Friday, September 23, 2011

A night in museum

I realised suddenly this morning that the EU-wide Researchers' Night was to take place today. Here in London it was hosted by several venues but as most of them required pre-booking, we decided to go for the most obvious option - the Natural History Museum, which was also participating.

Diplodocus skeleton from above

The difference from the usual exhibitions (besides the late closure) were the real researchers working in museum itself and London universities telling visitors about their work and answering questions.

A scientist telling us about the fossilised "hobbits"

I don't know if that was really exciting for the people not usually working with public to answer endless lame questions from people like us wandering around but even if so the speakers were very nice to everybody indeed. And apart from just pleasure of talking to clever and nice people, I managed to learn a lot of things I didn't know before, e.g. about deciduous teeth of apes, how long does it take for an abandoned shell to fossilise or is the genetic distance between daytime and night butterflies longer than between two random ones.

A scientist after answering our questions

Having remembered my obsession with insects back in my childhood (I was a huge fan, read a lot and had my own collection), I rushed to entomology section where I had a chance to talk to speaker a bit longer, and was even asked if I am a scientist myself by any chance. Alas, not in the slightest bit :( This is the gentleman who endured my curiosity:


It as also allowed and welcomed to use various equipment: microscopes, preparations, cameras and even peculiar things like a special air drill used to break down the crystals covering the fossilised bones. For the latter option, you were given a real piece of rock with an ancient bone in it to play with.

Looking at nematodes Me holding a bug

All that was organised as desks standing in the museum halls with a unrestricted access. But we also went to a couple of special exhibitions which required to be there at specific time. First was museum library which is usually closed to public and contains a lot of hand-drawn pictures of New World species, many of them now extinct and not ever taken a photo of. And also among the books shown there was a very first edition of The Origin of Species:

The Origin of Species, the first edition

The second special event was a surgery section where three stages of cardiac arrest treatment were shown in a form of a dramatised show (performed by real doctors and nurses) with the comments given by an ICL professor:

Surgery section

For those of visitors who missed their traditional Friday pub, wine and beer was served as well as snacks and sandwiches. Everybody was enjoying their drinks right beside the desks with scientific equipment, and so did the scientists themselves (below is the sea algae desk):

People enjoing wine at the exhibition

A very unusual Friday night it was, and as much appreciated. But on the other thought, it is hard to tell what is unusual in London as something not typical is happening there at any given moment. What a great place it is to live in.

P.S. The full Flickr set is also available.

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