On the evening of Friday 26 October, our first-ever, pop-up festival is setting up camp here for the week. Visitors arriving over the coming October half-term holiday period, 27 October to 2 November, will certainly be surprised when they come across some unusual displays and theatrical shows around the Museum...
Campsite characters will arrive at the Museum on Friday evening in Joni the campervan.
Sarah Punshon, our Darwin Centre Arts Events Programme curator, who's been planning this special event for over 3 months, tells us about the final preparations underway for The Campsite:
'I'm very excited about the unique performances and activities we've got in store for families this half-term – I can't wait to see visitors' faces when they come across The Campsite at the Museum!
'Vintage campervans, caravans and tents, each home to a playful performance or interactive installation inspired by Museum science, will be pitching up in and around the Darwin Centre this Friday evening, ready for Saturday's official opening. The Campsite is a unique mobile venue of theatre, art, music and film, created by young theatre company Field Trip, in collaboration with the Museum.
'The shows and activities are going to be a lot of fun and a welcome alternative for families if the usual popular places like the Dinosaurs gallery and the Central Hall get really busy.
Spot the roaming Lost Camper and point her or him in the right direction...
'We will have a few pop-up tents and attractions in unexpected places of the Museum - look out for our roaming Lost Campers, two "research scientists" who might need help finding their base camp - but most of the the action takes place in the Orange Zone around the Darwin Centre atrium area and outside on the Courtyard.
Become human specimen displays at The Campsite! Left, exhibition technician Ryan poses in one of the large specimen cases specially created; right, Museum joinery workshop manager Paul demonstrates the use of the giant pin, which incidentally should go through the thorax, Paul. Select images to enlarge them.
'As I write, the Museum joinery workshop team are putting the finishing touches to three human-sized display cases. These have been created specially for the Specimen Preparation Area activity in the Darwin Centre atrium, where visitors can be prepared for display by our energetic 'preparators' and dressed up as specimens to pose in the cases. So if you want to find out what it's like to be a Mammal or a Bird exhibit, now's your chance! But if you'd rather be an Insect, then there's always the option of being pinned into a giant drawer.
'Also in the atrium, there's an Audio Adventure to go on in a real polar tent. Two at a time, visitors can enter the tent, put on the headphones and follow the instructions they hear. You might find yourselves pretending to be a scientist visiting the Antarctic or diving under thick ice to collect samples, recording data, and meeting a penguin!
Children demonstrate two of the retro activities at The Campsite, Left: The Catalogue, where you can archive your own stories on vintage equipment; right, trying out the Audio Adventure.
'Outside on the Darwin Centre Courtyard, I'd recommend taking a seat in Lionel, the cinema in a campervan. Here you can choose from a menu of short science-inspired films. Or nearby, there's The Catalogue activity where our Archivist will be collecting stories about nature. Record your own story on cassette, type it up on a vintage typewriter, or draw a picture of it. The Archivist will carefully file it away – and perhaps later, someone else may need to use it, for research purposes...
'In the middle of the Courtyard there will be camping games to enjoy. And in a tent underneath the trees you can watch performances of an award-winning musical comedy about Charles Darwin, and listen to specially-commissioned songs about the weird and wonderful world of insects.
'For the last few weeks, a lot of my time has been spent match-making: putting artists and scientists together for interesting conversations, in the hope that something special will result. I feel confident we've succeeded.'
Inside every tent, caravan and campervan there'll be something special to discover. This tiny caravan above, currently being made by designer James Lewis, will hold a giant story about a blue whale.
The Campsite is the second in this year's programme of Darwin Centre art-and-play events. Whilst planning this one, Sarah and her team are already starting conversations with exciting artists about the third event – watch this space for more information.
The Campsite event is free to attend and runs from 27 October to 2 November.