When will our museums always open at night?

All over Europe, and even in some cities in Italy, many museums open their doors in the evening, all the time. When will our state museums also adapt?

Last summer, as soon as the cycle of extraordinary evening openings at the Accademia Gallery in Florence was over, the director of the Florentine institute, Cecilie Hollberg, declared that the initiative had been a great success, and that the success of the operation was blatant proof of how keeping the museum open in the evening is a useful measure for increasing visitors. Similar successes have been recorded whenever Italian museums have opened their doors to the public beyond the usual closing time: it is difficult to enumerate the many instances in which visitors have flocked to the halls of our institutions when night opening programs have been proposed. And it is not difficult to understand the reasons for this: by opening museums in the evening, it is easier to reach a public that works or has other commitments during the day, it is possible to expand the cultural offerings of a city, an additional possibility is offered to citizens, an alternative to experience their city.

They have long understood this abroad: there are many foreign museums, large and small, that offer their audiences the opportunity of an evening visit. At the Louvre, for example, on Wednesdays and Fridays the museum extends its opening hours until 9:45 p.m., and the same happens on the first Saturday of every month. The National Gallery in London reserves Fridays for after-dinner opening (considering, of course, that the British have different daily rhythms than ours): the doors of the London museum close at 9 p.m. Even better does the Tate Modern: extended hours until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. In Vienna, the Kunsthistorisches Museum opens its doors until 9 p.m. on Fridays, while at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona the day voted for after-dinner opening is Thursday, when the doors close at 9:30 p.m. (and, incidentally, from 6 to 9:30 p.m. admission is free for everyone, all the time: not like here, where you have to wait once a month). In Greece, the Acropolis Museum opens on Friday evenings until 10:00, and even in Sweden the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm allows its visitors to visit until 9:00 on Thursdays. There are, however, virtuous cases among some Italian museums as well: in Milan, at the Palazzo Reale, evening opening is now an institution, and the Milanese know that they can visit the important exhibition center every Thursday and every Saturday until 10:30 p.m. (and this also happens at other civic museums such as the Museo del Novecento or Mudec). The same is true in Florence, where it is possible to walk through the halls of the two main civic museums at night, although for the time being only from April to September: at Palazzo Vecchio you can enter every day until 11 p.m., while at the Museo Novecento the extended opening day is Friday (also there until 11 p.m.).

Gli Uffizi di notte. Ph. Credit Chris Wee
The Uffizi at night. Ph. Credit Chris Wee

However, as far as our state museums are concerned, the idea of making evening openings structural has never been seriously considered. We have legions of museums that open at eight o’clock in the morning, from the Uffizi to the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua, from the Pinacoteca di Brera to Palazzo Barberini (but, apart from a few early-rising schoolchildren and a few tourists who get up early so they don’t have to stand in line, who goes to visit museums that early?), while for an opening after eight o’clock in the evening, which would be decidedly more appealing especially to the local public, the one composed of those who live the city every day of the year, it is always necessary to wait for impromptu initiatives to be organized. Is it possible that, instead, the extraordinary cannot be made ordinary? Certainly: as the director of the Paestum Archaeological Park, Gabriel Zuchtriegel, confirmed to us in the interview recently, it is primarily a problem of personnel and resources. There are difficulties in allocating spending (keeping a museum open at night costs more than keeping it open during the day) and obstacles of a trade union nature (since it would involve overtime work): yet it seems that in several European countries, as well as at the municipal level in some cities in Italy, these problems have been brilliantly overcome. And one wonders, therefore, whether the Ministry could not begin to think about bringing state-run museums in line with what happens in the rest of the world, starting with thorough cost-benefit analyses (if it is true that permanent evening openings could be a way to increase the number of visitors, consequently revenues would also increase) and perhaps even evaluating on a case-by-case basis.

The cultural growth of citizens would benefit. Consider what happens in movie theaters: it is perfectly normal for a movie theater to keep its doors open even after dinner. And it is perhaps idle to recall how cinemas are places of gathering, where it is pleasant to go to spend an evening. When will the same result be achieved for museums? When will it be possible for a worker to have the option of not necessarily having to wait on Saturdays and Sundays to visit a museum? When will it be entirely natural to hear a group of young people say, “Let’s go to the museum tonight,” just as they now propose to spend an evening at the movies or the pub? When, in essence, will museums take that extra shot at becoming more like places to live and hang out? Certainly a number of initiatives have been undertaken in recent years to bring museums closer to citizens, with good results: and it is also for this reason that this seems an appropriate time for further reflection on accessibility, which also looks at opening hours.

Warning: the translation into English of the original Italian article was created using automatic tools. We undertake to review all articles, but we do not guarantee the total absence of inaccuracies in the translation due to the program. You can find the original by clicking on the ITA button. If you find any mistake,please contact us.