Weird and Wonderful re-opens at Auckland Museum

Press Release – Auckland Museum

Eye to eye with a dinosaur at the relaunch of Auckland Museum’s Weird & Wonderful Gallery
Auckland Museum’s Weird & Wonderful Gallery has re-opened ready for the summer holidays and for its 20th year entertaining kids and families.

At the launch Basil the dinosaur – a steadfast favourite at the museum – came out snapping as it was announced he’ll be offering special guided Weird & Wonderful Tours over the summer.

Hot favourites with the kids included the virtual glowbugs that respond to being picked up or having their sand habitat changed – and they turn into butterflies when two of them meet.

“They’re really cool the way they climb on you and if you take them too high or drop them they go splat,” says Jack Rudolphe, one of the 180 children who attended the official breakfast opening.

Another favourite was the child-sized nest fitted with beanbags and books.

“I like the nest because it’s good for hiding and looking out from. I can see everything but they can’t see me and I like it because its dark,” says five-year-old Isabella Boersen.

Weird & Wonderful’s old gallery favourites have been joined by new interactive technology, almost 20 years after it first opened in 1993. The gallery has been closed since September this year for a renovation to give the well-loved spaces and displays a new lease of life – and to introduce some new additions including glowing, virtual bugs that respond to children’s movements and a hands-on lab space.

The new lab space will cater for hands-on experiment sessions in the gallery and this summer will provide the hub for the museum’s weekly science series.

Many of the gallery’s popular favourites will remain in Weird & Wonderful including the live cockroaches, a massive array of bizarrely beautiful insects from the museum’s collections and some larger animals including a lion and a brown bear.

To celebrate the re-opening of the gallery the museum is holding a special Weird & Wonderful opening day on Saturday with free face-painting, craft activities and some special live creepy crawly guests.

Live animal specialist Brian Lawton will be there with large spiders, lizards and his now-famous turtle Boris who is the star of a regular ad series.

The open day is also a chance for children to see some of the new additions in the gallery including an iPad natural history research table, a human-sized nest, perfect for children to climb inside and read a book, and a massive colouring window.

“Weird & Wonderful has always been a great space for children to explore the natural world, and to do it in a memorable way that allows them to touch things and find out some of the answers for themselves. The changes allow for more of those discoveries and connections with the world around them,” says exhibition developer Lily Frederikse.

“The gallery’s last makeover was in 2002 and with hundreds of children visiting the gallery every day it was in need of some TLC.”

“It is a well-loved space so in planning the refreshed gallery we’ve been conscious of retaining the features that people love to see like our Arctic Group with the polar bear and the musk oxen.”

Showing the melding of old with new in Weird & Wonderful, The Artic Group has now been exhibiting at Auckland Museum for almost 100 years. Prepared by London-based taxidermists, the animals arrived at the museum in 1906 having been purchased with money from a £500 bequest specifically for “procuring larger mammals and necessary display cases”.

“As much as we’re introducing new technology, it has been about introducing new ways of telling our stories so we’ve introduced features like an object trail that will draw children and their families to explore more of the gallery and find out about all of the weird and wonderful creatures in it.”

A special, free programme of activities will be offered on Saturday (1 December) to celebrate the re-opening of the Weird & Wonderful Gallery:

. 10am – 12.30pm
Face painting: Have your face painted as a Weird & Wonderful creature.
. 10am – 4.30pm
Weird & Wonderful craft activities with our gallery team.
. 2pm – 4pm
Weird & Wonderful Creatures Up-Close with live animals specialist Brian Lawton.

Throughout December the Weird & Wonderful Gallery has great weekend activities and its regular toddler programmes during the week and in the summer holidays there will be daily activities including the Polar Express for the over fives and the ‘Space in Time with Einstein’ science series for older kids on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Press Release – Auckland Museum
Our Weird & Wonderful summer What’s On has just come out – you should be getting it in your letterbox shortly but if you want a sneak peak you can check itat here.

If you’d like to receive our What’s On in the mail, sign up here

WEIRD AND WONDERFUL IS BACK!
Come and join us tomorrow from 10am to celebrate the return of our Weird & Wonderful Gallery. We’ve got a line-up of weird and wonderful activities throughout the day – get your face painted as your favourite creature, create your own crafty bug or meet some live creepy crawlies or Boris the famous TV turtle. And you’ll be the first to check out the revamped gallery with new interactive games and spaces and lots of your old favourites.

Read more here

MUSEUM SOLVES MISSING ISLAND MYSTERY
Last week The Guardian UK ran a story about the mysterious ‘disappearance’ of Sandy Island in the Pacific. Despite being noted on maps and Google Earth, the island was nowhere to be seen when a group of scientists sailed into the region but our pictorial librarian Shaun Higgins has looked in the museum’s vast collection of maps and solved the mystery – you can read what he found in his blog

Read The Guardian article here. Read Shaun’s blog here

BLOG: JOHN BUCHANAN AND THE ART OF BOTANY
University of Auckland’s Linda Tyler wrote a fascinating blog about botanist John Buchanan’s notebook and the incredible illustrations that will appear in two exhibitions in coming months at the Hocken Library and the Gus Fisher Gallery – check out the stunning handdrawn botanical illustrations in the blog

Read Linda’s blog entry here

VISIT SANTA IN HIS GROTTO
Tickets for our Christmas Night at the Museum are selling fast. Make sure you join us for carols, mulled wine, special Christmas stories and the chance to meet Santa in his grotto in our 1866 gallery. We’ll also have a Victorian Market with great presents from our museum shops so you can finish your Christmas shopping – and get it wrapped for free

Read more here

EXPERT SESSION WITH DAMIAN SKINNER
Join us this Thursday at 6.30pm to hear Damian Skinner, Curator of Applied Art and Design, discuss the recent European exhibition Metadomestic, curated by Monica Gaspar. The thought-provoking exhibition challenged the idea of design and craft in the domestic setting. This is also your first chance to meet Damian in his role as our Curator of Applied Art and Design.

Thursday 6 December, 6.30pm (cafe open 5.30pm). Read more here

PERFECT CHRISTMAS GIFTS
At our Museum Shops! From a great range of kids toys including some gorgeous retro games, to stunning, New Zealand-designed jewellery, prints and books. We’ve also got plenty of easy parking including our underground carpark which is free for the first hour – and if that wasn’t simple enough, we’ll wrap all your gifts for FREE.

A DINOSAUR-FILLED SUMMER
Basil the dinosaur has lived at Auckland Museum for seven years and this summer he’s creating his own guided tour of all its treasures. He’s picked the bits of the museum he loves best plus some of its best-kept secrets and put it all into a trail – from Dec 26 you can pick up one of his free trail maps when you visit the museum. If you want more of Basil, in January you can have him as your own, very special tour guide – you’ll have to book fast for these!

Read more here

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