Monkeying around after hours

Chafing dishes, vines and amplifiers flew by each other as caterers, riggers and grips hurried them to their respective places.  In the span of an hour, the National Museum of Scotland’s grand gallery was transformed from Victorian to vegetation.

Vines hanging from the balconies, green speckled light playing across the floor, and staff hurrying about dressed in full monkey suits all give the impression of a jungle canopy. This was the immersive atmosphere of the museum’s after hours event, showcasing their current exhibition Monkey Business.

The Grand Gallery at the National Museum of Scotland is transformed into a jungle for Museum Late: Monkey Business.
The Grand Gallery at the National Museum of Scotland is transformed into a jungle for Museum Late: Monkey Business. Photo © Ruth Armstrong.

Putting on a Museum Late, as they’re called here, is an busy and exciting task. Arriving at 5:15pm after a day spent at a desk, I was immediately swept up in a wave of energy and activity as dozens of staff and volunteers prepared to put on a show for an eager crowd of grown-up children.

WHITE entertain the crowds.
WHITE entertain the crowds. Photo © Ruth Armstrong.

I was there to deliver ‘a fun activity’ as part of the primate themed evening. As students volunteering with the museum’s Science and Technology department, my partner and I had developed a (quite silly) game called Primate Pillow Talk and were buzzing to share it with visitors.

Soon enough the doors opened, the band struck up and the night was underway. With other activities including face-painting, crafts and dancing, it was obvious that adults enjoy a bit of play just as much as the younger generation.

Fabulous face painting from Fantoosh Face Art. Photo © Ruth Armstrong.

Giggles abounded at Primate Pillow Talk, as visitors tried to navigate human situations using the body language of our evolutionary cousins. Some the gestures were familiar, such as frowning at people you don’t like, while others were a bit more unexpected (few humans would recognize tearing strips from leaves with your teeth as flirting).

A stunning aerial performance from All or Nothing. Photo © Ruth Armstrong.

At the end of the night all in attendance (myself included) watched dancers from All or Nothing perform a fantastic aerial show.  Standing there watching my fellow humans climb and swing above me, I couldn’t help but feel an intense comradery with the hundreds of primate species with whom we share this planet.

The next chance to experience the museum at night is on Friday 7 April. Get playful at Party On, with exclusive adults-only access to the Science Festival’s Play On exhibition. Find out more at

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