Curious Beasts and Fantastic Creatures at Night Lab 2016

Mr Brian Oldman, director of SAM and myself.

I was lucky enough to get a ticket the South Australian Museum’s ‘Night Lab’ event -featuring current exhibition, Curious Beasts  hosting pieces all the way from the British Museum. This is why, this is how much of the actual exhibit I can show you in this review below because of an agreement between the institutions:

My new friend Susan respecting my fashion choices.
Thou shall not pass…with a camera.
However there was plenty of other very cool activities going on around the SAM for Night Lab that I’ll share. Night Lab is an important event for the SAM because it allows my generation X, Y and even a few Millienals to engage with the museum in a way they haven’t done since they were children and they probably will not again until they either have their own children and/or nieces and nephews.

It’s also an exercise in museum interpretation (the way a venue engages with its patrons and it allows staff to indulge the creative and often in innovative  ways) to exhibit their collections. This event was aimed at young adults with a disposable income they are willing to spend in indulging in local cultural heritage tourism. Which is a great way to showcase South Australia’s unique culinary talents (a major tourist product) and unique biodiversity (a major tourist draw card for the whole state) which is vitally important for sustainable local tourism.

First off, because it’s dinner time and I’m starving, we can start with the exotic food table – which was surrounded by giant taxidermied creatures (a little twisted humour but I think it added to the atmosphere!). There were edible florals, non traditional salad greens (which unlike Western salad leaves were quite bitter, salty and a bit Unami), smoked meat including emu, camel and kangaroo tail and my favourite the gulguk (edible green ants). Hopefully I’ll eventually get around to that *authentic palaeo stirfry* I’ve been promising my friends I’ve been going to make this holidays.

The most popular attraction!
Edible florals.
Salad greens.
Smoked Emu tastes like a softer version of venison and beef.
Gulguk, edible green ant
Animals Anonymous also made an appearance at this year’s Night Lab and below is Garry the Goanna (I grew up with a bunch of these guys around on the Eastern coast of Oz) and the experience of touching him was interesting in that the scales are a sort of rough velvet texture and incredibly soft but leathery at the same time.

I didn’t have enough cider to want to pay the carpet python and then I came face to face with my nemesis from when I lived in NSW, a one year old Eastern Tawny Frogmouth. They aren’t owls but annoyingly sound like electronic mobile phones in the middle of the night and it took me a year to realise this during honours at UNE, Armidale, NSW!

Garry the Goanna

Not an owl- 0ne year old Tawny Eastern Frogmouth 
It was great having Animals Anonymous at the event as it raises the importance of the biodiversity collection at the SAM (level 2) in aiding in Australian animal conservation. Again young adults living in even a green city like Adelaide don’t really get to interact with live animals in an atmosphere that allows them to appreciate the efforts of conservation groups in a museum where many of the animals are taxiderimed specimens from biological collections. For those more interested in flora than fauna, a great place to visit on the same day as the SAM is the Museum of Economic Botany just down the road at the Botanical Gardens. Call me Snow White but a place with that many poisonous apples!

There were workshops on taxidermy on the night but as I’m not made of sterner material, we will settle here for the skeleton formerly known as Susan and note the tag leg attached to the horse’s leg with the traditional museum accession label describing the horse’s taxonomy and its every day attribution as a “horse.”

Horse skeleton 
Horse leg with tag.

Overall, this was a great experience as a guest of the museum rather than participating last year and it’s an event I try to make annually. Later this week I intend to publish a best of my Night Lab experiences at the SAM and talk about why the museum is an important institution to me as an individual and as an aspiring archaeologist. The SAM hosts more events than just Night Lab which you can find information on the museum’s website and currently you can have your say in how the SA Museum should be transforming and moving into the twenty-first century at:

The SAM is located on North Terrace in the heart of the Adelaide CBD and close to other tourism venues such as the Art Gallery and Ayers House alongside the State Library of SA (visit the historic Mortlock Wing if you loved Fantastic Beasts and Harry Potter!). It is open all week 10am-5pm with a café and gift shop and a great place to find some respite from the summer heat offering various activities and guided tours throughout the day. 


Author: lonelyarchaeologist

I'm an archaeology grad student with an interest in gothic archaeology, tragedy tourism and dark sites. Most of my friends don't appreciate my interests so I've taken it into my own hands and I'm going I've established this blog to chronicle my solo adventures and hopefully give you a look behind the scenes at cultural heritage and the local arts.

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