Last night was an amazing opportunity to experience a museum not only outside normal hours, but, from a whole different perspective. I have visited the Australian Museum prior to the Jurassic Lounge event and can confidently say that people dressed up as zombies and Eleven from Stranger Things don’t normally walk the halls. I will preface the entry by stating two facts about myself: 1. I love Halloween, 2. I don’t have a problem with museums wearing different hats to try and attract new audiences. In fact, I think the opposite.
Before delving down that rabbit hole, here is some information about what myself and some friends (shout out to Vanessa, Rachelle, and Emily) did last night and how we enjoyed Jurassic Lounge. Basically, the whole of the Australian Museum was transformed for Halloween with light shows, music, and special events on every floor. Every exhibition was open which was probably the most exciting thing for me to experience. A true night at the museum.
We started by visiting the new Spiders exhibition. There is heaps of information and interactives available in the exhibition space. I personally enjoyed seeing the live spiders. Speaking of live spiders, towards the end of the exhibition was spider milking. Probably the most dramatic part of the night was seeing the seemingly dead spider wake up from its anaesthetics and try to run away. Luckily, it was captured. They are pretty remarkable animals and as long as they stay away from my bathtub I am content.
After spider milking, we had a quick walk around the Wild Planet exhibition where we spotted Cleopatra and Julius Caesar inside.
Next on the agenda was listening to a couple of ghost stories. The ghost tour company founded by Jack Sim in Brisbane is starting tours in Sydney that look pretty interesting. For my sixteenth birthday I went with his company on a ghost tour of Toowong Cemetery. It was quite scary but mostly filled with interesting historical facts so well worth doing!
I was then determined to visit the “Plan your own Funeral” craft station where I made a mummy. You could also create your own tombstone and add it to the miniature cemetery. Last, but not least, we visited the Canyon Road murder mystery room where we watched a live performance of a Wolf Creek-style murder.
That provided a very quick summary of the night!
Going back to a point I made in the introduction, what I noticed was that a large majority of visitors were actually walking around the exhibitions, reading the panels, commenting on the displays etc. Saying that these events commercialize the museum at the expense of education, risk oversimplifying what happens during the event. Rather than being pure entertainment, or purely educational, these nights occupy a sort of gray area. I am very glad I went and saw a different side of the Australian Museum. These events do raise much broader and more difficult questions such as what is the role of the museum?
If I have learnt anything from the last 18 months of my Masters degree it’s that placing museums in a pigeon-hole is not only impossible, but, can be dangerous. There is great potential out there for museums to venture down new and creative paths, tackle controversial issues, and reinvent themselves. Each museum has a different set of agendas etc so some ideas might not work as well for some. With that knowledge, it is always exciting to see the next step a museum may take and think about what exactly is the museum of the future.