Review: Steve Backshall – Mystery at the Museum of Natural History, Oxford
Friday 4 December 7pm – 8pm
Live streamed, via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
On Friday, adventurer and conservationist, Steve Backshall, donated his time to present a live escape room/night at the museum event at Oxford’s stunning Museum of Natural History.
There is something truly magical about Oxford’s Museum of Natural History – perhaps the boundaries between dimensions are a little bit thinner here; the past and the future echo loud and clear.
Every year, I usually visit the museum at least 10 times (with sketch books and pencils), but I haven’t gone once this year. When the opportunity came to attend this event, I signed up immediately. It seems I wasn’t the only one missing the museum. The event was attended by 100,000 people from across the globe.
Steve and the Natural History Museum have had a long standing relationship, so when the Museum needed to raise funds for its HOPE for the Future project, a project designed to preserve its insect collection, Steve gave it his full support by designing and presenting this event.
The event was introduced by two of the museum’s employees on the roof, in the pitch dark. The irrepressible enthusiasm of the two young presenters, the freezing dark night and the gothic roof top made for a proper fantasy/mystery setting.
Steve appeared on the roof, out of nowhere, and led us on a series of adventures throughout the museum, solving puzzles and showing different parts of the collection. With his earpiece and some dedicated social media gatekeepers, the audience was able to suggest solutions to the puzzles, which were then fed to Steve, who was able to respond. It made for quite an interactive experience.
I’ve always been a fan of Steve’s presentation style – genuine respect for his young audience sans irony or cool cynicism. His opened hearted, boyish enthusiasm was infectious. Seeing the museum at night, presented alongside interesting challenges highlighting parts of the collection up close – was a real treat.
One of my favourite and most moving parts of this event was at the end, when Steve opened the floor for questions. Although he knew his audience was mainly young children, he didn’t sugar coat his answers – he spoke about the environment and our impact on it – with straight forward honesty. He answered the question, “What is the animal you’re most scared of?” with the answer, “Humans”. I appreciated his genuine and thoughtful answers and if anything, it added a real sense of urgency to the whole night.
While the event was free, when booking the tickets, there was an opportunity to donate. I made a small £5 donation. It seems I wasn’t the only one. The event raised £26,000.
This event was a fun and worthwhile way to spend a Friday night. Attending with people from across the globe gave us a rare sense of togetherness, which was precious.
I hope the museum will keep putting on these types of events – even after the world has been vaccinated.
Thank you to the Museum of Natural History for providing me with the photo to use in this review.