Museums at Night 2012: Ashmolean Museum, Museum of the History of Science, Pitt Rivers Museum and the University of Natural History, Oxford, May 18
© Fiona Garden
At the risk of overdoing the hype, you might be able to look back with some satisfaction if you’re planning to visit the Ashmolean’s Museums at Night late show this year.
That’s because AlunaGeorge, the London duo who are playing a gig there, have already been credited with "glistening pop sensibility" by the ever-oracular Pitchfork and reminded the Guardian of "some of our absolute favourite things of the last decade or so".
You should also know that Troumaca – a Birmingham band who specialise in soulful, dub-inspired dance and are adored by co-organisers The Notting Hill Arts Club – are entertaining the latest Late Night Session at the Ashmolean, followed by a rock, electro, indie and leftfield pop DJ in an event which organisers themselves describe as “infamous”.
But if you can’t stay late, the museum is collaborating with a triumvirate of equally brilliant venues in the city to offer evening visitors a “grand tour” featuring paintings, sculptures, weird science, 16th century astronomy and the odd dinosaur.
Between 6pm and 9pm, “passports” will be dished out for trails through some truly global collections, with curators dotted around ready to lead playful adventures.
There are live orchestral performances and large-scale wall projections in the Ashmolean atrium, based on new exhibition The English Prize, plus photographs from the Metamorphosis display and fresh fruit cocktails and tapas on the rooftop terrace and the dining room.
At the Museum of the History of Science, a printer, globe-maker and instrument-maker go to work in the Basement Gallery, accompanying a special late opening of exhibition The Renaissance in Astronomy, revealing the importance of craft for telescope buffs almost 500 years ago.
© John Cairns Photography
And at the Pitt Rivers (lit by colourful lights) and the University Museum of Natural History, accomplished artists lead workshops and a pair of DJs spin eclectic sets featuring digitized sounds from the museums’ sound archives, all fuelled by a well-stocked bar.
“There is something really exciting about being in museums at night, especially when they are all lit up and filled with music,” says the Ashmolean’s Susan McCormack, who wants guests to bring their friends and families with them.
“It will be a great opportunity to be adventurous. We want people to explore these great collections and discover some of Oxford’s greatest treasures, from the dinosaurs of the Natural History Museum and the Egyptian mummies in the Ashmolean to South American feather headdresses at the Pitt Rivers and the 16th century globes at the Museum of the History of Science.
“You could start at any one of these museums, collect a passport and travel the world through time and culture.”
- Visit the Oxford Museums at Night page to find out more. Entry to all of the museums and tours is free, but there is an admission fee of £9 (£7 concessions, free for under-18s and Oxford University students) to the English Prize exhibition. Tickets for the Ashmolean Late show are £12, booking is essential – buy online or visit the event on Facebook.