n’Bitch, pottery, brass rubbing, balloon modelling, 3D sculpting, the chance to make lanterns / masks / origami / rag rugs / lace / felt
  • Build a beehive
  • Make a clay or mosaic tile, or patchwork quilt square, for a community project
  • Games programming night
  • Try Roman skills e.g. writing on wax tablets
  • Help create The Longing Archive: a participatory artwork made from old love letters, favourite songs and stories of rejection

Physical activities

  •  Go on military manoeuvres after dark with former soldiers, try night vision equipment
  • Silent disco on light-up dancefloor
  • Dance marathon
  • Greek dance workshop
  • FitBod fitness challenge


  •  Torchlit tour
  • Treasure hunt
  • Murder mystery / live action Cluedo
  • Sleepover
  • Pyjama party followed by toy sleepover
  • Speed dating / singles night
  • Tudor / Regency / 1940s historical dance
  • Play games from different historical periods / croquet
  • Taste food and drink from the era
  • Medieval feast
  • Try playing the shawm and gittern (Tudor musical instruments)
  • Karaoke
  • Pub quiz
  • Board games / word games / giant Jenga / Twister / vintage video games
  • Twilight-themed night giving fans sparkly vampire makeovers
  • Victorian school lessons, try writing with dip pens
  • Sample gruel in a workhouse
  • Above and below stairs social history tour
  • Learn to lay a dinner table with a Georgian butler
  • Historic house trail hearing the sounds of a 1910 dinner party
  • World War I trench experience
  • Learn first aid during a recreated World War II air raid
  • Cook and eat food sculptures
  • Wine, beer, tea or coffee tasting
  • “Bushtucker trial” eating insects
  • Dinner or tea party in venue / midnight feast

Collections- or exhibitions-based events

  •  Preview or launch of new exhibition / “Last chance to see” a closing exhibition
  • Astronomy night / planetarium show / learn to use telescopes
  • “Open cockpits” evening among historic aircraft
  • Playing old 78 records from collection
  • Model train running evening
  • Object handling / object identification / conservators explaining their work
  • CSI Friday: investigate the conservation challenges the housekeeping team face
  • Hear a Victorian post horn played
  • “Night flights” on flight simulators
  • Helicopter rides
  • Fire up steam engines
  • Ride on steam trains
  • Canal trips on historic narrowboats
  • Sunset hovercraft rides
  • Historic tunnel tours by lantern-light
  • Sunset naval ceremony
  • Firing historic guns, cannon and mortars
  • Bring objects from your collections, and volunteers happy to talk about them, in to somewhere central such as a marketplace or library

Collaboration with outside experts

  •  Craft market with stalls run by local artists
  • Family tree research with genealogists / local history society experts
  • Dissection night / learn surgical suturing / amputations
  • Skull identification night with a facial anthropologist
  • Paranormal investigation
  • Young Chefs challenge
  • Graveyard tour
  • Blue Badge guided tour
  • Fashion show

Making use of your building, grounds and surroundings

  •  Video art or live art displayed in windows
  • Community-made short films projected on to building
  • Illuminated grounds / animated projections on to building
  • Atmospheric interior lighting
  • Candlelit installations
  • Nature walks discovering moths and bats / learning to use bat detectors
  • Nocturnal animal talks, getting up close with creepy-crawlies / snakes / bearded dragons
  • Atmospheric night walk
  • Discover the rainforest biome
  • Find the fairies in the gardens

Join these suggestions up!

You can bring together a whole evening of themed activities by combining a selection of the ideas listed above: for example, one Thunderbirds-themed night featured an exhibition of rare models, music from the 1960s, screenings of the TV series, and an interview with voice artist Sylvia Anderson followed by a book signing session.

Best of luck! If you’d like to discuss your plans, you can always contact me by calling 01273 623336 or emailing

Download this list as a Word document here

Download this list as a PDF here

Museums at Night 2013 dates: Thursday 16th – Saturday 18th May 2013

Edited 7 August 2013: We’re shifting the dates of Museums at Night 2013 to run from Thursday 16 – Saturday 18 May. Here’s the reason why the Museums at Night 2013 dates are changing!

The Museums at Night logo proudly printed atop a slice of toast

While planning gathers steam for Museums at Night 2012, I was surprised and delighted to be contacted by a venue that’s often booked for weddings many months in advance, wanting to know when Museums at Night would be happening in 2013.

The dates of Museums at Night weekend in the UK, and Nuit des Musées around Europe, tie in with International Museums Day which falls on 18th May each year. 

