The Peabody Museum’s third annual “Night at the Museum” started off with a bang Saturday night — in more than one way.
Amid the frenzied flurry created by a pair of police cars and a fire engine parked outside, lights flashing, one young museum-goer flitted frantically from person to person, inquiring, “What happened? Do you know what happened?”
The sight had the already excited throngs of children in attendance in a tizzy. A guard, who had been helping to move the exhibits, became trapped inside a freight elevator, Jennifer Briggs, the volunteer coordinator at the Peabody, explained. Fortunately, the firemen were able to free him, and the chaos settled to a dull roar.
Small children scampered underfoot all night long, causing Event Coordinator Josue Irizarry to cheerfully remark, “You have to watch out for the little ones!” as a small blonde head darted past his knee.
This was Irizarry’s first year working on the event, he explained, as he weaved his way through the labyrinth of bodies, dinosaurs and local student volunteers dressed as various jungle creatures.
The children were also encouraged to dress up in costumes, he said. Five-year-old Greta Parker took advantage of the opportunity by arriving as a fairy, wearing a red dress with pink fairy wings attached to her shoulders.
“I think my favorite part was probably the adventures,” Parker said after mulling it over for a moment.
Her mother, Eve Alexandra, laughingly explained, “I think she means the treasure hunt.”
The treasure hunt was structured like a scavenger hunt. The children received a set of questions to answer as they went through each exhibit, engaging with the displays as the hunt progressed. After the questions were answered, the children were presented with a dinosaur-themed prize. Local magician Jeff Horton also performed, drawing oohs and aahs from the crowd.
Tables full of children coloring lobster hats and tiger masks were scattered around the room, and rows of eager, little ones waited in line to get their faces painted. As a testament to the popularity of the masks and hats, one father strolled past bedecked with a brilliant red lobster hat atop his head and two decorated tiger masks in his hand.
Down the hall from these colorful activities, the dinosaur bones were the main draw for many a young boy and girl. Five-year-old Aiden Kazersky named the brontosaurus bones as his favorite part of the evening. When asked if he had fun, the soft-spoken boy smiled and emphatically nodded his head.
The annual event is designed to be fun for the whole family, Irizarry said.
“It’s about seeing kids have a great time in the museum,” Peabody Director Derek Briggs said. “Parents are much more relaxed than during the day. It’s a great party — both adults and kids seem to get a great deal out of it.”
For instance, one popular activity for young and old alike was the variety of feathered and scaly critters — including lizards and owls— brought in for the petting pleasure of the audience. The animal handlers explained to the listening children which animals made good pets and how to take care of them.
The evening’s activities were intended not only to entertain but also to educate, and to show kids that museums are more than just stuffy grown-up pastimes, Irizarry explained.
“Next time they’ll go, ‘Oh! I want to go to the museum!’ and can just enjoy the educational aspect and not be like, ‘Ugh! The museum!’ ” Irizarry added. “It’s fun to come to the museum and that’s what we’re trying to teach them.”
For many parents, this educational aspect was the best part of the whole evening.
Marinella Vinci, looking affectionately at her 10-year-old son Adrian, who was entranced by a display of bleached bones, commented, “It’s been a lot of fun watching him learn and I’ve personally really enjoyed learning all the little stories behind the dinosaur bones.”