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For anyone exasperated by the mobs at museum and gallery exhibitions, there is an opportunity to see London’s cultural delights by the atmospheric half-light of night, after the usual clamour of tourists has receded.

For one weekend in May, the capital’s museums will open their doors at a time they’re usually bolted shut, to lay on one-off events. Will there be spooks and shivers and things coming alive? This is your chance to find out.

Museums At Night is an engaging alternative to the usual nightlife diet of pubs and clubs, and in some cases the party atmosphere is just as banging.

At the Science Museum in South Kensington you can bop the night away
at a silent disco. Alternatively, down pints of Meantime ale at the Royal Museums in Greenwich, then go head-to-head with river boffins in a pub quiz about the Thames.

At the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden, you can turn an old map into an artistic masterpiece, or put your cartography skills to the test.

Craig Taylor, author of Londoners: The Days And Nights Of London
Now, will also be there to give
the lowdown on the capital’s cool cats. 

Rosie Clarke, marketing manager of British charity Culture24, says:“This is one weekend we can throw a positive spotlight on all the arts and heritage in London. Often it’s the big venues that get a look in, but some of the smaller ones are just as amazing.” 

Museums At Night is the UK leg of a European initiative called Nuit des Musees, and it has exploded in popularity since its 2009 conception.

More than 400 national galleries are putting on everything from twilight film screenings and offbeat shows to nocturnal talks and tours – usually enjoyed with a drink in hand and music.

Clarke suggests taking a closer look at Leighton House in Holland Park.

“It might seem unremarkable, but it’s got an incredibly opulent interior, and they are putting on a Victorian experience for this occasion,” she says.

Illumination will be distinctly low at The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret in Southwark, where you can observe an 18th-century-style amputation by gaslight. Fortunately, the procedure takes just 28 seconds.

“People tend to have extreme reactions,” marketing officer Valentina Lari says. “We’ve had people faint before, so this one’s definitely not for anyone with a weak stomach.”

For something more highbrow, the National Portrait Gallery in Westminster is conducting life drawing classes, inspired by the late Lucian Freud.

Or take part in an ancient artefact lottery in the Museum of London’s archeological archive and unveil anything from Roman shoes to false teeth and toenails.

Additionally, you can explore the labyrinthine home of eccentric 19th- century architect Sir John Soane in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Only candlelight will reveal its wonders, including an atmospheric crypt holding the sarcophagus of Pharoah Seti I. 

Clarke adds: “We are getting some lovely drawn-out evenings now and these events are a perfect, and most unforgettable way to enjoy them – glass of wine in hand.” ζ
          

NOW READ: Museum lates: The definitive guide to after hours events in London attractions


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The London late revolution - the capital's museums and galleries get into the 24/7 spirit
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