Museums at night — a Berlin invention | DW Travel | DW | 30.08.2019
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Museums at night — a Berlin invention

This weekend Berlin is holding another Long Night of Museums. There are now events like this in more than 120 cities worldwide, but Berlin is home to the mother of all museum nights.

It promises to be a balmy summer night — perfect conditions for the Long Night of Museums, which is taking place on August 31st for the 39th time in Berlin. From 6 in the evening until 2 in the morning, tens of thousands of people will be on the go. They'll walk from museum to museum or take one of the shuttle buses to the next venue. Smaller exhibition halls and galleries are also opening their doors, as are many of the capital's large museums and memorials. 

The cultural night traditionally opens on Museum Island, this time with a dance performance on the large staircase outside the recently opened James Simon Gallery. In all, 75 Berlin museums are participating. 750 events are on the agenda: special guided tours, readings, film showings and workshops, plus culinary and musical events.    

A marketing idea becomes an export hit

The first time the event was held, in the winter of 1997, it was on a much smaller scale: 18 institutions took part in the first Long Night of Museums, including the Natural History Museum, the German Historical Museum, the Berlinisches Galerie Museum of Modern Art, the Martin-Gropius-Bau exhibition hall and Charlottenburg Palace. The idea of offering unusual opening times came from marketing specialists. The aim was to attract more locals and tourists to the city's museums. It was an immediate success. More than 30,000 visitors flocked to that first Long Night of Museums. The second time, in August 1997, 27 institutions took part, and the next record number of curious visitors was set: 50,000.

And the marketing hit also made the rounds internationally. There are now long museum nights in more than 120 cities worldwide: from London, Paris and Amsterdam to Bratislava and Buenos Aires. 

Plenty for both regulars and newcomers

In Berlin the concept has lost none of its appeal. On the contrary:  the Long Night of Museums is attracting more and more fans. Surveys showed that 54 percent of last year's visitors were there for the first time. This summer, ten new museums are joining in, among them the re-opened Pergamon Panorama, the Berlin New Synagogue, Biesdorf Palace, the district of Zehlendorf's local museum and an open-air touring exhibition “Der Krieg und Ich,” in connection with a new TV drama series about World War II as seen through the eyes of children in Europe at the time.  

Bauhaus for everyone

Watch video 09:26

On the Bauhaus Trail in Berlin

This year's Long Night of Museums also kicks off a festival, Bauhaus Week Berlin, with an exibition in shop windows on the history of the famous art and design school, yoga courses on roof terraces and an open-air film series. During the Long Night, for instance, you can look at famous designs by Bauhaus artists at the KPM royal porcelain factory, debate the authenticity of Bauhaus lamps in the Werkbund Archive Museum of Things, or go to the Kulturforum and test whether design classics such as Marcel Breuer's steel tube chair are comfortable as well as stylish. 

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