UI Museums recreate 'Frozen' and fantasy tales


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Halloween will undoubtedly be an excuse for University of Iowa students to don Nicki Minaj spandex, Orange is the New Black scrubs, or Ebola HAZMAT suits — speculated to be the most popular costume this year, ethical or not — and orchestrate a bar crawl in downtown Iowa City.

Fortunately, one Halloween "crawl" will be family-friendly and put a fun twist on trick or treating.

"The museum will be transformed into a storybook wonder, with costumes and decorations that relate to The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Casper the Ghost, and other classic tales," said Shalla Ashworth, an associate director of the Old Capitol Museum.

The ninth-annual Creepy Campus Crawl will take place Friday at the Old Capitol Museum and the Museum of Natural History from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The students and staff of the museums will offer kids and families a free opportunity to dress up in costumes, learn about history, and experience some festive Halloween fun.

"Each year's event is different as we focus on different themes. Past themes have been Clue, Harry Potter, and Monsters, Myths, and Magic. Each year has different activities for families to enjoy. It's a great time to explore the museums in a different way. It's fun to see the staff and visitors in costumes participating in activities, and of course there will be candy," Ashworth said.

Both museums will be transformed into different "realms," each centered on popular fantasy and horror tales.

This year, the theme of the Old Capitol is "On a Dark and Stormy Night … Classic Tales Come to Life" in which the fictional worlds of Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Jungle Book become reality. Visitors can also explore the land of Arendelle with Elsa and Anna of the Disney movie Frozen or take a herbology class at Hogwarts in the Museum of Natural History's "Kingdoms of Discovery." 

Carissa Dewaele, assistant education and outreach coordinator for the Museum of Natural History, said the students — who represent a variety of majors — were integral in developing the theme.

"We chose Kingdoms of Discovery because we thought it would be exciting and fun for children to dive into their favorite fantasy realms for a night full of magic and learning," she said. "Many of our student staff are huge fans of Harry Potter, Frozen, Lord of the Rings, How to Train Your Dragon, and The Chronicles of Narnia, so it's also really enjoyable for us to bring those worlds to life for our visitors."

The staff members of Creepy Campus Crawl also immerse themselves in the event.

"Everyone's assigned a specific station, and they have to come up with a costume. That's their big commitment to the program,"  Dewaele said and laughed. "They have to stay in character."

Aside from pure entertainment, the event also adds an educational spin to each exhibit. Scientists from the UI Physics/Astronomy Department, the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, and the College of Dentistry will contribute their expertise to the evening.

"We try to use the background of the museum and what our exhibits are to really enhance our theme," said Julia DeSpain, the current acting education and outreach coordinator for the Museum of Natural History. "Frozen is going to be in the Ice Age section of the museum, so it's already this feeling of a frozen wonderland. It transforms the museum in a magical and fun way. It brings in a lot of visitors who would not normally come here, and it opens our world to them."

Creepy Campus Crawl
When: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Old Capitol Museum and Museum of Natural History
Admission: Free

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