10

Museum of Natural History - First Ever Sleepover for Grownups - New York City

There are a few places in New York City that are almost more New York City than New York City itself.

The American Museum of Natural History is one of those places.

Say its name in certain late-night conversations and you are bound to encounter a wide spectrum of responses most of which are accompanied by a starry-eyed look usually reserved for times when people think back to beloved childhood memories.

Even visiting the museum on frequent school trips during my own childhood, the museum seemed to be a portal into an alternate New York City reality tinged by nostalgia.

The museum started having sleepovers for children and their parents around a decade ago. But it wasn’t until last week that the museum decided to host its first ever "sleepover for grownups".

The allure of an adults-only sleepover was strong, of course. The sleepover’s tickets sold out within the first three hours that they were up for sale.

I was fortunate enough to be one of the 150 adults who got to attend the sleepover. It was a fascinating night.

Here is some of what transpired…

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Sleepover guests were greeted by live jazz music inside of the museum courtesy of the 12th Night Jazz Ensemble

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The Milstein Hall of Ocean Life was the setting for the actual sleeping part of the sleepover. Guests were guided to the hall to pick a cot under the 94 foot blue whale or away from it (I met quite a few people over the course of the night who seemed to share a fear of having the giant whale fall on them in their sleep).

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There was also a champagne reception followed by a three course meal where sleepover guests nervously contemplated how the evening’s adventures would unfold.

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I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was happily surprised to find that there was an in-depth itinerary provided for us:

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All 45 museum halls and the entire Rose Center for Earth and Space were open for free exploration. Some of the hallways were completely empty.

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I took an empty elevator up to the 4th floor. I knew what I wanted to see most of all.

The dinosaurs, of course.

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It was a stellar moment when I realized that the dinosaurs were lit up in a special way at night.

I had T-Rex all to myself for a good 10 minutes.

It was *spectacular*.

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This night was also the first night I got to use the Sony A7S which has insane low-light capability. You can basically shoot up to 50,000 ISO with little noise. For those who don’t know what ISO is, ISO is the measure of how sensitive your camera sensor is to light. For reference, my first DSLR could only ever really shoot up to around 800 ISO. Anything greater than that and the photos would be extremely noisy.

This next photo was taken at 25,600 ISO with the A7S. It’s straight out of camera. If you want to view it really large, here it is: T-Rex at 25,600 ISO

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I can’t wait to take this camera out on the dark streets of New York City at night.

Back to the sleepover though.

There were a lot of events on the itinerary. I took a break from the dinosaurs to go and attend a presentation about toxicology in the Power of Poison exhibit.

The exhibit was fun to walk through. Here is a representation of the witches from Macbeth.

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This is the table at the presentation with all sorts of ominous things like a giant cell display, a tea kettle, a skull, and Arsenic.

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And here is the curator of the Power of Poison exhibit who is an author and one of the world’s top leech experts, Dr. Mark Siddall. He is demonstrating the effects of Arsenic. :)

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Before the next event on the itinerary, I ran back to the 4th floor to gawk at the dinosaurs again for a few minutes. If this is what the kids at the sleepovers have been experiencing for years, I am supremely jealous. I love these exhibits even more at night.

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I also took a little detour and visited a new exhibit called Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs. There is a simulation game where you can flap your arms to fly like a pterosaur on the screen in front of you. You can then fly over the ocean and try to catch fish, or fly through a forest and try to catch bugs. It is surprisingly (or not surprisingly) hard to catch fish or bugs while flying around with an enormous prehistoric wingspan.

This is another museum guest attempting to fly like a pterosaur.

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My dinosaur visit was short-lived since I had to book it to get to the Live Animal presentation. No one really knew what live animals would be featured but the speculation was quite amusing over dinner. My dinner table guests nearly lost it when someone suggested that there would be sloths. Sloths!

Alas, there were no sloths. But that’s ok because there was an owl:

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…and a lemur eating a banana.

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There was also a bird of prey, an alligator who urinated all over the trainer and the stage, and a Burmese python.

Before the midnight showing of the current space show in the planetarium, I quickly made my way to the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda. When I was really little, it was one of my favorite places in all of New York City. It’s really hard to beat. Not too many other places can boast a trio of large dinosaurs in action poses.

I was surprised to find the room totally empty. If you have visited this museum, you will recognize this room as one of the main entrances. It’s usually full of people since it’s one of the places you can enter the museum and purchase tickets to the exhibits. To experience it empty was truly sublime.

