Dinosaurs with friggin’ laser beams!

Oxford certainly is a peculiar old town. I’m really starting to appreciate not only the eccentricity of this old city, but also the quirkiness of the entertainment on offer. Take for example, last Friday’s evening entertainment. As I was thinking that Cam and I would be participating yet again in a pleasant, but not remarkable, session of sitting-around-a-table-at-a-bar-drinking-beer-and-talking-shit, a friend mentioned that some kind of laser light show was about to start at the museum, complete with a bar serving that precious amber fluid that the Brits seem so very fond of (I’m sure half the folk wouldn’t have budged from their seats without the alcoholic incentive).

And so with the promise of lasers, dinosaurs and beer, we escaped the stuffy stranglehold of the Kings Arms and soon found ourselves at Oxford’s magnificent 19th-century neo-Gothic Natural History Museum.  We entered the beautiful central aisle of the museum, with its cloistered archways and peaked glass roof supported by ornate cast-iron pillars to a riot of colour and sound. A sea of funky 20- and 30-somethings were sipping wines and Champagnes amidst the legs of giant dinosaurs and woolly mammoth skeletons in a thick blanket of smoke-machine fog, with crazy lighting effects and “laser beams” illuminating the ornate spires on the glass roof.

In the centre of the ground floor, nestled comfortably amid the bones, carcasses and other preserved zoological remains was a DJ spinning tracks and casually grooving away, as if entertaining people milling around cabinets of stuffed animals was a regular weekend gig.

Then, at some point during the light show in the midst of the deep Darwinian-type voice-over that was recanting the many scientific triumphs and glorious exploits of the empire, we were summoned to enter the Pitt Rivers Museum housed behind the dinosaurs. This incredible yet tiny museum is the simply the most amazing anthropological showcase of humanity and human endeavour I have ever seen. The Pitt Rivers Museum began when Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers (say that three times fast) gave a collection of around 20,000 objects to the University of Oxford in 1884 (bless that voracious imperialist urge to appropriate exotic curiosities in the name of the empire). Since then many more objects have been given to the Museum by different ‘collectors’ and there are now over a quarter of a million objects on public display. Let me repeat that: a quarter of a million objects. And they are almost all housed on a single floor.

You can imagine that absorbing the wealth of material in such a museum in daylight would in itself be a fascinating and stimulating experience. But for this special night event, we were each given a torch and allowed to explore the amazing displays in completely darkness. Now I’ve never been one to dwell for hours in museums (I’m more of an outside person, really), but I have to admit this was great. Walking in the solitude of darkness and seeing the history of human treasures appear before me by torchlight let me feel far more connected to the artefacts than I would have felt otherwise. And it was also fun; particularly when I suddenly illuminated a wall of scary Japanese Noh Masks, or a three-foot tall Papua New Guinea headdress made entirely of feathers or an entire case displaying shrunken human heads. I was actually quite disappointed when we had to leave to allow the next group in.

One comment on “this post

  1. That’s really amazing and sounds good. This type of laser show people really like. Because most of the show have only music with laser, But this show has some different to other.

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