Working on this basis, the dates for the next few years of Museums at Night weekends will be:

Thursday 16th – Saturday 18th May 2013

Thursday 15th – Saturday 17th May 2014

Thursday 14th – Saturday 16th May 2015

If you have questions about any aspect of Museums at Night, would like some help and support, or would like to talk over your plans, please give me a call on 01273 623336 or drop me an email at – I’m here to help!

Volunteer opportunity: help us deliver Museums at Night 2012

Culture24 seek a committed person on a voluntary / placement basis to contribute towards the 2012 Museums at Night festival.

Area: Brighton
Dates: February to May 2012

Museums at Night is the highly successful annual nationwide opportunity for museums, galleries, heritage sites, historic properties, libraries and archives to throw open their doors after hours and do something different to attract audiences. It explodes into life between Friday 18th and Sunday 20th May 2012.

If you’re based in Brighton or the South East, can contribute a minimum of a day and a half a week for at least four months between February and May 2012, and have a real interest in expanding your experience in the cultural sector, then this may be the post for you. You will work on an exciting and evolving cultural campaign, gaining insights into participation, audience development and PR issues as you work alongside the project’s manager and coordinator.

We expect you to have an excellent working knowledge of PC-based MS Outlook, Word and Excel and to confidently work independently by email and on the telephone. We will support you with training and supervision, tailoring your time with us to achieve your aspirations and objectives as well as ours.

If this is the career development opportunity for you, please contact:

Nick Stockman
Project Manager, Museums at Night

Direct Line: 01273 623279


Guest post: Oonagh Murphy reviews the Let’s Get Real conference

It’s been an extremely busy few months working on the Action Research Report and planning the Let’s Get Real conference on How to Evaluate Online Success, which took place in Bristol last week. The full report and associated resources are now available to download for free:

Download the Action Research Report

Social Media Metrics toolkit

Google Analytics healthcheck list

Guide to setting up advanced user segments

I asked one delegate, University of Ulster PhD student Oonagh Murphy, to share her impressions of the event.


The Let’s Get Real conference was the outcome of a two year research project. The project included 17 partners from Kew to the Royal Shakespeare Company and explored how cultural organisations could evaluate online success.

The first night of the conference saw the launch of the Let’s Get Real Action Research Project report. Whilst the report provides key benchmarking data, all involved in this project expressed the need to continue to develop our understanding of what online success is, and how we measure it within success-orientated funding structures.

The sponsorship of both the conference launch party and future training events by Google demonstrates the reach of this research: more than simply being a paper report it has made a case for digital, for innovation but also for accountability and metrics in the wider cultural sector. The support of Google adds a certain gravitas to what the report says and indeed helps position this report within broader digital conversations that are taking place outside of cultural organisations.

With conference registration starting at 8.15 on the second day I think we all knew we were in for a busy and challenging day. The conference opened with keynotes from Tom Uglow, Creative Lead at the Google Creative Lab, Europe and Matt Locke from Storythings.  What both Tom and Matt brought to the table were insights from other industries, something that perhaps we as cultural organisations need to listen to more of.

a man showing a slide in a presentation

Tom Uglow gives his keynote speech. Photo courtesy Ruth Harper

Tom talked about the importance of vision rather than scale, encouraging cultural organisations to think big and start small. Matt highlighted Million Pound Drop as a good example of a dual screen format which encourages viewers to play a game live on their computer whilst watching their TV. He cited dual screen formats as ways to increase attention share: for museums, this could increase engagement and indeed the impact of an experience.

Jane Finnis discussed the Let’s Get Real Report, but rather than paraphrasing I would direct you to the foreword she has written in the report. It sums up the case for this and indeed further research perfectly.

Two women at a presentation

Mia Ridge was surprised to see herself in Emma McLean's presentation. Photo courtesy Ruth Harper

Before lunch came the Failing Forwards session: whilst quite an unusual session it proved to be a valuable one. A range of cultural organisations stood up and said this is a project that we did, it failed, this is why, and this is what you can learn from our mistakes.  You can read more about this session on my personal blog.

After lunch we broke into two parallel sessions, a Crit Room where a range of organisations put forward their websites to be critiqued by a panel of experts, or Talk Tables (think a cross between speed dating and networking). I opted for the talk tables and got some really useful advice from a range of different companies such as TripAdvisor, Cogapp and JISC. Every 10 minutes a bell rang and that was our cue to move to the next table. This was a great way to start conversations, many of which I have already picked up by email.

I think we all left with more questions than perhaps answers, but then it is always nice to leave a conference feeling both inspired and challenged.

I should end by saying a big thank you to all the speakers for sharing their stories and of course to the Watershed for being such great hosts.

