21 – 22 May 2016
One Saturday evening a year, Geneva opens its museums, workshops, and gardens until midnight. This year, the event starts on the evening of Saturday 21 May 2016, runs all night, and continues on Sunday the 22nd. The event is spread over 26 locations, together offering 170 activities.
Not to be missed, the theme this year is Magic.
Aspiring magicians, fans of magic, and the culturally curious will be dazzled by the magic surrounding Geneva’s museums at this year’s museum night, timed to coincide with world museum day. The event, coordinated by the Department of Culture and Sport of the City of Geneva, is designed for all ages and includes activities in English. Many museums also offer opportunities to eat food inspired by the theme of magic.
With 26 venues and 170 activities you will need to choose. Or come back the next day for more! Sunday 22 May 2016 is International Museum Day and most activities from the night before will be repeated.
Here are a few highlights that might help you to decide which activities to choose.
1. Saint Peter’s Cathedral archaeological site
Reflecting developments in architecture and liturgy in Geneva, this archaeological site introduces visitors to little known aspects of the history of the cathedral, from Roman times to the Middle Ages. The result of 30 years of digging beneath the cathedral, the site is one of the largest in Europe.
From Roman times to the three cathedrals that preceded the present one, countless remains are presented with the aid of the latest technology. Step down into a fascinating journey back through time!
2. The Baur Foundation – museum of far-eastern arts
The Baur Foundation’s collections comprise some 9,000 objects assembled by Alfred Baur (1865- 1951). The remarkable collection includes Chinese imperial ceramics, jades and snuff bottles as well as Japanese ceramics, lacquer work, prints, netsuke and sword fittings.
Qigong and a guzheng, or Chinese zither concert, will entertain you at the Baur Foundation.
3. International Reformation Museum
Here you can learn about John Calvin’s enormous impact on Geneva, which would now be a small insignificant town had the world-famous reformist, not made Geneva his home.
4. International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum Geneva
Geneva, the birthplace of the Red Cross, is home to the only museum devoted to the work of Henry Dunant.
Emotion, discovery, reflection, the exhibition offers a unique opportunity to explore the history of humanitarian action.
5. Ethnographic Museum of Geneva (MEG)
MEG, Geneva’s museum of ethnography’s mission is to preserve objects illustrating the cultures of peoples throughout world history. It houses one of the finest ethnographic collections in Switzerland.
Here you will be entertained by musicians and drummers.
Ted Beaubrun will skilfully guide you through the captivating language of his drums. Percussion instruments play a key role in voodoo ceremonies, with their rhythms, which invite invoked spirits to take possession of their followers.
6. La Maison de Rousseau et de la Littérature
This museum, which takes its name from the famous Genevan philosopher, writer, composer and social thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau, was the first literature centre in western Switzerland. An audiovisual tour, available in 8 languages, devoted to the life and writings of the famous philosopher is presented in the actual house where he was born in 1712.
7. Ariana Museum
The Ariana Museum will transport you to the Orient. The Swiss Museum of ceramics and glass, with its rich collections of over 25,000 objects, is the only museum of its kind in Switzerland and one of the most important in Europe in its field.
Accompanied by the percussionist Sebastian Millius, the ceramist Laurin Schaub will make a large ceramic instrument resonate, bewitching the museum and its visitors, taking you on a night time journey of unimagined sound dimensions.
8. Conservatory and botanical gardens
There will be a profusion of magic to delight nature lovers at the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, with strange objects in botanical tombs, magical evening fragrances and the music of plants.
9. Museum of modern and contemporary art (MAMCO)
Opened in September 1994, MAMCO exhibits a wide selection of works from the early 1960s to the present day including videos, paintings, photographs and sculptures. Young artists working as “ flying guides” will be at MAMCO to welcome you, providing information, and engaging visitors in discussions about art works that explore the subject of time (works by Peter Dreher, Jochen Gerz, On Kawara, Gianni Motti, Claudio Parmiggiani, Maurizio Nannucci, Roman Opalka, Sarkis and Esther Shalev-Gerz).
10. The Geneva Fire Fighting Museum
The Fire Fighting Museum was set up by around sixty professional fire fighters. Come and discover 11,00m2 of exhibition spaces on three floors, several thousand objects and restored fire engines, all displayed in a friendly environment that reflects the profession. Admire the trucks, fire engines and fire fighters’ clothing, and see how fire fighting equipment has evolved since 1840.
11. The fringe programme
The fringe programme is also a major feature of Museum Night. The Art sans rendez-vous association, which has created artwork in public spaces around Geneva, will offer guided tours along cultural trails. Tours include visiting Les Inséparables on the rooftops of the Rue Lissignol and Sherlock Holmes live, an urban game played outside on the streets of Geneva.
Museum Night closing times have been standardised, and, with rare exceptions, will close their doors at the stroke of midnight. Events start at 5pm or 6pm (7.30pm at the botanical gardens), depending on the venue. To conclude this magical evening, Museum Night night owls will be offered house cocktails at the Alhambar until 2am. Museums will open on Sunday at their usual times.
Four free shuttles A, BRA, CA and DABRA will crisscross the city from 5pm to midnight.
Now you are probably thinking this will be ruinously expensive – all of these museums and activities in expensive Geneva. Well you’d be wrong. A CHF 10 pass in the form of a magic scarf gives you access to everything on Saturday evening, including public transport. And it’s free if you are 18 years old or under. On Sunday May 22, International Museum Day, entrance is free for everyone.
So there really is nothing stopping you transforming your weekend into one filled with cultural magic.
The full programme is neatly laid out on this brochure (in English), which shows times, activities, locations and places where food is available along the way. More information is available here on Geneva city’s website (in English). The event also has its own Facebook page.