Dr Johnson's House at night

Museums at Night 2016: 11 hidden gems to see after dark this week

How do you make some of London’s most beautiful museums and historic houses even prettier? By filling them with candlelight, of course.

And that’s exactly what Museums at Night aims to do — from today until Saturday, many of the city’s best hidden places will be open later than normal. Here is a selection of my favourites, including candlelight evenings, guided tours, and special events taking place this week.

See the full calendar of events at the festival website.

Where will you see at Museums at Night 2016? Let me know in the comments, or pop me a message!

1. Benjamin Franklin House (Thursday & Friday)

Benjamin Franklin House London

Image: A Peace of London

Learn about the history and architecture of the only surviving residence of Benjamin Franklin, the American inventor and Founding Father of the United States, at one of the house’s architectural tours. Learn about the 16 years that Dr Franklin lived here, why there was an anatomy school in the basement, and the house’s connection to Winston Churchill.

Museums at Night opening times: Thursday 12th and Friday 13th May, tours start at 7pm and 8pm both nights

Booking? Book in advance: tickets are £5 (£3.50 for concessions). Buy from the box office in person or call 0207 8392 006.

More information: Read my review here or visit the Benjamin Franklin House website

2. Bethlem Museum of the Mind (Thursday)

Bethlem Museum of the Mind, London

Picture credit: surprise truck on Flickr

This lesser-known museum was voted one of the best museums in the UK earlier this year, so now’s the time to visit it after dark at a special talk about their project ‘Animated Minds’, a series of short-films aimed at addressing stereotypes around mental illness.

Museums at Night opening times: Thursday 12th May, 6.30pm-7.45pm

Booking? Free, book at the museum’s website

More information: Visit the Bethlem Museum of the Mind website

3. Dr Johnson’s House (Thursday)

Dr Johnson's House at night

Image: Dr Johnson’s House / A Peace of London

Take a rare chance to visit the former home of Samuel Johnson by candlelight at a special late opening for Museums at Night 2016. See the garret where Dr Johnson compiled his dictionary, climb the original staircase, and enjoy this beautiful Georgian building as its most famous inhabitant would have known it.

Normal admission fee applies (currently £6) and you’ll get a free glass of wine in the bargain, too.

Museums at Night opening times: Thursday 12th May, 5.30pm-8pm

Booking? Drop-in, normal admission fee applies

More information: Read my review here or visit the Dr Johnson’s House website

4. Charles Dickens Museum (Thursday)

Charles Dickens Museum, London

Image: Siobhan Doran Photography, © Charles Dickens Museum

Explore No.48 Doughty Street by candlelight, learn the secret of Catherine Dickens’ butter recipe at a special churning demonstration, enjoy live acoustic music in the library, and discover a hidden walled garden at this late opening of the former home of the famous author.

Museums at Night opening times: Thursday 12th May, 6pm-8pm

Booking? £12 entry, book at the museum’s website

More information: Visit the Charles Dickens Museum website

5. Horniman Museum and Gardens (Thursday)

Horniman Museum, Forest Hill, south east London

Image: A Peace of London

Join the Horniman Museum for a night for a night of music, films, spoken word, talks and extravagant performances at their Queer Late.

Learn more about England’s LGBTQ history and heritage, try some queer tango moves, see portraits of LGBT asylum seekers, watch films about love, and experience a new performance piece by artist-in-residence Robson Rozza.

Museums at Night opening times: Thursday 12th May, 6.30pm-9.30pm

Booking? Booking required: tickets are £5 (over-18s only), book at the museum’s website

More information: Visit the Horniman Museum website

6. Museum of the Order of St John (Thursday)

The Museum of the Order of St John, London

Picture credit: Julian Walker on Flickr

Test your general knowledge and see a piece of London’s history at the same time at the Museum of the Order of St John’s traditional pub quiz. The quiz will take place in the museum’s historic rooms while staff from the historic Jerusalem Tavern serve drinks and bar snacks.

Museums at Night opening times: Thursday 12th May, 6.30pm-9.30pm

Booking? Booking required: team tickets are £30 (max six people per team), book at Design My Night

More information: Visit the Museum of the Order of St John website

7. The Hunterian Museum (Thursday)

hunterian museum Crystal gallery 1LGE

Image: courtesy of the Hunterian Museum, Royal College of Surgeons of England

To vaccinate, or not to vaccinate? Make your own mind up at The Hunterian Museum’s late event dedicated to the history of and changing attitudes to vaccination. Accompanying the museum’s ‘Vaccination: Medicine and the Masses’ exhibition will be a specially-commissioned work by The British Society for the History of Science ‘Strolling Players’ and a talk by medical historian Dr Richard Barnett about horrifyingly beautiful illustrations of infectious disease.

Museums at Night opening times: Thursday 12th May, 6pm-9pm

Booking? Free, book at Eventbrite

More information: Visit the Hunterian Museum website

8. Old Operating Theatre Museum (Friday)

Old Operating Theatre, London Bridge

Image: A Peace of London

Gather in the oldest operating theatre in Europe for ‘Night of the Bodysnatcher’, a talk about the gruesome history of the Resurrectionists, the men who supplied the dissecting rooms of London from the graves of the city.

The talk will be held by Kirsty Chilton, Assistant Curator at the Old Operating Theatre Museum, who will tell stories about this horrific work, including the tricks of their trade…

Museums at Night opening times: Friday 13th May, 7pm-8pm

Booking? £8 (£6 for concessions), book at Eventbrite

More information: Read my review here or visit the Old Operating Theatre website

9. Keats House (Friday)

Keats House, Hampstead, London

Image: A Peace of London

See one of the most beautiful historic houses in London by twilight at Late Night Keats — an evening dedicated to John Keats and fellow wordsmith William Shakespeare. Follow the Keats and Shakespeare trail, hear their works performed, or grab a drink at the pop-up bar (price of a ticket includes a complimentary drink).

Museums at Night opening times: Friday 13th May, 7pm-9.30pm

Booking? £12, book at Eventbrite

More information: Visit the Keats House website

10. Osterley Park and House (Friday)

Learn about over 400 years of history at Osterley After Dark – a tour of the house and grounds starting at the Tudor stable block and taking in “the sinister and the sad, the dark and the dreadful.”

Museums at Night opening times: Friday 13th May, 8.30pm-10pm

Booking? £20, book at the National Trust website

More information: Visit the Osterley Park and House website

11. Grant Museum of Zoology (Saturday)

Grant Museum of Zoology, UCL, London

Image: A Peace of London

Ever wanted to watch a taxidermist at work? Do you want to watch a taxidermist at work now that you’ve read that last sentence? Well, you’re in luck, because UCL’s Grant Museum of Zoology is holding a night based around that very thing as part of Museums at Night 2016.

Watch live taxidermy by ethical taxidermist Jazmine Miles-Long and an exclusive viewing of the film short ‘Walter Potter: The Man Who Married Kittens’. If all of that leaves you needing a drink, then there will be a pop-up bar serving taxidermy-themed cocktails and other drinks throughout the night.

Museums at Night opening times: Saturday 14th May, 8pm-9.30pm

Booking? £8 (£6 for concessions), book at Eventbrite

More information: Read my review here or visit the Grant Museum website

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