Steve Backshall explores OUMNH after dark

Philanthropy Report 2020/21

Mystery at the museum


A museum-based adventure has boosted our appreciation of biodiversity.

With restricted access to ‘in person’ visits during the pandemic, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History (OUMNH) played virtual host to an online interactive puzzle challenge in December 2020 to raise funds for its HOPE for the Future project.

Wildlife presenter and explorer Steve Backshall took participants on an after-dark adventure through the neo-gothic splendour of the museum, with the public helping him solve clues as the mystery unfolded in real time. Viewers were able to witness a torchlit exploration of behind-the-scenes areas of the museum in pursuit of the sinister Miss Take, who represented the threat that the loss of biodiversity poses to the planet.

While the event was free to join, people were encouraged to donate to the HOPE for the Future project, which is seeking to preserve the 200-year-old Hope Entomological Collections held at the museum. The project, which has received support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, aims to rehouse and document over one million British insects and deliver a learning and community programme to inspire lifelong interest in the natural world. The live event raised over £33,000 and clocked up 121,000 views, with over 16,000 people in 7,689 households actively taking part.

Janet Stott, Deputy Director and Head of Public Engagement at OUMNH, said: ‘This was such a creative and engaging way of connecting with people during difficult times while visits to the museum were so limited. It is important that we do not lose sight of the challenges posed by the loss of biodiversity – a mission that lies at the heart of the HOPE project. We are enormously grateful to everyone for their involvement and generosity.’


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