Night at the Museum – Scottish style

If you were walking down Chambers Street on the third Saturday of October, you might have seen an unusual sight. There were children dressed in their finest pyjamas (sleeping bags tucked under arms and responsible adults trailing behind), all heading into the National Museum of Scotland. These families were lucky enough to be involved in the museum’s sleepover, where they could come in and experience the museum after hours – thankfully none of our exhibits came to life that night.

The grand Gallery of the National Museum of Scotland at night
The Grand Gallery of the National Museum of Scotland at night.

I was also lucky enough to be involved in this exciting opportunity. My role was one of a science communicator, as I have been helping out in the museum as part of a work placement. I am studying Science Communication at the University of Edinburgh, so this was a wonderful opportunity to get involved in a large-scale event and to see superb science communicators in action.

Two wonderfully vibrant actors took the families on a magical journey back in time to the period of the museum’s creation – the Victorian era – as they outlined the rules of the night. Split into four teams, the guests were taken to different areas of the museum to take part in a variety of activities.

Prism glasses allow people with muscular eye degeneration to look upwards or downwards more easily.
Prism glasses allow people with muscular eye degeneration to look upwards or downwards more easily.

I was based in the Science and Technology stack at one end of the Grand Gallery. My job there was to host a demonstration that would entertain the masses with a demo  of prism glasses.  These are used to help patients who suffer from a disease called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), which causes nerve damage surrounding the eyes and can make it difficult or painful for a person to control their eye movement.

These glasses reflect light in unusual and disorientating ways and the kids, along with the adults, were amazed at the effects. You can find these glasses in the Technology by Design section on the third floor in the museum.


When all the kids had done the full programme of activities, it was time to wind down. After packing up my stuff and helping to clear away all the other Science and Technology equipment I was walking through the Grand Gallery to leave for the night when a heart-warming sight greeted me. As I entered the gallery, dozens of children gathered around listening to a beautiful voice singing an old Scottish folk song, ‘Coulter’s Candy’. The air was still and peaceful and I could see some kids starting to drift off to sleep. I crept around the group and left the museum whistling along to the old Scottish tune.

Comments from guests at the museum sleepover
Comments from guests at the museum sleepover.

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