Berlin Long Night of Museums celebrates its 20th year | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 18.08.2017
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Berlin Long Night of Museums celebrates its 20th year

Just one ticket for all museums - that's the idea behind the Long Night of Museums. Invented 20 years ago in Berlin, the noctural museum festival has spread to many cities around the globe.

The first Long Night of Museums ("Lange Nacht der Museen") took place in Berlin in 1997. While only 18 museums joined that initial night, an impressive 80 museums will celebrate the initiative's 20th birthday in Berlin on Saturday (August, 19th), with 800 events drawing some 30,000 expected participants. The 2017 motto is "Made in Berlin," though the open-door museum concepthas expanded far beyond Germany's capital city to countless locations around the world.

'Experiencing one's own city anew'

When Berlin's former Culture Senator Volker Hassemer developed the concept 20 years ago, it didn't exactly find a warm welcome. "Even the heads of leading museums were decidely hesitant - and that is putting it mildly," the Christian Democratic politician recalls. However, his idea to prolong museum opening hours late into the night while combining the offers of several museums eventually caught on.

Long Night of Museums Berlin 2016 (picture-alliance/dpa/K.-D.Gabbert)

Crowds stand in line to enter the New Museum in Berlin during the 2016 Long Night of Museums


Following the success of the event in Berlin, other German cities including Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich followed suit. Today there is hardly any German city that does not draw night-owl crowds by offering the enticing cultural event at least once a year.

"The event enables people to once more experience their own city anew," explains Moritz van Dülmen, managing director of the agency Kulturprojekte Berlin, which is responsible for organizing Berlin's entire long night event. "People can discover museums that they didn't know before. They can visit places without fear that they might have previously considered to be elitist. Or they can just be around other people and enjoy the sociability."

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International success

Since 2000, Austria's public broadcaster ORF has organized a countrywide Night of Long Museums that so far has drawn more than five million cumulative visitors. And for ten years now, the Philippines has offered a Night of Heritage. 

"More than one hundred cities from Prague to Paris and Brussels to Buenos Aires have copied our concept," van Dülmen says. "Our first long night 20 years ago was a smash hit. Since then, the idea has spread around the world."

A long night - and no end in sight

Long Night of Religions 2016 (DW/K. Salameh)

The Long Night of Religions (above) has become a popular event

The idea didn't just inspire museums alone. Other sectors also found the event format attractive. There are now long nights of sciences, religion, music, literature and sports - even fire brigades, laboratories and hotel bars have adopted the concept. 

The idea that, "Now we all will do something together for everyone" has developed a huge magnetic force, van Dülmen explains. "Institutions can put themselves in the spotlight. But most importantly, a collaborative project with new forms of cooperation emerges, because all participants have the same objective." Small museums often profit the most because they increase there exposure by associating with larger, more well-known museums. 

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