With Easter fast approaching, UK attractions are busy thinking how to help fill all that spare time with the kids. But the Science Museum in London (sciencemuseum.org.uk) has come up with an innovative idea to appeal to us adults.
Tapping into the specialist knowledge of its in-house experts, the museum has launched a series of weekday "curator tours", which aim to reveal the hidden stories behind key exhibits in its collections.
"We're constrained by space when assembling an exhibition," says Andrew Nahum, principal curator of technology and engineering, who also put together the museum's current flight display, and recently led the first of these specialist tours. "We have to be brief and highly selective – so there's a wealth of background information and history to these exhibits that gets lost. But these tours are an exciting opportunity to offer a personal and engaging encounter with the galleries, to get behind the objects, and offer a deeper engagement through our expertise."
Get a group of like-minded people together – a minimum of 10 is required – book one of these one-hour experiences, and you can embark on an insider's journey through the museum's space, medicine or flight displays.
The innovations of the American flying pioneer Samuel Franklin Cody and his development of a aeroplane for the British Army in the early 1900s are well documented in the Flight gallery. But set off with Mr Nahum and he'll share the secret story behind this fascinating man.
Learn how Cody, a Wild West showman who brought his popular shooting and roping act to the music halls of England, later financed his interest in man-lifting kites with the rewards he reaped from his stage act.
Mr Nahum will reveal that as well as attracting the attention of the British with his aeronautical antics, Cody was also celebrated for his cowboy skills. To inject a bit of fun into military trials on Salisbury Plain, he lassoed a group of Scouts who were acting as guides. And to inject a bit of fun into his tour, Mr Nahum has delved into the archives and shares the comments of a turn-of-the-century magazine – "[Cody's rope] skills were wonderful, considering he doesn't get much practice these days" – adding context that would otherwise have remained hidden from history.
Curator tours include a short talk, a Q&A session and time to explore the galleries. They run Tuesday to Thursday, at 11am or 3pm, and cost £7 per person for 10-20 people. Book a month ahead (0870 870 4868).