As much as I love the movie Night at the Museum – starring Ben Stiller, Robin Williams and none other than the wonderful Dick Van Dyke – this blog post is actually about something else. It’s about an actual night that Alex and I spent at an actual museum! The Natural History Museum in London to be precise. The experience was aptly named Dino Snores for Grown-Ups (presumably to avoid a copyright lawsuit from 20th Century Fox, but a great name anyway I thought)!
The night in question was 19 January 2013 and we arrived at the museum at 7.30pm – long after the regular museum punters had been kicked out. The short walk from the tube to the museum had left a dusting of snow on our rucksacks, and I was feeling slightly apprehensive that the promise of adventure and excitement would soon fizzle out, replaced by a miserable night of shivering on the cold floor of a drafty museum.
Luckily we arrived to a warm welcome from the Dino Snores team, and while Alex set up camp in the incredible Central Hall (behind a pillar by the ticket desk – the spots around Dippy the Diplodocus had already been taken!), I headed to the bar to grab us a couple of glasses of champagne, which we drank listening to angelic harp music from the Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra’s Cecilia Sultana de Maria.
Before long it was time for dinner – a tasty three course meal with our fellow campers. Then it was time for a quiz about the museum and all things natural and historic. Alas our table didn’t win, but it was fun nonetheless!
And then the real fun began. We saw a brilliant and hilarious presentation about insect sex (which included slides of a fly that has a giant penis in relation to its size), and then to continue the bug theme, we took part in a midnight feast with edible-insect tasting (conclusion – they taste yuck). Next we checked out Treasures, showcasing 22 special exhibits chosen from 70 million specimens and artefacts. My favourite was Audubon’s book The Birds of America – definitely something I would buy if I ever have a spare £7million! After that we took a look at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition – the perfect place to walk around feeling overwhelmed at the talent of the world’s finest wildlife photographers (some of whom are children!). And then it was time for the pièce de résistance – a turn around the Dinosaurs gallery! At 2am!!! With a glass of wine!! And (no offence to children) no children! This was something people normally just don’t get to do, so it was awesome!
By now the all-night natural horror movie marathon was underway, so we started to watch a movie about piranhas (I think it was called Piranha). But before long we were starting to feel pretty sleepy (it’s not often we’re awake at such a late hour after all!), so we headed back to our ticket desk campsite and curled up for some sleep.
Five minutes later (or so it felt!) we were woken by the sunlight streaming through the roof, the muffled sounds of hundreds of happy campers, and the mouth-watering smells of bacon and coffee. After we’d scoffed down our tasty breakfast it was time to head out into the real world again. And so at 9.30am we walked down the steps of the Waterhouse Building into a peaceful, snow-covered London. There were a few people walking along Cromwell Road as we left, all somewhat confused to see a bunch of bleary-eyed twenty-somethings, with rucksacks and sleeping bags, emerging from a museum that wasn’t supposed to open for another half an hour…