Brilliant late-night events in London’s museums

by Simon Coppock

Yes, we stole the idea from Europe (Natasha's blog Night at the Museum: Tales of the Unexpected in Paris has the lowdown for Paris), but this weekend (13-16 May) is a rare chance to stay late in more than forty of London’s best museums. Check out the Museums at Night website ( for the full programme.

I’ve already blogged on the 10th birthday celebrations at Tate Modern (see London's favourite gallery is ten - happy birthday, Tate Modern!). On Friday you can hear opera singers and an environmental soundtrack to Constable’s Cornfield (National Gallery,, from 6pm) or watch Hitchcock/Grace Kelly classics (V&A,, from 6.30pm). Saturday should be perfect, with London’s current cold weather and clear skies, for a visit to the Royal Observatory ( But I love the way that Museums at Night also puts the spotlight on some of London’s fabulous small museums.

Evening visits to the eccentric sculptures and Egyptian tomb of Sir John Soane’s Museum are always oversubscribed, so why not instead take an atmospheric candlelit tour round Dr Johnson’s House (, 8.15pm Friday) just down the road?

If eccentric is what you’re after, the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons ( - all diseased skulls and body parts preserved in pickle jars - is just across the square from the Soane. From 6pm Friday, Stitch and Bitch will be wielding knitting needles as the surgeons demonstrate their rather different skills.

Medical events are a bit of theme - from the Florence Nightingale Museum (, until 8pm all weekend), which reopened yesterday after £1.4 million refurbishment, to gaslit Victorian surgery in the Old Operating Theatre Museum (, 6pm Saturday).

At Dr Barnardo’s Ragged School (, from 6pm Friday), there will be ribald Victorian cabaret when the canalside building becomes the Parlour École Loqueteuse for a one-off ‘evening of caning and chalking’.

If you're quick off the mark, tonight at 6.30pm there’s a 1950s sci fi screening among the animal skeletons and fossils of tiny and wonderfully old-fashioned Grant Museum of Zoology ( Then the torches come out on Saturday from 5.30pm for a proper Night at the Museum experience. Perhaps even scarier will be a reading of Conan Doyle’s mummy stories next door among the dusty skulls and Egyptian relics of the Petrie (, from 7pm Saturday). 

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