Spend Night in Museum ... but Don't Be Afraid of the Dinosaurs

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Byline: Ellen Widdup

FOR one weekend only, Londoners are being invited to spend a night at the museum.

Thousands will watch horror films next to ancient remains, woo prospective partners under the National Gallery's paintings and dance to Forties music on the deck of HMS Belfast.

The Museums at Night project, taking place across the city this weekend, involves dozens of venues staying open after hours to give commuters the chance to soak up some culture.

Organisers claim it is London's answer to the Hollywood blockbuster Night At The Museum II, which premiered in Leicester Square last night.

However, unlike the Ben Stiller film where dinosaurs come to life after he becomes trapped in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington overnight, the focus will be on human history. And any drama is likely to be fuelled by the free drinks on offer.

This is the fifth year the event has been running. Last year, 2,200 museums in 40 countries took part.

Jane Finnis, director of organisers Culture24, said she hoped the film would encourage people to attend.

"Our event opens up these wonderful buildings at night and lets people experience their magic in a new light.

"Some of it is spooky, some uncover secrets and locked rooms, some bring to life the collections with performance and music. You won't be bumping into a live T-Rex down a dark corridor but it is lots of fun," she said.

The Friday to Sunday programme runs alongside the European-wide Nuit des Musees celebrations.

It includes a night in a war shelter in the Churchill Museum -- complete with a rationing-style tea and Cabinet War Rooms in Westminster and a midnight tour of the National Gallery followed by music and drinks. Other events include two horror films at the Petrie Museum in the University College Museum, a Forties "Battleship Boogie" on HMS Belfast and a lamplit tour of the Florence Nightingale Museum at Waterloo.

A spokeswoman for the National Gallery said: "There is something special about being inside a museum or gallery at night.

"It also opens up opportunities for Londoners who work long hours and do not get a chance to visit an exhibition during their working week." Figures from the Trade Union Congress reveal Londoners work the longest hours in Britain. One in six works more than 48 hours per week, and about 45,000 work more than 66.

Roy Clare, chief executive of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, which is funding the programme, said: "Modern life is a 24-hour experience. …