A capital cultural crusade: Museums at Night by river, campus and underground London

By Ben Miller | 14 May 2011
A photo of a bell and paintings on a ship
HQS Wellington welcomed seadogs aboard for Museums at Night© Culture24
During Museums at Night 2011 Culture24 staff and reporters visited night-time events, reporting back with pictures and a few words. We'll be doing the same during the weekend of May 18 - 20 2012.

In the meantime here's a taster from
HQS Wellington; The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and The Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms; from May 13 2011.

Nip out of Temple tube station and you might not notice HQS Wellington, an elegantly restored former Navy stalwart which sways silently in the rush hour breeze as businessmen hurry past against the horizon of London Bridge and the London Eye.

A photo of people looking at museum artefacts on a boat
The event was a rare opening for the ship© Culture24
The views from the deck rival anything those more high-profile attractions can offer and, inside, groups are wandering inquisitively around cabins lined with intricate vessel models, medals and paintings from the high seas.

This is a tardis of a ship, and an engrossing adventure of a visit.

A photo of people looking at exhibits in front of a screen showing a film in a museum
The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology hosted hammer horror films© Culture24
At the Petrie Museum of Egyptology, it turns out for one evening you’re as likely to find gratefully accepted supplies of wine (“there’s loads of bottles under the table”, one volunteer says slightly too loudly) as you are, say, limestone slabheads of bull-headed goats.

A photo of cases full of artefacts in a museum
Packed cases and corridors at the University College London venue© Culture24
It’s on the University College London campus, so the crowd is young and feisty, and half an hour after opening it’s crammed with visitors debating glass figurines in front of black and white horror films. All very cool.

A photo of a woman working on another woman's head in a hair salon
Salon style at the excellent Cabinet War Rooms© Culture24
But perhaps it’s Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms which steal the show.

Imagine, if you will, an underground maze where, upon getting lost, you’ll stumble into the former top dog’s emergency bedroom, find a girl band singing to music which demands twirling or meet throngs of girls dressed as 1940s pin-ups, accompanied by men persuaded to wear cravats following a swift trip to the bar.

A photo of a couple watching a film with a mannequin wearing a colourful dress in the foreground
A trip back to the 1940s in the rooms where Winston Churchill would have sheltered© Culture24
In the make-up room haircuts are being slicked with grease and lipstick is being caked thickly on once subtle complexions.

A photo of a couple dancing as crowds look on
A band and bar had everyone in the mood for dancing© Culture24
Any inhibitions have been left on the city streets above us, and the results are a glowing triumph for glamour.
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