On Friday, Feb. 7, McGill’s Redpath Museum came to life Night-at-the-Museum-style during the annual Redpath Flashlight Tour opened exclusively to McGill students.
The Flashlight Tour originated in 2009 as a part of Nuit Blanche, an all-night festival hosted in Montreal. In 2014, the Redpath Museum Club took over running the event, holding an additional Night at the Museum Flashlight Tour for McGill students only. Due to lack of funding around Halloween—which is when the event usually takes place—the tour was instead scheduled for the Winter semester, and was funded by Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU).
The night began with an audio-visual presentation about the historical context of the building by Ingrid Birker, science outreach coordinator of the Redpath Museum. Following the presentation, students could freely roam the museum with flashlights in hand, listening in on the tour guides’ explanations of the various exhibits.
“It’s definitely the highlight of the club’s year,” Birker said. “[The tour guides] love showing guests what they know about this place, and sharing the stories of the broken bone on the dinosaur […] and the fluorescent minerals. You know, [the] secret spots. They love the chance to get to interact with students.”
According to Vice-President Communications of the Redpath Museum Club Sarah Popov, the event puts the Redpath museum in a new light.
“The funniest part is that people don’t even think about going to the museum during the daytime, but as soon as you turn the lights off and it’s at night, people get really excited about it,” Popov said.
Students were stunned by how flashlights enhanced their visual and learning experience while exploring the exhibits.
“When the lights are off, all your other senses actually get more and more attuned to what’s around you,” Birker said. “It’s actually really quiet here. There’s no sound. People actually start whispering to each other. It’s like they don’t want to break the spell. You also can’t run in the dark. You […] walk and move slower, so people do become way more respectful way more attentive. It’s a magical evening.”
Even first-time tour guide and member of the Redpath Museum Club Lauren McAusland was astonished by the experience of conducting a tour in the dark.
“It’s a completely different atmosphere,” McAusland said. “It’s kind of spooky, fun, and more exciting because […] everything is cast in cool shadows. Even when I was shining my light around some of the mummies, you can see things differently. I didn’t realize that you could see clear through the mummy’s naval cavity into his head in the light until I actually tried to shine my flashlight into his nose. We were putting our flashlights under the big dinosaur and you could see its reflection on the ceiling.”
Around 480 people attended the event. According to McAusland, the club was delighted by students’ enthusiasm for the event.
“I think it’s just cool to see that it’s the oldest museum specifically built to be a museum in Canada,” said Megha Patel, U0 Science student.
The next Flashlight Tour is scheduled for Feb. 28 a as part of Nuit Blanche. The museum is expecting an even larger turnout, as this event will be open to the public.
“It’s going to be about the same structure, but there are going to be a lot more people there, lined up at the Y-intersection, all the way to the [Roddick] gates,” McAusland said.