Amsterdam Museum Night

I’m just back from an ace weekend in Amsterdam, luckily my visit coincided with Museum Nacht. Museum Nacht is annual event which sees 45 museums open to 2.00 am, not only are the museums open but they also host a pretty random mix of events from bikini waxing, to 3D printing you can check out more their programme here>>

I was blown away by the quality of events at Museum Nacht. Museums weren’t simply open…they programmed exciting and innovative workshops and events and welcomed with open arms Amsterdam’s young creative types.

People paid to take part.

17,50 euro isn’t cheap but 1,000’s of people parted with their hard earned cash to visit museums on a Saturday night. Everyone really made an effort (we felt a little under dressed!)

The event sold out, and lots of people we spoke to said they really wanted to go but that they couldn’t get hold of a ticket anywhere. There is an interesting value relationship at play here. Museums value their young visitors and invest in creating exciting and engaging events, young visitors invest in culture because they know that it is something that they will enjoy.

Visitors and museums financially invest in Museum Nacht…which I think changes the nature of the event – in a good way. Visitors did not just ‘visit’ they participated with museums, they produced exciting new work in response to museum collections, and they had a great time doing it.

What follows are a couple of great things that we came across on the night:

Amsterdam Museum I really loved the mix of paintings, objects and interactives at the Amsterdam Museum. The buzz around the place was unbelievable it actually felt like we where in a club, and there was a great mix of people drinking and dancing in the courtyard and people taking in the exhibitions inside.

The Amsterdam DNA exhibition, the museums central exhibition uses lots of QR codes, but presents them in a really easy to use way. I loved that when we walked in to the gallery space a guide sorted us out with info in English and explained how to use the QR codes. Each visitor gets a book with a unique QR code that they can use at home to follow up there visit.

FOAM Next up we headed to FOAM…we followed the crowd and the queue to find it!

I’m not a fan of queuing but the impressive architectural mapping projecting made standing in cold more than worth it. I’ve seen lots of videos of this technology but this was my first time actually seeing it first hand and it looks blooming brilliant.

Once inside we went to an exhibition which looks at the future of photography, and the photography museum. The exhibition posses lots of challenging questions, and asks visitors to get involved. You could barley get hold of a pen because so many people where queuing up to add their voice to the exhibition.

Visitors also got the opportunity to make their own work out of photographs- which my friend Sarah Campbell is demonstrating in the photo below.

Mediamatic I was really excited about getting to check out Mediamatic they seem to constantly be producing really cool projects.

For Museum Nacht they asked people to register a RFID tag (in the form of a pink heart!) to their Facebook account. Visitors could then scan their tag by objects that they ‘liked’ …such a great idea.

With a queue out the door it’s not surprise the tech was struggling a little to keep up. I loved the experimental nature of this exhibition and the use of the RFID tags, it wasn’t perfect but it was so nearly there.

I will definitely be watching with interest how Medimatic continue to develop the use of RFID technology in exhibitions spaces!

Alongside the great tech, Mediamatic also had the cheepest beer of the night at only 2 euro…so all round we where impressed.


For more info on Museum Nacht I would highly recommend watching Geer Oskam (project manager for N8) talk about his work at MuseumNext click here >> for a link to the video and text transcript

Linking cultural experiences

Find: Crafted Creatures was an innovative cultural treasure hunt developed by The ArkCultural Centre for Children and National Museum of Ireland.

The treasure hunt was developed in response to visitor feedback at The Ark which had shown visitors often found coming to Dublin an expensive family day out. The Ark decided to challenge this perception by highlighting the many free National Museums in and around Dublin. The treasure hunt was designed as a way to encourage families to visit more than one cultural institution whilst in Dublin.

Developing more family visits was already a key priority for National Museum of Ireland, Decorative Arts and History but working with The Ark provided direct access to families who were already in the city and interested in participating in cultural activities.

Setting the stage for Dublin to be seen as a great family destination prompted LUAS the city’s tram service to sponsor the treasure hunt.

The treasure hunt was themed around ‘Crafted Creatures‘ an exhibition that was on display at The Ark as part of the Craft Council of Ireland’s Year of Craft 2011. The hunt was realised through an A3 map which could be picked up at either National Museum of Ireland or at The Ark. Visually engaging, with rhyming clues the trail was child focused, with just enough practical information such as a street map to keep the adults informed. The treasure hunt provided a great way for families to get involved with the objects in the gallery, each question directed young visitors to a specific object about which they had to answer a question.

A key element of the hunt were the 3 questions based on the journey between the two venues, this turned a boring walk, or tram ride into an interactive experience. The hunt engages families with cultural institutions but also the city itself. When complete the treasure hunt map could be entered into a draw to win a voucher for the Museum or a family ticket to Dublin Zoo.

22,000 maps were printed, 5,000 people were told about the campaign via Twitter, Facebook and e-zine and thousands more saw posters on LUAS trams and at LUAS stops (this was made possible through sponsorship in kind.)

What this project demonstrates is the ability of collaborative partnerships to provide an innovative response to a problem. Here the problem for The Ark was a perceived lack of family friendly activities and centres apart from The Ark in the city. For National Museum of Ireland the problem was a need to increase family visitors numbers to meet funder targets. The collaboartive response to these problems led to better family experiences in the city, and more family visitors to the museum.

Visitors loved the trail as these comments show:

“Really enjoyable: our 5 year old said it was his best time ever visiting an exhibition!”

“The children learned a lot about buildings, city and arts. It was a great day!”

“Very good idea to keep children interested in the event for longer”

Rather than developing an audience, this example shows that cross pollinating audiences through collaborative working can provide exciting outcomes for all the organisations involved.

Murieann Sheahan, The Ark and Lorraine Comer, National Museum of Ireland discussed the development of the treasure hunt project at the annual Irish Museums Association ‘Blow your Own Trumpet’ event at The National Library of Ireland on 6th June 2011.