Museum After Dark: Fun at the Royal Alberta Museum

It’s been great to see local cultural and learning institutions reach out and engage the “next gen” community, reminding us of their relevance beyond serving tourists and school groups. The Art Gallery of Alberta’s popular Refinery series is probably the best Edmonton example, though the Calgary  Spark Centre’s adult-only themed nights have also been immensely successful. The Royal Alberta Museum has now joined this list with their Museum After Dark series, organized by the Friends of the Royal Alberta Museum Society (FRAMS), which launched last night.

Museum After Dark

Museum After Dark

Combining a cocktail party with an opportunity to learn more about the museum currently under construction, doors opened at 6:30. Mack and I arrived at 7:15pm, not knowing that the official program had already started at 7pm. As a result, along with several others, we missed the beginning of the presentation about the new site (for future events, organizers will be publishing program details in advance, so this won’t be a continuing issue). Neither of us knew much about the design of the new building, so we were heartened to see that elements of the current building and of the former post office are being preserved and will be showcased in the design. As well, from the photos shown, it looks like the majority of the exterior will be constructed of glass, as a better way to visually interact (and not wall itself off) with its neighbours, including Chinatown directly north of the facility. They expect the new building to open in 2017.

After the presentation, guests were invited to mix and mingle over drinks and food by Mercer’s Catering. We just had dinner prior to the event, so we didn’t end up sampling much, but I was surprised at the quantity of the spread. From a custom salad station to stir-fry served over rice in Chinese food boxes and mini grilled cheese sandwiches, organizers spared no expense to make sure attendees were well-fed, especially considering ticket prices were just $15.

Museum After Dark

Gorgeous shrimp cocktails with citrus pipettes

DJ Junior Brown provided the musical backdrop in the theatre lobby, though with 250 tickets sold, for space considerations, it was great that we were also able to explore the first floor of the museum as well.

Museum After Dark

I had too much fun in the gift shop

To encourage this, FRAMS had put together a variety of bingo cards, to be filled in by answering questions related to the ground floor exhibits. The prizes were nothing to sneeze at either, and included an iPad mini and a behind-the-scenes tour of the current and new museums. While we weren’t feeling motivated to compete, given the frenzy around us, there was no question many people were there to win. In the end, we were happy to see Brittney and Scott take home the grand prize – I’m looking forward to seeing photos of their private tour!

Museum After Dark

Our sad attempt at Museum Bingo

We were a bit disappointed that only part of the museum was open to us (Mack had been looking forward to the Bug Room on the second floor), but I understand it was an issue of volunteer/staff resources – hopefully if the event expands, this can be looked at in the future. That said, it was great to finally explore the Chop Suey on the Prairies exhibit.

Museum After Dark

Chop Suey on the Prairies

The exhibit provided a good introduction to Chinese immigration and the challenges early immigrants faced in their new communities. I liked the integration of videos amongst the artifacts and placards, though I have to say, with mouth-watering projections of several Chinese dishes, it’s a shame there isn’t a restaurant take-out window opposite the exhibit to immediately satisfy the cravings that resulted.

Museum After Dark

Good enough to eat!

Kudos to the organizers for a successful first Museum After Dark! Stay tuned for the next event to be announced on the FRAMS website, likely to take place in May 2014.

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