Wolf Kühnelt, conceptional creator of the “Night”: “… everything has to change to remain what it is”

The very first “Night of Museums” took place in the winter of 1997 in Berlin. Since then, the concept is perceived quickly and warmly in dozens of countries around the world. For a quick talk about the idea and history of the “Night”, we invited Mr. WolfKühnelt – conceptual creator of the event, who was kind enough to share with us the memories and experience he has gained over the years working for the “Night”.

Please tell us first how the idea for the “Lange Nacht der Museen” was born?

When in 1996  we developed the idea of the Long Night almost all the museums closed at 6 p.m. and a lot of visitors wanted to go there later too. At that time we already had some experience with the festival “Schauplatz Museum” where we offered concerts, readings, dance and guided tours during the evening hours in museums – so we thought it would be a good idea to open some of them up to 1.00 o’clock in the morning an offer a tiny little program, a “light version” of “Schauplatz Museum”, to the public.

Who were your conceptual partners? Which institutions helped you with the organization of the event?

First of all “Partner für Berlin” – the todays “beBerlin”- organization – and the people from the visitors service of the States Museums. Our organization was the “Museumspädagogischer Dienst” (“MD Berlin”)

How do you estimate the event contribution on city’s cultural development?

The “Long Night of the Museums” grow up in a very short time to the biggest cultural event in the city – more than 50.000 people bought tickets for a one-night-high-culture-event, that was quite unusual. The city of Berlin was very proud at that time…

How “Lange Nacht der Museen” implements itself in the cultural policies on regional and national level in Germany?

It just fits into the cultural development of that region…

What were the greatest challenges for you as organizers?

It’s still hard to take all the museums (we have almost 200 in Berlin) under one roof, so it’s always a challenge to motivate the staff in the participating museums and to have success with the public – after all these years.

What were your expectations for the first event and to what extend were they met?

The basic idea of the “Long Night” was to make the visit of a museum more attractive for people who are not used to go to museums – so the expectation of the participating museums was that visitors would enter their houses with beer and sausage in their hands. But very soon we discovered that 2/3 of the visitors are experienced museum-goers – so this expectation was totally wrong. Most of the visitors come for the reason to see museums they don’t know – that’s still the main motivation.

– How has the event changed over the years?

I hope it did’t change at all through the years – sometimes it is tradition what sells…

What are your future plans and expectations for theLange Nacht?

That’s actually the second part of the former answer – “everything has to change to remain what it is”. Therefore we stay in a tight contact to all the museums to think about prospective steps, about the appearance of the “Long Night”, about their messages.

Do you have any impressions from “Long Nights of Museums” in other countries?

Yes, we already visited some other “Long Nights” – not only in Germany where we have about 100  following the Berlin “Long Night”. We already were in Vienna, Paris, Buenos Aires, Reykjavik, Amsterdam, Budapest, Prague, Copenhagen – I’m sure I’ve forgotten some other places…

Autor: Vasilena Pancharova

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