Concert beneath Charles Bridge, Čertovka boat ride, among highlights of Museum Night

Museum Night 2014, photo: archive of Karel Zeman Museum

This Saturday, June 13, sees the 12th annual Prague Museum Night, when dozens of museums and other cultural institutions will remain open to visitors long after closing. One venue which is participating is the Karel Zeman Museum – dedicated to the work of one of Czechoslovakia’s greatest animators and film innovators.

Museum Night 2014, photo: archive of Karel Zeman Museum
I spoke to the museum's Tereza Veselá.

“Prague Museum Night is a very special event when institutions remain open well after classic visiting hours. Visiting at night offers an unusual experience and the atmosphere is very exciting. Also, entrance is free throughout the event.”

In your opinion, what are some of the prime sites which will see a lot of visitors?

“It is hard to say. Some 80 institutions, from museums to galleries and other cultural venues, are taking part so it is hard to say which are the most loved. The Karel Zeman Museum is taking part for the third time; although we are a private museum we took part immediately after the museum was founded.”

What are some of the things that will different this Prague Museum Night?

“We have prepared a special concert: musician, innovator, and composer Jan Burian will perform beneath the famous Charles Bridge.”

“We have prepared a special concert: musician, innovator, and composer Jan Burian will perform beneath the famous Charles Bridge. Jan Burian is the grandson of composer E.F. Burian who did the original score for Karel Zeman’s film The Journey to the Beginning of Time. His grandson, who is very well-known in his own right, will perform some of the original music as well as draw on it for some of his own compositions, modern electronic music. He also creates some of his own instruments.”

Journey to the Beginning of Time was Karel Zeman’s famous picture about the prehistoric period, including the age of the dinosaurs, which inspired many - directors like Steven Spielberg or Tim Burton.

“Certainly we are looking forward to it including how Jan Burian will interpret it.”

Concert beneath Charles Bridge - Museum Night 2014, photo: archive of Karel Zeman Museum
What else will be happening?

“We have prepared a special programme for children, animation, we will be projecting images and there will be a boat ride on Čertovka, this medieval canal in the Little Quarter which features prominently in Prague legends. They used to believe that devils or water goblins appeared there, so the little boat trips should be a lot of fun. There is an old mill there and the atmosphere should be very, very special.”

When you have a night like this one, do you bring in extra staff? Do you make any changes and will the museum open as normal the next day?

“The museum opens as usual the next day. This is something of course we are well prepared for. As for closing time, we will close only after there are no more visitors. Last year, it was after 1 AM and I expect this year will be about the same.”

“The Čertovka canal is the focus of many legends featuring devils or water goblins.”

We have been talking about Museum Night but let me take the opportunity to ask about another important event just a few weeks away: the re-release of Zeman’s film The Fabulous World of Jules Verne.

“The film will get a new premiere at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and will simultaneously be screened at Expo 2015 in Turin, as well as at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York. Viewers will also be able to see it at the same time on Czech TV. Newly titled The Deadly Invention, the film first premiered almost 60 years ago at Expo ’58 in Brussels. After this premiere, it won the Grand Prix and was screened worldwide. It has been fully digitally restored in cooperation with the museum, the Czech Film Foundation and Czech TV. So this will be something very special.”

What place does this film hold for Czech viewers, compared to something like Journey to the Beginning of Time?

'Invention for Destruction', photo: UPP
“Well it was one of Czechoslovakia’s most successful films ever, so I think it is very much appreciated. It has a very original visual style. The plot is about an invention which could easily destroy the world, so it is still very relevant today. Of course, there is a big difference if you a see a film like this one on TV or on a large cinema screen. We are happy not only to be part of bringing the film back but especially that viewers will get the chance to see the film again on the big screen.”