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I always thought that the dinosaurs looked a bit like they were dancing.

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That tail…

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The planetarium show ended somewhere between 1 am and 2 am. I had lofty goals of sleeping under the giant whale but I wanted to visit the Lunar Lounge first.

The Lunar Lounge was the name given to the adult-sleepover-decked-out Gottesman Hall of Planet Earth. It was a space for those adults who preferred to skip sleep. With non-stop films, electrical outlets to charge devices and dim lighting, it was a pretty cool place to hang out for a bit.

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At around 3 am, I decided to make my way back to the whale.

Decked out in an oversized hoodie and leggings (the instructions were to bring comfortable clothes for sleeping in sleeping bags but no pajamas: one of the most puzzling requests related to the event), I marveled at how eerily beautiful the museum was at night.

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And as I nestled into my sleeping bag under the giant whale, I knew this would be a night I would never forget.

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Some notes about the sleepover:

1. Sleep was but a dream. As I mentioned, I had lofty expectations that I would be able to sleep. In truth, they remained lofty expectations. We were warned that the cots would be extremely uncomfortable. That was an understatement.

But it wasn’t the cot that did me in sleep-wise. And it wasn’t the noise or low-level of light in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. As a travel photographer, I travel with ear plugs and an eye mask and I had both in my possession for this sleepover.

It was the bone-chilling cold.

I guess something that you never really think about when you think of museums is how incredibly cold they get at night. While I had my comfy sleeping bag and I was wearing a hoodie and leggings, I was still uncomfortably freezing for the few futile hours that I attempted to sleep. In retrospect, I should have just kept roaming around the museum. If I were to do the sleepover again, I would actually bank on not sleeping at all.

2. The crowd. I was actually a bit surprised at how restrained the guests were throughout the night. I think I expected that there would be more…revelry. Everything was very, very subdued though which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I was shocked when I entered the sleeping hall at around 3:30 in the morning to find many people sleeping soundly (how did they sleep in that cold?!).

There seemed to be many couples and groups of friends. I was solo on this adventure and so perhaps I was just keenly aware of how paired-up everyone else seemed to be. It’s a great event to attend with someone special, that’s for sure.

3. The itinerary. As I mentioned in the photo-set above, I was pleasantly surprised to find there was a planned itinerary with events and presentations. The presentations and events were pretty fantastic. The only thing I think could be improved would be to space the events out a bit more to allow for more free roaming of the museum. If you wanted to attend all of the events, you would have been left with only a little over an hour to explore the museum.

4. The price. The price was quite steep. At $375 per person, it definitely wasn’t a budget-friendly choice of an NYC outing. The price seemed to cover quite a bit in terms of events, food, and drink (unlimited wine at dinner, champagne reception). One quibble I had in regards to the food was that I felt that the breakfast could have been a lot more than muffins and juice for that price.

The children’s sleepover price is $145 per person. Of course, the children’s sleepovers don’t come with unlimited wine at dinner, a champagne reception and quite a bit of live music, I would assume. It will be interesting to see if the price stays at $375 per person for the adult sleepover in the future. The museum already indicated that they will try to host more of these adults-only type of events so time will tell.

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I hope you enjoyed my museum sleepover recap!

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Looking for these (and more) photos of the museum sleepover for adults to view larger? Here you go (click or tap on each photo to view larger):

Museum of Natural History - Sleepover for Grownups

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P.S. - Information about my New York City photography book which is releasing in stores and online in the autumn of 2014 (including where to order it):

NY Through The Lens: A New York Coffee Table Book

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View: My New York City photography portfolio, My Travel Blog, On G+,email me, or ask for help.

2

thru Mar 2:

Body & Soul: New International Ceramics
 curated by Wendy Tarlow Kaplan

The Museum of Arts and Design, 2 Columbus Circle, NYC

the exhibition underscores the power of the figure to convey strong emotions, and also to the accessibility of the ceramic medium. Through clay the figure becomes the catalyst for addressing the emotional impact of contemporary pressures that confront our society today. Each work, inspired by a personal incident or symbolic tale, expresses a deep emotional identity, contrasting societal, political, and personal views on themes such as anxiety, bias, mortality and memory. The exhibition highlights approximately 25 international artists who came to clay as painters, draughtsmen, or sculptors. Many are being shown for the first time in the United States

Larry Clark’s installation (pictured here in the Lobby Gallery as part of “NYC 1993”) offers a glimpse into Clark’s artistic preoccupations around the year 1993. The door was removed directly from the artist’s studio at the time and is covered in photographs, skateboard stickers, and other memorabilia. Many of the pictures are film stills or casting shots from the movie Kids, which was directed by Clark and released in 1995.

NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star,” closing on Sunday, attempts to capture a specific moment at the intersection of art, pop culture, and politics.

Photo: Benoit Pailley

10

Abandoned Elevator Shaft Hides Secret Museum in NYC

Camouflaged amongst the dramatic skyscrapers and cosmopolitan locales of New York City lies an inconspicuous urban alleyway with a secret. tucked away inside the ground floor of an abandoned elevator shaft is a museum, a one-room exhibition space packed with an assemblage of unconventional artifacts and found objects housed behind heavy, unmarked metal doors.

The elevator museum showcases elements of everyday life, from tips jars and newsstand paper weights to toothpaste tubes from around the world and papers accidentally left behind in copy machines.

Museum founders Alex Kalman, and brothers Benny and Josh Safdie of red bucket films want museum to relay the intimate stories behind strange, colloquial items, finding beauty in absurdity. they are most attracted to objects that have a human history of problem solving, that have come up with a unique way to overcome a lack of resource, and have creatively combated challenge. currently in it’s second season, the eclectic treasures exhibited chronicle the eccentricities of humanity — a selection of objects crafted by prisoners, plastic vomit from around the world, an assortment of tip jars from various venues and, part of it’s permanent collection, the shoe that was hurled at george w. bush during a press conference in 2008. museum documents everyday human history, a quiet reminder that art is everywhere.

  (Continue Reading)

"A strong case for the rigor and, often, the beauty of Koons’s art." The New Yorker reviews Jeff Koons: A Retrospective.

Jeff Koons (b. 1955), Rabbit, 1986. Stainless steel; 41 × 19 × 12 in. (104.1 × 48.3 × 30.5 cm). Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; partial gift of Stefan T. Edlis and H. Gael Neeson, 2000.21. © Jeff Koons

thru Aug 3:

Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963–2010

The Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53 St., NYC

Sigmar Polke (German, 1941–2010) was one of the most voraciously experimental artists of the twentieth century. This retrospective is the first to encompass the unusually broad range of mediums he worked with during his five-decade career, including painting, photography, film, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, television, performance, and stained glass, as well as his constant, highly innovative blurring of the boundaries between these mediums. Masquerading as many different artists—making cunning figurative paintings at one moment and abstract photographs the next—he always eluded easy categorization.

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opens Feb 12:

The Neighbors
 Paweł Althamer

New Museum, 235 Bowery, NYC


On view on the Fourth, Third, and Second Floor galleries of New Museum, this will be the first US museum exhibition devoted to the work of Paweł Althamer. Since the early 1990s, Althamer (b. 1967 Warsaw, Poland) has established a unique artistic practice and is admired for his expanded approach to sculptural representation and his experimental models of social collaboration. Althamer is predominantly known for figurative sculptures of himself, his family, and various other individuals within his community. The exhibition will include a new presentation of the artist’s work Draftsmen’s Congress, originally presented at the 7th Berlin Biennial (2012). Over the course of the exhibition, the blank white space of the New Museum’s Fourth Floor gallery will be transformed through the gradual accumulation of drawings and paintings by Museum visitors and more than seventy invited community organizations. Althamer will also activate the exhibition through a sculptural workshop in which the artist and his collaborators will produce new works during the course of the show. For the duration of the exhibition, visitors bringing new or gently used men’s coats to the New Museum will receive free entry. All the coats will be donated to the Bowery Mission.

Wantering x Punk: Chaos to Couture

Alexander McQueen. Vivienne Westwood. Karl Lagerfeld. Gareth Pugh. Miuccia Prada. Gianni Versace. Junya Watanabe. Yohji Yamamoto.

Wantering was recently invited into the historic The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City for a private tour of this summer’s Costume Institute Exhibition, “Punk: Chaos to Couture.” On until August 14th, the exhibit features some of fashion’s most legendary designers and design houses with a mix of mid-1970’s punk and more recent deconstructed fashion designs.

We were honored to see up close some of the work of fashion’s greatest artists. Come check out what it was like on the inside…

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