Why go to a movie when you can experience the real thing? That’s our verdict, after spending a Night At Auckland Museum recently.
Billed as a chance to see the museum come alive after dark – just as the Smithsonian does in the movies of the same name - our Night At Auckland Museum did not disappoint.
Eagerly clutching their torches, Mr 8 and Miss 6 almost wet themselves with excitement as we charged through the doors at 5.30 pm. Literally. Thank goodness there was a handy restroom on the way in …
I looked longingly at the coffee-cart, but the queue was already lengthy and the kids were on a mission to explore as much of the dimly-lit museum as possible.
The museum certainly felt different after dark. Some areas were in total darkness, and it felt totally creepy – but in a delicious way. Cautiously exploring one darkened display, our torches suddenly lit up the face of a soldier mannequin, prompting squeals all round!
And there was a real carnival atmosphere as kids and adults alike charged around, trading hints on where to find the characters that had come to life. The characters included a soldier, a scientist, a wahine toa, a war-time nurse, an Egyptian princess, a Rarotongan musician, three lively dinosaurs, and the museum’s founder John Alexander Smith, as a portrait that wouldn’t shut up.
The kids loved them all, especially Nurse Nancy, who inquired solicitously about their health while brandishing a scary-looking vintage syringe.
The budding volcanologist voted Jonny Hair’s talk about volcanos and associated mini-eruption demonstration his favourite part of the evening. The reminder that Auckland is home to 49 volcanoes, and that earthquakes and/or eruptions could occur at any time, was music to his 8-year-old ears. Mine? Not so much.
For Miss 6 it was the museum’s resident dinosaur family which delighted, even though we almost needed the little girls’ room again when the largest herbivore, Basil, tried to snap her nose!
“It’s a herbivore Harmonie,” Mr 8 said witheringly. “He won’t eat you!”
The Knowledgeable One was thrilled to be chosen to tame the feisty dinosaur by hypnotising it, and even more excited when Basil chased him under a table for cheekily announcing: “There’s a man in there!”
Part-way through, there was an intermission which gave me time to get a coffee while the kids revived with a couple of hot chocolates and made some dinosaur masks. It was welcome chill-out time for a teary Miss 6, who had been overwhelmed by the crowds and excitement during Dinosaurs Alive.
The only real disappointment of the night was that we ran out of time to see all the displays, and get all of the stamps, before being summoned to the foyer for the Farewell.
Luckily, the staff assured kids they could still hand in their passports at the end of the night, even without all the stamps, to go into the draw for free stuff. Otherwise, we would have had a mutiny on our hands and I really would have been in line for an all-nighter at the Auckland Museum!
The characters gathered again to do a kitsch goodbye song to the tune of So Long! Farewell from the Sound of Music.
Our favourite verse went: So long, farewell, it was so nice to meet you, And we are glad, our dinos did not eat you!