A NIGHT in the museum proved an eerie experience.
Families were given the chance to sleep among the exhibits at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens as part of a national project.
For the first time, Sunderland was this year chosen to take part in Museums at Night, an annual after-hours celebration of arts, culture and heritage when hundreds of museums, galleries, libraries, archives and heritage sites open their doors for special evening events.
Armed with sleeping bags and midnight snacks, families enjoyed making their bed for the night among the 19th century museum’s weird and wonderful displays.
They also took part in a moonlit walk through the Winter Gardens.
Highlights included coming face to face with Madagascan hissing cockroaches, tarantulas, snakes and rare blue-tongued skinks who were there with handlers from Discovery Zoo.
Jo Cunningham, manager of Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, said: “The Night of Rainforests sleepover event was a great opportunity for families to have an utterly unique, magical museum experience during the national Museums at Night weekend.”
As part of the event, visitors also learnt about rainforest life, what makes the rainforest ecosystem so important and the devastating effect that deforestation has on the native plants, animals and people.
The Winter Gardens holds more than 2,000 exotic trees and plants under a 30metre glass dome. Many of these are rainforest plants, including bird’s nest ferns, bromeliads and traveller’s palms.
Beamish Museum also opened on Friday and Saturday evening as part of the national event.
Until 9.30pm visitors could take part in special events and The Pit Village was buzzing with activity, giving an insight into how Edwardian pitmen and their families spent their evenings.
A spokeswoman for Beamish, said: “There was a whole host of special activities to enjoy – meeting the miner tending his garden, hearing a brass band play and having a go at making a proggy mat.”
Visitors could play traditional games such as quoits and shove ha’penny and they had the chance to go into the Methodist Chapel to see pitmen’s wives at Bright Hour meeting.
All the facilities were open and admission charges were reduced to £5 per person.
Museums at Night was co-ordinated by Culture24, a non-profit making digital publishing organisation, which supports the cultural sector in reaching online audiences across the country.