On Feb. 21 at 5 p.m., the Museum of Natural and Cultural History closed its doors to the general public. Then, an hour later, the doors reopened to over 250 attendees of drinking age for its first ever Museum After Hours event. Within minutes, the event sold out.
The event was organized “so people can come and take in the museum and enjoy the exhibits knowing they are going to be with an adult only crowd,” Program and Exhibit Developer for the MNCH Lauren Willis said.
The main hall was filled with people drinking local beer and wine. Attendees could choose to imbibe from a selection of wines from Walnut Ridge Vineyards, and beers from Falling Sky and Viking Braggot Breweries. Stacks of pizzas were provided by Falling Sky and an eight-piece rock band, Ray Troll and the Ratfish Wranglers. The band’s first hour-long set was a rhapsody of original songs about paleontology and cephalopods.
nautilushas been around for about 500 million years…and nautilus arestill around today. T hey’rehardcore.”
Inside the exhibit halls, guests participated in games and competed to win prizes such as museum store memorabilia and tickets to future After Hours events. The Cultural Anthropology Hall hosted a team-based dinosaur puzzle competition. A paper airplane contest challenged museum-goers in both distance and accuracy, and was a nod to MNCH’s most recent traveling exhibit, “Dinosaurs Take Flight: The Art of Archaeopteryx.”
The halls containing the reconstructed fossils of Archaeopteryx received heavy traffic. Bryan, 25 and a self-described paleontologist, unloaded facts to Danny, 32, about the “transitional fossil” that bridges the gap between non-flying feathered dinosaurs and modern birds.
Sharon Roberts, a retired microbiology professor from Alabama and current volunteer at the MNCH, also played private tour guide to a friend. Roberts moved to Eugene to be close to, and work at, the MNCH.
“I’m that much of a paleo-nerd,” Roberts said.
Catherine Janson, an educator working at the museum and a senior studying biology at the University of Oregon, hosted a crafting table where guests could use fossils to make impressions in clay. One of the fossils was a nautilus, a species determined to persist through major extinction events. “The nautilus has been around for about 500 million years…and nautilus are still around today,” Janson said. “They’re hardcore.”
Adult only after hour events at science and art museums have grown in popularity across the country. Museum Hack, a website that offers consulting for museums, says on their website that After Hours events have the ability to attract new audiences, such as those who work during standard business hours. Andrew Boehm, a research archaeologist working for the museum and frequent attendee to museum events, was witness to the sea of unfamiliar faces. Asked how many people he recognized from the MNCH community, he said, “not that many, which is a great thing, because we love to see new faces.”
News of the event reached over 600 museum members via email, and many attendees heard about the event through social media such as Facebook.
The $20 ticket cost included two drink vouchers, food, live music, and the opportunity to socialize in an atypical museum setting. UO students have free access to the museum during regular business hours, and recently the museum has expanded its free admission program to include LCC students. The next After Hours event is scheduled for April.