Discover what really happens in our museums at night

Mallets Mortar at Fort Nelson
Mallets Mortar at Fort Nelson
Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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Hollywood actor Ben Stiller imagined what happens in museums after the doors have closed and staff and visitors have gone home in the blockbusting Night At The Museum film franchise.

His family films see exhibits come to life after hours when no-one can see. The fantasy adventure movies left many imaginative young minds eager to get into a museum after closing time themselves. And their wishes are granted this weekend by a national annual after-hours celebration of arts, history and heritage.

Museums At Night sees hundreds of museums across the UK staying open late and hosting special events to celebrate.

Local highlights include the recently-redeveloped Fort Nelson on Portsdown Hill opening from 6pm to 9pm tonight for a rare chance to explore the Victorian fortress at night.

Families can meet uniformed gunners from the Portsdown Artillery Volunteers, plus the crew of the mighty Sexton tank, which will be roaring around the parade ground and firing its gun at 7.15pm and 8.15pm.

The Sexton will even open its hatch for children to climb inside and take a closer look.

There will also be firings of the 64-pounder saluting gun at 6.30pm and 7.45pm, plus storytelling tours with Old Ma Bobbins at 6.15pm, 7.30pm and 8.30pm.

Admission costs £3 for adults, £2 for children, or £8 for a family of up to three children.

Meanwhile, Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower in Gosport is offering families the chance to sleep over in the galleries and the Georgian former gunpowder store from 6pm tonight until 9am tomorrow.

The evening includes trails, activities and a film screening.

Tickets cost £15 per child and accompanying adults get in for free. Dinner and breakfast is provided for all. To book, call (023) 9250 5600.

Further afield, you can explore Fishbourne Roman Palace and Gardens tomorrow from 7pm to 9pm.

The event offers families the chance to uncover the stories surrounding the destruction of the palace as dusk falls.

By the flickering light of oil lamps, they can enjoy a cup of mulsum, a Roman spiced drink, as costumed guides reveal the story of a catastrophic night in the third century when Fishbourne Roman Palace (one of the largest and most luxurious homes in the Roman Empire) burned to the ground.

Standard admission (£8.20 adults, £4.20 children, £21.50 family) applies. To book, call 01243 785859.

Finally, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is laying on an event for adults tomorrow night as the National Museum of the Royal Navy hosts a murder mystery evening.

Participants can travel back to wartime Britain, from 7.30pm to 10.30pm, to join the secret codebreakers as they use their detective skills to unmask a spy.

Tickets cost £45 and include a three-course meal. To book, call (023) 9272 522.

Visit museumsatnight.org.uk for more information.