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Arts and Entertainment

Photos: We Slept Over At The Natural History Museum

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The Natural History Museum opened its doors for the ultimate nerdy dream on Halloween night: a chance for grownups to sleep over at the museum with a night full of activities—some booze-filled, some slightly spooky.

LAist was invited to attend on Saturday night, and I was decked out in a costume (a sloth onesie, in fact), just like the event organizers requested. It was an evening full of events from 8 p.m. until about 2 a.m., with plenty of activities to keep guests, who were pretty diverse in terms of age groups and backgrounds, entertained. This being the NHM's third grownup sleepover, it seems like the event organizers had ironed out any of the kinks that could possibly go wrong in the first two sleepovers. Everything ran according to schedule and went pretty smoothly.

While many attendees also donned comfy animal onesies, including dinosaurs and unicorns, others kept with the theme of the NHM's surroundings and dressed up as cave men and women, and explorers. However, at the end of the night, the costume that stole the show and won the costume parade was a homemade Oscar the Grouch outfit, complete with a real trash can surrounding her body.

Our "bedrooms" for the night were a couple of different halls lined with gorgeous, life-like dioramas with taxidermied animals. Like a rookie, I brought just a sleeping bag, while mostly everyone else seemed to be pros and had inflatable mattresses for extra comfort. I was a little jealous by the time I went to bed on the cold, hard floor, in what I would later dub as "The Hall of Snoring." Ear plugs were a must.

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The booze—craft beer and wine—kicked off the event and was free-flowing throughout the night. There was a table full of snacks for late-night munchies, and a DJ spinning tunes until midnight.

The theme of the night was "The Art of Mounting," a taxidermy theme, hence why we were sleeping in the halls with dioramas. That included a great lecture from the NHM's taxidermist Tim Bovard, who went through his work with guests. He also gave a behind-the-scenes talk in his taxidermy studio, as part of an added activity guests could pay extra to attend, where he showed everyone some fresh roadkill he had skinned and talked through the process of molding clay to fill the body of the animals. He explained that he has been passionate about taxidermy ever since he was a child, and luckily had parents who supported his hobbies. He said he's the luckiest man in the world with the coolest job, and his passion shows in his work—taxidermy is truly an art form, and it was great to get an inside look. Even the nature backdrops of the dioramas are painted by famous artists, Bovard told us.

Aside from the taxidermy talks, folks got to work on cutting leaves for Bovard's dioramas, learn about dinosaurs and play paleo charades. Other halls were also open to guests for a night of exploration. But one of our favorite activities during the sleepover was when curators took guests on a "Secret and Legends Tour." We got to hear stories about the history of the NHM and get to access rooms normally only open to staff—like a forgotten auditorium, a diorama room never open before to the public and a creepy boiler room that's fitting for a scene from Nightmare on Elm Street. Curators also told us ghost stories about the museum, including one about a staff member hearing a singing and crying girl in the bathroom only to find out she was nowhere to be found, and an unplugged radio that kept playing loud music. It was kind of spooky, but mostly cheesy fun.

The evening ended with a fun midnight screening of The Mummy—you know, the classic Brendan Fraser version, not the one from 1932. There were over a dozen people or so in the room, but part way through the movie, the crowd trickled down and people went to bed. Surprisingly nobody was messy-level drunk (though we were warned by organizers to be classy), save for a few people who talked through the movie.

I met a couple of artists while I sat down to color some cutesy children's Halloween pictures, one of the activities to keep guests busy. Susan Dampf was one of them, a woman whose dad and brother are archaeologists. She can now cross sleeping at the NHM off of her bucket list. "There are certain things I've always wanted to do," she said. "I got my masters in fine art and I would always go out with the class and paint at the scenes. I always wanted to be able to put my brushes down, run into the water and swim and come back and finish painting. And so, I've done that now because of the Crystal Cove... And here [at the NHM] I wanted the chance to spend the night and be able to photograph at night in the dark."

Guests had paid $135 for this sleepover experience, and when I asked if Dampf would do it again, she said, "Oh God, yes." Aside from her only complaint that there the signage for parking wasn't great, she said, "I think it's fantastic, absolutely fantastic."