Die Lange Nacht der Münchner Museen

18 Oct

What do an Art Nouveau swimming hall, BMW’s, medieval skeletons, and greenhouses full of desert plants have in common?  No, they’re not the latest purchases of some eccentric billionaire.  These are all things that you could see at this year’s Lange Nacht der Museen (Long Night of Museums) in Munich.  Far from being merely a night of art, Die Lange Nacht is a chance to see a bit of everything in Munich’s museums, galleries, and historic sites.  According to the organizers an estimated 20,000 visitors took part in the evening in one way or another and visited the 90-plus locations.

To be honest, I’ve avoided Die Lange Nacht for the past few years.  Like many others I’ve dismissed it as overcrowded and overrated, but in the spirit of research I went this year to see again what it’s all about.  The “research” lasted until I made it inside the first museum.  It didn’t take long for my demeanor to switch from impartial observer to kid in a candy store.  I realized the key difference between a normal visit to a museum and a visit on some such evening:  it’s a party for the curious rather than a chance for serious study.

In a period of three hours I went into six different locations.  Obviously I didn’t spend much time in any of them, but for the most part these were all places I had been to be before.  It was more about taking a quick look at some of my favorites and then moving along.  There was always more to be seen.  It wasn’t until the end of the night that I slowed down enough to really look at one of the exhibitions, and by then I was so exhausted that I couldn’t be bothered to read through most of the labels.

The truly great part of such an event is the special events and programming that many of the locations have for the evening.  The absolute highlight for me was being able to look through the new Egyptian Museum here in Munich, which won’t even open for almost two more years.  Another location was showing a series of short films done by students.  Even the Alte Pinakothek had interpreters walking around in full eighteenth century costume.  Many locations had special offers on food and drinks, as well.

I’ve written before about how easy it is to overlook the cultural institutions in your own city.  For those who live in Munich, Die Lange Nacht gives you a great chance to remember why you should go to places like the Antikensammlung and also see some of the hidden treasures the city has to offer.  After years away, I’m hooked all over again, and I can’t wait until next year.

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