Infectious enthusiasm from the smiling woman at the door. “Go and play,” she says. On the ground floor, there’s face painting and a silent disco, dinosaurs and drinks. Oh, and there’s giant insect handling on the top floor. Just for a moment I get a slightly unpleasant giant insect flashback.
There was that nursery outing to Edinburgh Zoo when mothers and children were invited to stroke or at least touch small animals of varying degrees of cuddliness. Rabbits, rats, snakes even, were fine but who was going to be brave enough to hold the giant cockroach? My youngest son proudly volunteered the person next to him: “My mum will.”
I can still feel the sensation. Cockroaches cling.
But that was a long time ago. As it happens neither my youngest son nor I got as far as the top floor on Museum Lates night. S-Type was far too busy making music and his mother, wine glass in hand, was happy to hang around the Grand Gallery soaking up the atmosphere, watching lights bounce across the vibrating floor, enjoying the delicious sense of gatecrashing an exclusive party, except that we weren’t gatecrashing at all.
Waves of nostalgia. The National Museum of Scotland is one of my favourite buildings in Edinburgh. Something about those pillars soaring to the glass ceiling of the Grand Gallery has always lifted my spirits. Last time I was here with all my sons they would have been running round pressing buttons to make machines work. Some things don’t change then. Here they were pressing buttons again but this time they were raising the roof with reverberating music. And no-one was complaining.
It was a fantastic night. Warm-hearted, creative and more than a little eccentric: Edinburgh at its quirky best. This was the first of the RBS Museum Lates an inspired idea on the part of NMS which must surely help to polish up the bank’s tarnished image as well as bringing in a new museum audience of young people, that elastic group between school age and parenthood. (Apparently 1200 tickets sold out in record short time).
But it really was playtime for all ages. Throughout the building people were leaning over glass cases, lining up for face-painting, posing for pictures by mummies and dinosaurs, trooping into the Silent Disco (you wear headphones) and, for all I know, handling giant creepy crawlies on the top floor. One final touch of magic: when it was time to go home the up escalators starting going down. The next RBS Museum Lates is in February.