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Night of Museums goes one-on-one with hockey

THE NIGHT of Museums and Galleries, an international event first organised eight years ago, is observed throughout much of Europe. It offers a tremendous bargain: admission to all participating venues for the price of one ticket. Unfortunately, this year the event faced some tough competition as it fell on Saturday, May 19, the same day the Slovak ice hockey team was playing the Czech Republic in a semi-final game of the IIHF World Championships. And at times it seemed – especially during the match itself – that the only people visiting the museums were mothers, children and foreign tourists. But after the match ended, more men arrived, some of them still decked out in their hockey jerseys and T-shirts and in the end the museums and galleries had record-breaking attendance.

An execution is re-enacted at Miklušova väznica (Mikluš' Prison) in Košice. (Source: TASR)

THE NIGHT of Museums and Galleries, an international event first organised eight years ago, is observed throughout much of Europe. It offers a tremendous bargain: admission to all participating venues for the price of one ticket. Unfortunately, this year the event faced some tough competition as it fell on Saturday, May 19, the same day the Slovak ice hockey team was playing the Czech Republic in a semi-final game of the IIHF World Championships. And at times it seemed – especially during the match itself – that the only people visiting the museums were mothers, children and foreign tourists. But after the match ended, more men arrived, some of them still decked out in their hockey jerseys and T-shirts and in the end the museums and galleries had record-breaking attendance.

The aim of this international event, which always takes place on the third Saturday in May, is to lure people to museums and other cultural sites by offering them bonuses such as “behind the scenes” looks at exhibits not normally open to the public as well as guided tours, lectures and workshops.

Artur Šturmankin, the co-ordinator of the Bratislava event from the Slovak National Museum, told The Slovak Spectator that this year some 46,000 people visited museums in Bratislava, a new record. The most popular venues were the Natural History Museum, with 8,325 visitors, followed by the Historical Museum at Bratislava Castle, with 4,795 visitors. The Slovak National Gallery attracted 3,640 people and the Museum of Transport lured 5,199. The “best newcomers” to the Night of Museums were the T Gallery, with 948 visitors, and the newly-opened Museum of Customs, with 900 visitors.
Culture Minister Marek Maďarič opened the proceedings at Bratislava Castle, where articles damaged in a major fire at Krásna Hôrka Castle in south-eastern Slovakia were displayed.

For those who preferred more relaxing entertainment, the Music Museum offered a concert of Franz Liszt music performed by Duo Papp on harp and flute, interspersed with a dramatic reading of letters that Liszt wrote to Countess Maria d’Angoult. Liszt lived and worked in Bratislava when it was a more multi-cultural city and German and Hungarian were the primary languages.

Another musical museum in downtown Bratislava is the modest but well-preserved house where composer and piano virtuoso Johann Nepomuk Hummel was born in the late 18th century. It offers a taste of the period atmosphere as well as information on the life and work of Hummel. He is known as one of the great piano virtuosi of his time even though he seldom performed in the city of his birth.

The musical part of the evening culminated with a concert in the smaller Ján Cikker Museum near Bratislava Castle. Works by Astor Piazzolla were performed by Ladislav Fančovič on piano (Sonata No 1, Op. 7, Tango Ultimo, Leijla’s Game and La Muerte del Angel) and then by the duo of Adam Stráňavský on piano and Michal Červienka on accordion. To enhance the mood, Argentinean wines were offered after the concert. The small family villa that was once the home of Cikker, a Slovak composer, was packed and some guests were forced to sit on the stairs.

Other concerts took place in the Slovak National Gallery, in the Music Hall of Bratislava Castle and at the Museum of Trade in the Podunajské Biskupice district of Bratislava where a rock concert resounded into the night.

The Slovak National Gallery joined offered an extensive range of events: it prepared workshops and performances for families, guided tours of temporary and permanent exhibitions of the gallery, presentations by the SNG’s restorers, screenings of advertisements, and concerts, to mention just a few. A night tour – Heaven Hell in SNG – of parts of the gallery not normally accessible to visitors was one of the closing events. SNG general director Alexandra Kusá guided the tour, with stops in the boiler room, the warehouse of artworks, closed exhibition premises, as well as the roof of the gallery. The tour also revealed the dilapidated condition of some of the SNG premises that are awaiting reconstruction.

Bratislava City Museum in the Old Town Hall was one of the most popular venues of the evening. The Old Town Hall, which re-opened in July 2011 after three years of reconstruction, offered guided tours through its rich collection. Though the tours were offered only in Slovak, foreign visitors were able to read texts in English as well as utilise touchpad screens with information in Slovak, English and German. The climb to the top of the city tower, though not as demanding as other sites, was made more complicated because of the narrow spiral staircase that permitted only one-way traffic. But the view from the top of the tower was beautiful, even including a lovely sunset over the Bratislava skyline.

The Night of Museums was not confined to the capital. Exhibitions and events in Košice, Prešov, Poprad, Bardejov, Levoča, Banská Bystrica, Zvolen, Liptovský Mikuláš, Dolný Kubín, Martin, Žilina, Ružomberok, Nitra, Trnava and Trenčín included visits to castles, galleries and smaller, specialised museums.

“Each year, we see enormous interest by Prešov inhabitants and we are glad that they always bring along their friends,” Marek Duchoň of the Slovak Technical Museum in Prešov, told the TASR newswire. This museum is commemorating the 440th year since rock salt was first mined in the region. One popular attraction for visitors was the rare night sight of a konský gápeľ – a horse-powered lift used to draw the salt from deep underground.

Other venues in Prešov Region included the medieval fortifications of Hanušovce nad Topľou and the museum in Stará Ľubovňa, which opened its reconstructed Renaissance palace after 260 years. In Poprad, the Podtatranské Museum focused on environmental protection and recycled paper, while the local gallery offered a short course in drawing. The Šariš Gallery in Prešov offered workshops for making environmental jewellery and the Andy Warhol Museum in Medzilaborce organised a concert and screening of Warhol movies. The Vihorlat Museum in Humenné shifted its main events to Sunday, where it offered a rich programme of historical fencing in its Renaissance castle and in nearby open-air museum.

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