Dancing with the Dinosaurs: How the Museum Became the Hottest Place in Ottawa for a Night

As you walk in, the music is pumping throughout the whole building, the overhead lights are dimmed and funky pink spotlights add a festive splash over the walls, and of course, beer, wine and fruity cocktails are being served to plenty. Sounds like your typical Friday night at a bar? Think again! This past Friday night, the museum transformed into the hottest Ottawa social scene as Nature Nocturne, its newest program for adults, debuted.

Overhead view of a tightly packed crowd.

Last Friday night, the museum was THE place to be in Ottawa, for the first evening of Nature Nocturne. Image: Martin Lipman © Canadian Museum of Nature

Overhead view of the line to the reception desk.

People came pouring through the doors as soon as they opened at 8:00 p.m.! Image: Martin Lipman © Canadian Museum of Nature

The minute the doors opened at 8:00 p.m., the atrium—usually teeming with excited children and a sea of strollers—was flooded by adults of varying ages who were looking forward to a great night out. And despite the early predictions of around 1000 people intending to attend this event, over 1800 passed through the doors!

As a special bonus to visitors, in addition to the six amazing galleries that were all available for perusing, a handful of local artists also dotted the museum with their interactive works for all to enjoy. From an interactive light display in the dinosaur forest, to a participatory thumbprint painting, to knitted (and scannable) QR codes, to relaxing classical guitar, the museum really did have something for everyone.

A woman placing her thumbprint on the art piece.

In addition to being able to see all of our galleries, visitors could engage with local artists and partake in interactive artwork, such as this thumbprint piece by heARTbeatgal. Image: Martin Lipman © Canadian Museum of Nature

So indeed the old adage of “if you build it (in this case a big castle filled with dinosaurs and a dance floor), they will come” is true!

As I walked around the event, I was actually a little surprised at how these visitors interacted with the museum. As an educator, I’m used to seeing the galleries swarming with children who immediately gravitate towards the interactive stations and play areas. If it has sounds and lights, you bet they’ll play with it. It turns out that after removing the social pressures of leaving the play areas free for the kids to use, adults will revert back to their younger selves and interact with the spaces in the exact same way!

A handful of people in a cluster near a life-sized dinosaur model, making large gestures.

It turns out that adults love being silly too! Imitating dinosaurs in our dinosaur forest isn’t just for kids. Image: Martin Lipman © Canadian Museum of Nature

In the Mammal Gallery, I watched as two young women put on a puppet show, dressed as a deer and a bear themselves, for their giggling friends. In the Talisman Energy Fossil Gallery, a group of people gathered around the duck-billed dinosaur sound interactive, each taking their turn to pump out a distinctive “honk”, before bursting into a fit of laughter.

Overhead view of a tightly packed crowd.

Dancing with the dinosaurs (and under an inflatable blue whale) proved very popular. Image: Martin Lipman © Canadian Museum of Nature

And this is exactly what this event was designed to do. In this kid-free zone, adults can be themselves, act goofy, make silly jokes and not worry about saying something inappropriate. Just like the Museum has become a haven to young children on Saturdays and Sundays, Nature Nocturne is meant to be the same for adults.

Two women pose in front of a wall.

Drinking with the tarantulas (and other creepy critters) was very popular as visitors flooded into Animalium to enjoy the evening’s signature drink, the Mexican Red-Knee. Image: Martin Lipman © Canadian Museum of Nature

Another major element of this event was the social-media scene. Thanks to the encouraged use of #Nature Nocturne on our Twitter Wall, Twitter was aflutter with pictures and status updates as the event progressed. With such comments as “Drinking with a live tarantula”, “Gotta love dancing under a whale”, and even, “Retreat! It’s a trap! We’re actually learning”, people loved sharing these fun moments throughout the evening.

In fact, comments about #NatureNocturne were tweeted so often, it was officially trending in Canada that evening, according to trendsmap.com.

And the social media experience certainly didn’t stop at midnight. Visitors are able to see all photos sent to the Twitter Wall from a web site that has compiled them all. Additionally, many photos taken by our photographer and at our photo booth are also posted on our Facebook page, encouraging visitors to continue sharing their fun experiences well after the event is over.

The Twitter Wall display projected on the wall over the ground-floor stairs.

Our Twitter Wall became a major focal point all evening as visitors uploaded their photos (with the hashtag #NatureNocturne) to share with everyone as the evening progressed. Image: Martin Lipman © Canadian Museum of Nature

And since social media is also a great way to gather feedback, we were excited to read reviews of the event in others’ blogs to know what visitors enjoyed about their experience, and what we have to work on—like those line-ups at the bar no doubt ;)—for the next event.

If by chance you didn’t get to attend this event, or would love to dance with the dinosaurs all over again, you’re in luck! Nature Nocturne returns again on the last Friday of the month in February, March and April and then in autumn.

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