A smiling blonde woman

Oonagh Murphy

Oonagh Murphy is a museums and digital culture PhD student at the University of Ulster. She blogs at and tweets @Oonaghtweets


Thanks very much, Oonagh! I have a couple more blog posts to write this week, sharing my new knowledge on how to promote a conference and how to actually run one. Yes, I’ve learned a lot!

For other people’s views on the report and the conference, read more below:

Chris Unitt shares the key points from the Action Research Report

Seb Chan reflects on being part of the Action Research Project

Mar Dixon discusses the Let’s Get Real conference

Hugh Wallace gives his closing thoughts from the conference

B Hunter collates tweets from the conference with Storify

Katie Smith rounds up her take on the conference

Ylva French shares her notes from the conference

Let’s Get Real conference 2011: discover the programme and meet the speakers!

Plans are well underway for Culture24’s Let’s Get Real conference 2011: How to Evaluate Success Online? which will take place in Bristol’s Watershed Media Centre from September 20 – 21.

Buy your tickets now:

Let's Get Real conference logo
You can now explore the complete conference programme here. One of the options for Wednesday afternoon is to receive personalised guidance from key industry players at a series of Talk Tables – find out how they’ll work here, and meet the speakers who’ll be presenting at the conference.

Learn more about the Action Research Project, How to Evaluate Success Online? which ran for over a year and involved numerous UK cultural and heritage organisations tracking and sharing details of their online activities: the Action Research Project Report will be launched during the conference, and we look forward to sharing and discussing what has been learned as a result of this new work.

Hotel rooms at the Ibis Bristol Harbourside Hotel are available at a specially discounted rate of £67 – learn more about this offer here.

We’re also delighted that Museum Studies students have begun applying for our 5 specially subsidised £50 conference tickets: please share this link with any postgraduates who may be interested!

Early bird discount tickets at £150 are only available until 31st August. From 1st September onwards, tickets will cost the full price of £180.

Buy your tickets now:

Video: Dance inspired by machinery at the Museum of Bath at Work

This is a fantastic example of an event devised specifically for Museums at Night, allowing visitors to discover a collection in a very different light. Sally Lewis from the Museum of Bath at Work wrote this blog post explaining how her son, a dance student, had been inspired by the moving machinery on display and would be creating a performance loosely based on it.

Now the dancers have shared a video of their performance – and we think it’s a brilliant example of what can be achieved when passionate, creative people engage with arts and heritage venues and collections.

If anyone else has experience of inviting actors, dancers, artists or musicians into their venue to create new site-specific work, we’d love to hear about it and showcase your experiences here on the blog.

What I look for in guest posts:

1) 200-350 words, in a chatty, friendly, style

2) A couple of photos of visitors exploring your venue, ideally at night, with the photographer’s credit. We always like to put up photos of people having fun at cultural / heritage venues!

3) A couple of lines about yourself, I’m happy to link to your website / Twitter account / LinkedIn profile etc.

4) A thumbnail-sized photo of you

If you’re interested, please drop me a line at or give me a call on 01273 623336. I look forward to hearing from you!

Student discount tickets to Culture24’s Let’s Get Real conference

It’s great to see so much interest in Culture24’s conference Let’s Get Real: How to Evaluate Success Online? Tickets are selling well, lots of people are getting excited about it on Twitter, and Culture24 director Jane Finnis and I just made a reconnaissance trip to our conference venue, the wonderful Watershed in Bristol. It’s an inspiring place right on the waterfront, full of creative people – I think we’re in for a brilliant couple of days in September!

There was also a flurry of interest in our Action Research Project following the presentation Jane and Seb Chan gave at the Arts Marketing Association conference in Glasgow last week – you can watch their presentation, and hear their song, here:

The conference will see the launch of our final report on the Action Research Project, and many of the speakers and workshops will be focusing on drilling in to the results and looking at what they may mean for cultural and heritage organisations’ online offers.

Student discounts

Several Museum Studies students have got in touch asking about discounted tickets to the conference. 5 tickets will be available for students at the specially discounted price of £50 each.

Culture24 welcome postgraduate students taking Museum Studies or a related discipline to apply for one of the five subsidised tickets.

To apply for these tickets, you must email by 5pm on Friday 26th August with

1)      Your name

2)      Your address

3)      No more than 50 words explaining why this conference is relevant to your studies

Culture24 will email all applicants on Monday 29th August notifying those who have been successful.

Further conference tickets are available through at the Early Bird price of £150, if purchased before Wednesday 31st August. From Thursday 1st September onwards conference tickets will be priced at £180 each.

Full terms and conditions can be found here: