A menacing specimen from the Sedgewick Museum

The tag line for this event was  "When a museum is locked up for the night, do you wonder what the dinosaurs, statues and mummies get up to?” Sadly, they do not start wandering around searching for dinner, though hordes of screaming children who could have done with being thinned out. However, the constant fear of treading on a small child in the dark is possibly the only negative thing about this event.

Thankfully, the event was not a chance to encourage Stephanie Meyer to write more books, but rather an initiative by seven Cambridge museums, New Hall Art Collection and the Botanic Gardens to generate more visitors by letting people in during the evening and worked well as an incentive for drawing more visitors. The two participating venues I visited (the Archaeology & Anthropology museum and the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences) were packed.

The Arch & Anth museum had completely blacked out its bottom floor and had a 'Body Trail' for children to hunt down in the dark, though the upstairs gallery was the place to go for those of more mature years. The whole floor was partially lit, and the interplay between light and shadows very effective – the giant carving of a bear in one of the few bright corners of the room made it much more frightening than during a daylight viewing, and the partial shadows cast on totem poles and Samurai armour made them loom out of the dark, recapturing some of the awe that they would have originally inspired.

Over in the Sedgewick Museum, the organisers had opted for multi-coloured lighting, which added a dimension of fun to the evening. Casting colour onto the skeletal frames of dinosaur fossils definitely added to one’s viewing; a particularly toothy looking head had a distinctly nightmarish red backdrop, while the room full of crystals were prettily illuminated in the multi-coloured lights. Interestingly, one section was completely in the dark, and a chancing glance of torchlight there caused the discovery of massive prehistoric spider model, which genuinely made me jump.

This event was geared slightly more towards children than adults, though I did have a genuinely fun evening – the play with lighting worked well,  and next year’s exhibition comes highly recommended.

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