Posted by: annmucc | September 26, 2010

Uncovering Science After Hours

The Natural History Museum (NHM) yesterday joined it with other institutions in Europe to celebrate European Researchers’ Night by opening till late and putting on tours and activities for adults to enjoy the museum at night. Quite a number of museums do these ‘late night’ events in London, though we have never attended so far (though we should!) but it is not a regular activity for the NHM. We decided to take the plunge and attend.

I was first to arrive at the museum at around 5pm and while waiting for Michael I saw that a line was starting to build up for people to book a place on the tours that were to take place. I decided to jump in and wait in the queue, and Michael arrived just as I walking into the barriers so he slid into place next to me. We ended up waiting around 30mins in the queue as booking only was to open at 6pm (though it did open at 5:45), but I think it was worth it as otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten any tickets probably!

We got tickets for ‘Museum First Aid: A tour of the Palaeontology Conservation Unit (PCU)’ (my choice) and ‘Dinosaurs in the Dark’ (Michael’s). Technically we were only supposed to book for one tour, but we decided to split up and book for two each (as you could do that), and it was a success.

Having grabbed the tickets, we then walked out to grab some food – good idea? Not particularly! The food was good, but we ended up waiting for around 30mins to get through security- the event was that popular! We did pass the time by talking to the people around us though, which was nice :).

Back in the museum we went round the different stalls waiting for the time of the first tour to arrive. I particularly liked the chat we had with the ‘European Research Unit’ stand where the guy, Vince Smith, a cybertaxonomist, spoke about how biologist are working to build online communities to manage data. We also had an interesting discussion with a guy working with scanning electron microscopes in the museum.

It was soon off to the first tour, of the PCU. It was quite interesting to see how they deal with their collections, and how aware they are of preserving the data in their collections. The guy taking us round however DID have a grudge against pure scientists and people with PhDs! No job for me then :).

The second tour was then a tour of the Dinosaur exhibit. We were all given torches (hand-powered ones 😉 which we used as we walked around. The tour was led by a palaeontologist, who was one of the most excited people I’ve seen about dinosaurs. Her enthusiasm though was very infectious and even I, who never had much interest in them, found myself getting caught up in the tour – top points to her for enthusiasm and knowledge! (There is a dino directory on the NHM website if you’re interested too!)

By the time this tour ended it was getting quite late though. So we took one last walk around the museum and made our way home. I really liked the event! I think it is not the way to see the museum for the first time, but as an ‘added value’ experience of the museum, after having seen the exhibits in good light, it is definitely a good idea! We should start going to the other late nights at museums – we definitely should!


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