26 May 2018
Note: There was an error in an earlier version of this article. Museum night is only on the 26th of May 2018.
One Saturday evening a year, Geneva opens its museums, workshops, and gardens until midnight. This year, the event starts on the evening of Saturday 26 May 2018, runs into the night. The event is spread over 31 locations, together offering 150 activities. 7 locations offer presentations and activities in English.
Not to be missed, the event is part of International Museum Day, an event organised by the International Council of Museums to promote museums.
This year’s theme is travel, inviting participants to embark on their own voyage of discovery under the slogan: “The journey is more important than the destination”. And, these journeys are as much about travelling through time as place.
The event, coordinated by the Department of Culture and Sport of the City of Geneva, also offers opportunities to dine and dance.
With 31 venues and 150 activities you will need to choose.
Here are a few highlights that might help you to decide which activities to choose.
1. University of Geneva Exhibition Room
The University of Geneva Exhibition Room takes visitors to the roof of the world: Nepal.
To raise awareness of a disease affecting women, nepalese farmers have created a photo essay of daily life, designed to transport viewers into the heart of nepalese villages perched high on Himalayan slopes.
2. University of Geneva plaster cast collection
The University of Geneva’s collection of plaster copies of ancient statues whisks visitors back to antiquity, bringing them face to face with Aphrodite and Venus de Milo.
The collection, used for teaching and research in classical archaeology, was started in 1751. Back then, these plaster imposters were drawn by young craftsmen to develop their aesthetic sensibilities. They were also used as an aid for comparing and classifying archaeological discoveries.
3. Natural History Museum
The museum is the largest of its kind in Switzerland, with animal and geological collections spread over four floors.
Visitors might want to explore the cosmos. Meteorites, which sometimes find their way to earth, are time capsules containing dust from an era before our solar system formed. A meteorite specialist will be on hand to guide the curious into the cosmic past.
Another exhibition focused is on ants explains their highly complex organisational structure and formidable power-to-weight ratio.
4. FMAC Media Library
The FMAC Media Library (or Mediatheque) houses more than 2,000 artistic videos including the FMAC video collection, the André Iten Collection and the Christophe Chazalon Collection dedicated to Chris Marker. The current theme, “slightly slipping on a banana skin”, deals with issues such as our relationship with history, the environment and sociological questions.
Artist Sandrine Thomas and anthropologist Nayansaku Mufwankolo offer a video workshop for children using video from the collection and film found on the web.
5. 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.
In the 16th and 18th centuries, many French Protestants practiced their faith in secret. Others sought refuge in Geneva and changed the face of the city.
6. 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.
This year the museum offers taste buds the opportunity to experience the flavours of the street food of different migrant populations from around the world. Taste-bud travel.
This year is the 30-year anniversary of the museum.
7. 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.
8. Ariana Museum
Here the sound of the kora, a West-African stringed instrument, played by Cathy Sarr and Sankoum Cissokho will transport you to West Africa.
In addition, the Ariana Museum contains the Swiss Museum of ceramics and glass, with its rich collections of over 27,000 objects. It is the only museum of its kind in Switzerland and one of the most important in Europe in its field.
9. Conservatory and botanical gardens
Here you will learn about seeds and how they travel, and be offered a chance to immerse yourself in the world of mountain flowers from Oceana, Corsica, the Pyrenees, Japan, America and the Swiss Alps.
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 the art works.
In addition, there will be the work of Timothée Calame, winner of the 2017 MANOR prize for culture. Calame’s recent work focuses on designing and partitioning space using sculptural curtains, platforms, barriers and screens.
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.
The museum is now 10 years old!
12. Les Berges de Vessy
On this site are three presentations covering preventing natural disasters, emergency shelter and migration.
This exhibition also 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, 6pm or 7:30pm depending on the venue. Museums will open on Sunday at their normal times.
For those over 18 there is an 80s themed disco at the Parfumerie from 11pm until 5am.
A full programme with opening times is available here (in French). A programme of events presented in English is available here (in English).
Five free 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 27, 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 an unexpected voyage of discovery.
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