20 – 21 May 2017
One Saturday evening a year, Geneva opens its museums, workshops, and gardens until midnight. This year, the event starts on the evening of Saturday 20 May 2017, runs into the night, and continues on Sunday the 21st. The event is spread over 31 locations, together offering 240 activities.
This year’s theme is celebrations and birthdays, and the city plans to celebrate! This is the fifth museum night in Geneva, the Natural History Museum is celebrating its 50th birthday, and the conservatory in the botanical gardens turns 200 this year. 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 dine. Dancing and candle blowing are also on the menu.
With 31 venues and 240 activities you will need to choose. Or come back the next day for more! On Sunday 21 May 2016, 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. Test your emotion-recognition skills at Campus Biotech
Participants will have the chance to do the Geneva emotion recognition test to see how well they recognise emotions. This takes between 5 and 10 minutes. It is typically done individually, but can done in teams if several people want to do it at the same time.
Alternatively, dive into your emotions in the world of virtual reality or the world of emotions transmitted via music.
2. Natural History Museum
The museum is the largest of its kind in Switzerland, with animal and geological collections spread over four floors.
This year the focus is on ants. Be amazed by their highly complex organisational structure and formidable power-to-weight ratio.
Prepare your ant questions in advance. Daniel Chérix, biologist and ant specialist, will be on hand to answer your questions.
In addition, this is where the dancing takes place. Dance with the ants!
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
Discover how different cultures celebrate birth and marriage, and how they deal with death. Click here to read an interview of the museum’s director, Boris Wastiau.
7. 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.
8. Ariana Museum
The Ariana Museum will transport you to the Orient. The Swiss Museum of ceramics and glass, with its rich collections of over 27,000 objects, is the only museum of its kind in Switzerland and one of the most important in Europe in its field.
Two ceramic artists will offer pottery lessons. Ready, set, go!
Over six hours the team built a giant balloon structure inside the museum. What is it for?
9. Conservatory and botanical gardens
There will be workshops on fabric dyeing and the uses of lichens at the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.
In addition, you’ll discover the diversity of varieties of rare plans conserved by the Foundation ProSpecieRara. You will be able to get involved in their preservation in a planting workshop.
Before the ice age, the tropical plant family Gesneriaceae covered much of Europe with its lush vegetation. Then glaciation came along and destroyed most of it. Only five of these plants still exist and you can see three of them at Geneva’s botanical gardens.
10. 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).
In addition, there will be installations and performances by Chinese artist Galaxia Wang on the meaning of identity.
11. 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.
12. Les Berges de Vessy
On this site is a presentation on the importance of renewable energy and the environment. This exhibition has information on the vital importance of bees.
The 18th century genevois François Huber, who went blind at the age of 15, revolutionised our understanding of bees.
Museum Night closing times have been standardised, and, with rare exceptions, will close their doors at the stroke of midnight. Most events start at 5pm or 6pm depending on the venue. Museums will open on Sunday at their normal times.
A full programme with opening times is available here.
Five free “Happy” shuttle buses 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 gives you access to everything, including public transport. And it’s free if you are 18 years old or under. On Sunday May 21, entrance is free for everyone. The passes are sold at these locations.
The free shuttle bus routes are shown here.
So there really is nothing stopping you turning your weekend into one big birthday celebration.
The full programme is neatly laid out here (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.