As the doors lock at Kingston museums, guests must search around iron lugs and old dentures to find the key to escape.
The Museum of Healthcare and the Murney Tower Museum will host “Escape the Museum,” a special Halloween event, on Oct. 21 from 3 to 8 p.m. Guests will be locked in the museums with the goal of exploring each exhibit to find a way out of the space. The event blends heritage with the concept of an escape room, creating an interactive learning experience for guests.
“It’s really just to get people to engage with museums who may not engage with museums regularly. Maybe you love an escape room, but you don’t love a museum,” Programming and Communications Coordinator Claire Notman, ConEd ’10, said in an interview with The Journal.
Notman said even if people don’t find museums to be very engaging, they will get the opportunity to explore heritage through this event. She believes the event is a good chance for guests to see the value of their museum and hope it will encourage participants to go to other Kingston museums.
As they walk around exhibits, participants will find hints or clues to earn a key to escape the museum. Once attendees have completed the challenge at one museum, they can move to the second one.
Last year, Murney Tower’s Halloween event was geared toward kids, and the Museum of Healthcare featured adult-focused activities. This year, Notman, in collaboration with Manager and Curator of Murney Tower Simge O’Connor, cultural studies PhD ’24, developed an all-ages event to engage both children and adults.
“We’re walking that line where we want everybody to be able to come in—even students—and not feel like they’re at a kids event. There are some spooky themes and some tricky puzzles,” Notman said.
With narrow pathways and winding stairs, O’Connor feels their museums are perfect for Halloween events. The escape room setup allows the museum to present an unfamiliar version of the space to both new and past guests.
“We decorate our [museum] sites, I think that provides an entirely different layer of experience. The old [museum] site will be turned into spooky haunted houses,” Notman said.
The guest experience is very special for O’Connor and Notman because they want people to have fun with their friends and family. They see Halloween as a great opportunity to show people what they offer as a heritage site.
O’Connor said this will be a special experience for students since Murney Tower is normally closed at the beginning of September when most students return to Kingston. The museum is opening its doors just for this event.
“Unfortunately, we can’t bring lots of students in [during the school year]. This [Halloween event] is perfect for any student who wants to check us out. They can come and see us in the off-season,” O’Connor said.
Last month the Museum of Healthcare opened a new exhibition on the history of the Rockwood Asylum and the lived histories found there. It touches on the evolution of mental health care in Canada and focuses on the narratives of people who lived and worked within the institution.
Murney Tower will have a special Halloween display referencing many Kingston ghost stories to create a haunted atmosphere. Like Notman, O’Connor said the whole experience is about being in the museum space.
Notman and O’Connor’s biggest concern about the event is their capacity limit.
Both museums are fairly small, and it can be challenging to get staff and volunteers for the weekend. Due to the popularity of the event, ticket sales will no be closed after Friday morning.
Notman and O’Connor look forward to seeing people in Halloween costumes scurry around the museums this Saturday.
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