Image courtesy Mark McNulty

Planetary Pop-Up Performance with World Museum

For Light Night 2019, we’re working with National Museums Liverpool to present a space-inspired performance at World Museum. We caught up with Education Demonstrator Leila Gwynne to learn more about the moon.

2019 marks the 50 year anniversary of the moon landing! What is world museum doing to mark the occasion?

The whole museum is really excited to be celebrating 50 years since the moon landing. It’s a great opportunity to reflect on how far we have come since that “small step for man” and how many fascinating questions astronomers, scientists and engineers still have to answer. We will be blasting off into deep space by hosting the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2019 exhibition, which is coming up from the Royal Observatory Greenwich, London. The images have been captured by amateur and professional photographers from all around the world and really show the intense beauty of the night sky. With new technology, cameras can show us parts of space that just aren’t visible to the naked eye. It’s incredible to think of all the wonders that are still out there.

For May the Fourth Be With You, our first big weekend Space-event, we’re hosting experts from University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moore’s University who are going to talk about robots and rovers. Later in May we’ll be demonstrating what space is like for modern astronauts on the International Space Station with our Destination Space demonstrations, as well as launching our new Planetarium show “Capcom Go!” which tells the story of the Apollo Moon missions in the late 60s and early 70s.

18 May marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 10, which was in effect a dress rehearsal for the Apollo 11 Moon landing a few months later. To celebrate this, we will have a lecture by Dr Kevin Bowman entitled Rocket to the Moon in our Treasure House Theatre, and then on 20 July – the day of the Moon Landing itself – we’re hosting Footprints On The Moon, an activities-packed day where visitors can come down and meet more experts, ask more questions and experience the newest shows in our planetarium.

MDI have been inspired by space for our Light Night performance Constellations. Can you tell us more about your extra-terrestrial exhibits?

Our whole fifth floor is dedicated to space and time and we have one of the oldest public planetariums in the UK. Everyone knows that Liverpool has a maritime history, but what we might not know is that the expert craftsmen who built instruments to help seafarers navigate the globe were also experts at making telescopes and astronomical equipment too. Hanging over almost the whole length of the gallery, we have one of the two surviving Black Knight rockets which were made by the UK in the late 1950s and early 60s.

One of my favourite ways to explore any museum is to go around trying to find the oldest thing in each gallery, but by far and away the oldest thing in the entire museum (and dare I say in Liverpool) is one of our meteorites. This had its origins in the early formation of the Solar System and has been scientifically dated to 4.5 billion years old, making it older than any Earth rocks found on the surface. Approximately 50,000 years ago, while humans were only just experimenting with cave art, this meteor smashed down to planet earth into what is now Arizona, USA. The place where it landed is now called the Barringer Crater and photographs taken from the air actually look just like the surface of the moon! On earth these crater sites usually erode away with rain, but this doesn’t happen on the moon, which is why even with a pretty small telescope or binoculars you can see the moon’s craters. The meteorite we have at the museum is just one small part of the rock that fell to earth, and visitors to the museum can try and pick it up. Watch your fingers though! It is pretty heavy as the whole thing is made from iron. I love that we have a real alien at the museum, something which truly comes from outer space.

Thats amazing! back to light night – Have you ever had dancers inside the museum space before?

National Museums Liverpool are always looking for fun and engaging ways to look at our collections and so we love inviting artists, musicians and dancers to come join us and perform at our world-famous venues. We have had dancers come to explore our World Cultures Gallery and our Ancient Egypt galleries before, and exploring the museum in this way opens it up for more people to enjoy the artefacts and stories that we have here. Many of our objects were made to be used, or worn, or played and so when we have events like this, we hope that people can come and enjoy the museum in a new and exciting way. I don’t think we’ve ever had dancers come to explore our Space gallery before though, so the performances from MDI are going to be a real treat!

What’s exciting about this sort of cross-artform collaboration?

Liverpool is a city steeped in culture and art, and we’re lucky to have so many organisations running events all year round – there is never a weekend without something cultural happening! Sometimes it can be hard to keep on top of everything that is going on, so when a big venue like the World Museum can get involved and show off some of the work that is always happening, it is really thrilling. When cultural organisations support and work with each other, everyone benefits. Exploring through dance and music is a bit like translating the objects into a totally different language, and so the thousands of visitors who come through our doors every year get the chance to see the collections through new eyes, maybe from a whole new perspective, or maybe for the very first time.

What else are you most excited for this Light Night?

I usually end up working in our venues for Light Night so I never get to plan ahead! Once I’m out, my favourite thing is to follow the crowds or to hop on the Light Night buses and discover things in parts of the city that I never usually visit. Often I’ll get a call from family or friends who tell me, “you have to come see such-and-such” and I rush over in that direction. I think that we forget how much is going on sometimes and every year the Light Night festival is an invitation to become a tourist in your own city. The thrill of discovering something or someplace new is just magic.

Join us on Light Night, Friday 17 May for a pop-up performance featuring dancers from our 50 Moves, Merseyside Youth Dance Company and school groups.