“The Museums’ Night” Lebanon: Dreaming Through Art 

Nélida Nassar   04.11.2016

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On the evening of Friday, April 8th the capital of Lebanon, Beirut museums’ as well as the ones’ of the cities of Byblos, Sidon and Balamand were stormed by a crowd of almost twenty thousand nocturnal visitors coming to contemplate their diverse collections. The occasion was the 3rd edition of “The Museums’ Night,” spearheaded by the Ministry of Culture and the eleven participating museums’ curators and staff modeled after its European counterpart.

From 5 to 11 p.m., there was something unique about a museum at night, and only one night to experience art from the Prehistory, the Bronze and Iron ages, the Hellenistic, the Byzantine, the Arab and Mamluk periods all the way to the history of soap making, the ethnography and the contemporary art. Fish fossils, numismatic coins and bills, sarcophagus, gilded bronze, mosaics, glass, jewelry, sculptures and paintings promoted arts education and encouraged students and adults alike to take a fresh look at the works of a museum.

The crowd converged by car, shuttle buses, bicycle or on foot and each singular venue run a variety of events, and provided its own brand of made-of-dreams experiences. From mimes entertaining children to documentary films, creative workshops, festive music, food and drink sampling there was something for all tastes and ages. However, the magical moment was crystalized by the 3D light and sound mesmerizing projection onto the prestigious National Museum of Beirut’s facade that remained the most frequented venue.

With festive occasions such as “The Museums’ Night,” exhibitions and entertainment of all kinds, museums have learned to create events to dust off their image and attract a larger and more diverse audience. The great national museums have nothing more to do with the former austere old institutions. And the results are there to indicate visitors have jumped yearly and exponentially. The figures boosted as well a number of youth age 26 and below. The evening record attendance demonstrated a deep desire for similar events around museums beyond this unique evening as they would bring cohesion and conviviality. The art galleries didn’t wait long to follow into the museums’ footsteps by hosting their own “Art Night” on April 12. What is certain is “The Museum’s Night,” was a great accomplishment and the public had discovered or rediscovered the museums’ collections with a different eye.

The successful initiative attested that if the Lebanese war attempted and failed to kill the human spirit, the answer to the human spirit is to revenge with beauty. Art is about opening up to possibilities; possibilities links to hope, and we all need hope that the Ministry of Culture so brilliantly and triumphantly sparked in us as a nation.

Participating Museums
Beirut National Museum, Damas Street, Mathaf
MIM Museum,  Damas Street, St Joseph University Campus
Museum of Lebanese Prehistory of the Saint Joseph University,
Monot Street
Sursock Museum, Sursock Street
Villa Audi, Charles Malek Avenue
American University of Beirut (AUB) Archeological Museum, Bliss Street
Lebanese Central Bank Museum, Hamra Street

Ethnographic Museum at the University of Balamand, Koura

Armenian Genocide Orphans’ “Aram Bezikian” Museum, Armenie Street
Foundation Pépé Abed, Byblos Port

Soap Museum, Moutran Street

Photography Credit: #livelovemuseum