When I was six or seven, Jurassic Park was released. I was a massive dinosaur fan as a child and so the idea of a film with dinosaurs was the best thing that could have happened to me. However, my parents went to see it to decide whether it would be suitable, they decided that it wouldn’t be. I was gutted and have quite possibly carried around that disappointment for the rest of my life. I still love dinosaurs a little bit but I can say that I have now seen Jurassic Park. So, when I discovered that the Natural History Museum opens up its doors for adults to spend a night at the museum, cutely titled ‘Dinosnores‘, my inner seven year old (now armed with a credit card!) wanted to buy tickets immediately. After consulting with the boyfriend, tickets were purchased, the date was entered into our diaries and the anticipation began.
I’ve been to the Natural History Museum before and whilst I enjoyed it, going on a weekend was never the brightest idea, we inched painfully slowly through the dinosaur exhibition and I tolerated lots of very excited children just so I could see the dinosaurs and particularly the animatronic T-Rex at the end.
Dinosnores offered the opportunity to go through the dinosaur exhibition as many times as I wanted, with the company of only 200 other people in the whole museum AND with a glass of wine in hand. Bonus.
So, on a Saturday night, we turned up at the Natural History Museum clutching our sleeping bags, ready to see whether things really do come alive at night in museums.
At 7.30pm we were let in and all rushed to find a little place to call ours for the night. We settled down in an alcove on the far left-hand side night to a slightly anaemic-looking but fluffy and frindly tiger hybrid that we quickly dubbed a ‘tibrid’.
Soon we were ushered through to dinner where the menu for the night was:
Starter: Pulled pork with apple, celery and raddichio salad
Main: Slow roasted lamb shoulder with garlic and rosemary on spring onion mash and salsa verde
Dessert: Raspberry tart
The schedule and my starter:
My main and dessert:
After raffle prizes were doled out (I’m still a bit sad I didn’t win the glow in the dark Ankylosaurus) and we were briefed for the night on the ground rules, we were sent off to enjoy either an Insect Sex Show or a Comedy Show. We opted for the Insect Sex Science Show (a tongue twister if ever there was one), with the excellent Dr Erica McAlister (who tweets under the username @flygirlNHM) where we basically learnt that female insects don’t necessarily get the best deal when it comes to sex, although then again it’s not always a barrel of laughs for some of the males either. Slightly traumatised, we moved on to a talk on dinosaur drawing before being able to explore the museum armed with quiz questions to answer.Empty halls of plesiosaurs and the mammal room:
The Earth Zone:
Wandering near-empty halls was truly amazing. We quickly abandoned the quiz in favour of just checking out the exhibits at our leisure and spending some quality time with the dinosaurs. We were also lucky as the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013 exhibition had only opened the week before, so we got to check out all of the entries without the usual £12 entry fee. Although it didn’t win its category, the one I liked best was probably this one.
By about 2am though we were flagging and decided to forego the ghost stories or move marathon in favour of bedding down for the night to the sound of the harpist playing twinkly lullabies to send us to sleep (she had been playing in the Central Hall throughout the night, my personal favourite being a harp version of Tale as Old as Time from Beauty and the Beast).
I drifted off to the sounds of the harp and under the watchful gaze of our furry tibrid bodyguard and only a few hours later I was rudely awakened by the snapping on of the main lights (note: do pay heed to the NHM’s advice on packing an eye mask if you want to take advantage of a lie-in, especially if you’re sleeping in one of the alcoves where the spotlights are blinding).
We had time for breakfast in the restaurant and a gradual wake up while a few more raffle prizes were doled out (sadly though I had no more luck with winning a glow in the dark dinosaur than I had the previous night).
We then packed up our belongings and headed home, blinking in the early morning daylight, just before the Sunday tourists arrived for the day.
At £175 each, it’s not cheap, especially as you do have to sleep on the floor (well, they do provide a camping mat but it’s not exactly luxury) but when else do you get to explore a museum with only 200 other people and a glass of wine in hand and then wake up the next morning staring at the beautifully ornate ceiling of the Natural History Museum? Plus, if you aren’t a Londoner, think of it as money you would have spent on a hotel room for the night. I conveniently forgot to mention the cost to my boyfriend, when I mentioned the £175 cost he was incredulous, when I clarified that was for one person I practically had to pull him off the floor, BUT he came away from the night thinking it was completely worth it and even suggested doing it again next year!
The only downside is that none of the shops were open either when we arrived or in the morning (unless you hung around until the museum opened properly), I’m sure they’d have made a fortune, I’d have definitely bought all the glow in the dark dinosaurs to compensate for not winning any!
So, a massive thank you to all the NHM Dinosnores staff for their enthusiasm and for making it an amazing night!