When you’re eight years old, sleeping under a skeleton is kind of scary.
Last Friday night, at the latest of the ROM’s near-monthly sleepovers for kids, two little boys bounded up the museum’s stairs, two steps at a time, to see the dinosaurs before access to the second floor was cut off for the evening. “Holy macaroni!” one gasped. “Gabe! The T-rex is over here!”
Elsewhere, a boy in a striped maroon sweater sat, more transfixed by a night custodian sweeping the floor with a Segway-like, automated “Chariot” than with any of the exhibits.
In the Signy and Cléophée Eaton Theatre, sleepover guests watched Night at the Museum 2, in which a bronze bust asks Ben Stiller’s character to scratch his itchy nose. Minutes later, in the ROM rotunda, a little girl clambered onto the lap of a large bronze statue of Timothy Eaton and attempted to yank the bronze pen out of his hand.
Another cluster of young visitors were interested in a diorama of a 3,300-year-old Egyptian residence (particularly the plumbing system). “Where are the toilets?” asked one. “You would go into a bucket of sand and the servants would get rid of it for you,” explained Katherine Ing, a ROM facilitator. “Yeah, cool!” he laughed.
When the museum proper finally closed at 8:30 p.m., the sleepover participants were corralled into the theatre for an intro and safety orientation. Kids climbed over their seats, itching to get the boring part over with. “Chaperones must accompany their children at all times,” instructed Kiron Mukherjee, a ROMKids Studio Assistant. Adults who wished to go on “fresh air breaks” were instructed to go out through the security door.
The sleepovers have been running for four years now, and have attracted dozens of repeat visitors—average age: eight years old. For $75 per person, guests are treated to exclusive access to the Egypt, Rome, and Greece exhibits, while the other wings were closed off until morning. The price also includes a late-night snack, breakfast, a movie, karaoke, crafts, hands-on exhibits, and a spot for their sleeping bag on the museum floor.
The after-hours access to the museum has an almost illicit appeal for the kids—the dinosaurs probably won’t re-animate, but when you’re eight years old, it doesn’t seem completely out of the question.
“Every sleepover we’ve done so far, people have slept,” Mukherjee assured, over the squeal of automatic inflatable air mattresses being filled. The most sought-after sleeping zone was directly beneath the wide hips of the enormous Futalognkosaurus, where Pocahontas and Transformers pillowcases were splayed under its looming shadow.
Dave MacDonald drove in from Barrie with his nephew, seven-year-old Logan. They’ve been to about half of the ROM sleepovers, and had given up on their broken inflatable mattress, instead fashioning blankets into some semblance of padding. They brought coloring books and gummy bears and scavenger-hunt lists.
Logan’s favourite part of the museum is the knights in armour on the third floor. and his favourite activity is crafts. But when asked at 11:00 p.m. what his favorite part of the night was, the exhausted kid replied, “When you just get to go to sleep.”