By day, overexcited school kids on field trips overrun the National Museum of Scotland; yummy mummies occupy the café, taking their babies out to tea. But once every six months, adults take over and are given a chance to ‘play’. Once night falls, you can take your place on a magic carpet that doesn’t permit shoes (it feels like primary school again), on which you make a golden crown with stick-on gems, there’s face painting, there are 16th century costumes to try on; the inverse is liberating: it’s like Twelfth Night, or the night of misrule.
This particular Museum Lates session was focused around the current Mary Queen of Scots exhibition that runs until mid November, which itself is certainly worth a visit. The exhibition charts the legendary Queen’s tumultuous life, which culminates in one of most gripping unsolved murders in history. Amidst regal portraits and a selection of dazzling jewels, visitors are left to form their own opinions of the enigmatic woman.
Outside the particular exhibition the lates party was in full swing. DJ Éclair Fifi, one of BBC radio one’s ‘in new DJs we trust’ delivered a mix of deep house to the crowds in the main hall, while in the museum’s ‘imagine gallery’, a pair of Fresh Air DJs mixed two parallel sets for the event’s silent disco. The curved mirrors that adorned the walls of the gallery provided an interesting backdrop to the dance floor, the reflections of distorted bodies grooving to the two different soundtracks was a sight that would be difficult to erase from your memory. Removing your headphones was equally bizarre: half-voiced song lyrics were the only backdrop to all this ‘dad-dancing’. During a particular Marvin Gaye track, however, a fellow visitor remarked ‘the people of Edinburgh don’t have bad voices’.
The combination of events was certainly strange, at one point a man dressed as a bug catcher tapped his net to the beat of the live band, but that’s what you want from an event like this. Perhaps the daytime residents and nighttime revelers are not so different after all: as the night goes on you become more and more like one of the children on a school trip, rushing from room to room to see what is around the corner. The museum must be applauded for restoring that particular sense of childish excitement for history.