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Auckland Museum's Weird & Wonderful Gallery



PHOTO CAPTION: Eye to eye with a dinosaur at the relaunch of Auckland Museum's Weird & Wonderful Gallery

Auckland Museum's Weird & Wonderful Gallery has re-opened its doors ready for the summer holidays and for its 20th year entertaining kids and families.

At the launch Basil the dinosaur - a steadfast favourite at the museum - came out snapping as it was announced he'll be offering special guided Weird & Wonderful Tours over the summer.

Hot favourites with the kids included the virtual glowbugs that respond to being picked up or having their sand habitat changed - and they turn into butterflies when two of them meet.

"They're really cool the way they climb on you and if you take them too high or drop them they go splat," says Jack Rudolphe, one of the 180 children who attended the official breakfast opening.

Another favourite was the child-sized nest fitted with beanbags and books.

"I like the nest because it's good for hiding and looking out from. I can see everything but they can't see me and I like it because its dark," says five-year-old Isabella Boersen.

Weird & Wonderful's old gallery favourites have been joined by new interactive technology with today's relaunch (Saturday 1 December) at Auckland Museum, almost 20 years after it first opened in 1993.

The gallery has been closed since September this year for a renovation to give the well-loved spaces and displays a new lease of life - and to introduce some new additions including glowing, virtual bugs that respond to children's movements and a hands-on lab space.

The new lab space will cater for hands-on experiment sessions in the gallery and this summer will provide the hub for the museum's weekly science series.

Many of the gallery's popular favourites will remain in Weird & Wonderful including the live cockroaches, a massive array of bizarrely beautiful insects from the museum's collections and some larger animals including a lion and a brown bear.

To celebrate the re-opening of the gallery the museum is holding a special Weird & Wonderful opening day on Saturday with free face-painting, craft activities and some special live creepy crawly guests.

Live animal specialist Brian Lawton will be there with large spiders, lizards and his now-famous turtle Boris who is the star of a regular ad series.

The open day is also a chance for children to see some of the new additions in the gallery including an iPad natural history research table, a human-sized nest, perfect for children to climb inside and read a book, and a massive colouring window.

"Weird & Wonderful has always been a great space for children to explore the natural world, and to do it in a memorable way that allows them to touch things and find out some of the answers for themselves. The changes allow for more of those discoveries and connections with the world around them," says exhibition developer Lily Frederikse.

"The gallery's last makeover was in 2002 and with hundreds of children visiting the gallery every day it was in need of some TLC."

"It is a well-loved space so in planning the refreshed gallery we've been conscious of retaining the features that people love to see like our Arctic Group with the polar bear and the musk oxen."

Showing the melding of old with new in Weird & Wonderful, The Artic Group has now been exhibiting at Auckland Museum for almost 100 years. Prepared by London-based taxidermists, the animals arrived at the museum in 1906 having been purchased with money from a £500 bequest specifically for "procuring larger mammals and necessary display cases".

"As much as we're introducing new technology, it has been about introducing new ways of telling our stories so we've introduced features like an object trail that will draw children and their families to explore more of the gallery and find out about all of the weird and wonderful creatures in it."

A special, free programme of activities will be offered on Saturday (1 December) to celebrate the re-opening of the Weird & Wonderful Gallery:

. 10am - 12.30pm
Face painting: Have your face painted as a Weird & Wonderful creature.
. 10am - 4.30pm
Weird & Wonderful craft activities with our gallery team.
. 2pm - 4pm
Weird & Wonderful Creatures Up-Close with live animals specialist Brian Lawton.

Throughout December the Weird & Wonderful Gallery has great weekend activities and its regular toddler programmes during the week and in the summer holidays there will be daily activities including the Polar Express for the over fives and the 'Space in Time with Einstein' science series for older kids on Mondays and Wednesdays.


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