Jurassic World by Brickman
Bridget Scully, MA (Museum and Heritage Studies) student
Six million plastic bricks have gone into the making of the latest blockbuster exhibit at the Australian Museum, Sydney: Jurassic World by Brickman, a LEGO exhibition on now until Sunday 17 July.
Jurassic World by Brickman first opened in Melbourne in 2021 and was created by “Brickman” Ryan McNaught and his team. Brickman is one of 21 global LEGO certified professionals and currently the only one in the Southern Hemisphere. He is best known for hosting the television series LEGO Masters alongside Hamish Blake. Brickman’s work has featured in museums and galleries across Australia and the world, but his name is perhaps most familiar for University of Sydney students and staff as the creator of the spectacular LEGO Pompeii, on display at the Chau Chak Wing Museum.
In Jurassic World, large scale LEGO and DUPLO dinosaurs are set in scenery as you walk through sections based on the popular franchise. You enter the exhibition through the iconic Jurassic World gates into a room with scenes of the fictional island, Isla Nublar, where visitors are invited to build at several stands around the room. The exhibition moves through to the lab, where visitors can create their own mutant dinosaurs, followed by a baby dinosaur enclosure featuring a life size baby Brachiosaurus. In the next section of the exhibition, there are visual prompts to create a dinosaur footprint using LEGO. This moves into a room of Velociraptors including fan favourite Blue built with 58,227 LEGO bricks over 460 hours. The exhibit finishes with a bust of a Tyrannosaurus Rex behind the Jurassic Jeep. Children are definitely the target audience, with numerous stations and prompts for building with LEGO and DUPLO spaced throughout the exhibition.
But is the use of LEGO in exhibitions and museums worth it? Does it add to visitor education and engagement?
The Australian Museum’s goal is to ignite wonder about the natural environment and culture of Earth, particularly Australia and the Pacific. Yet visitors will fail to learn much about dinosaurs from Jurassic World, with the exhibition instead focusing on play and photo opportunities. While the museum offers a great exhibition on dinosaurs elsewhere in the building, this information does not carry across to Jurassic World. It has been shown, however, that “blockbuster” exhibitions like this entice people who would not normally visit into the rest of the museum. This is certainly the case with Jurassic World, with children likely wanting and asking to see more dinosaurs following their time in the LEGO exhibit. In fact, the director and CEO of the museum, Kim McKay has stated that staff knew the blockbuster dinosaur exhibit would attract new audiences and would hopefully pique their curiosity about the rest of the museum.
LEGO is now used by museums around the world to engage audiences. This use of LEGO employs a new medium to continue the tradition of interpretative models in museums in a way that engages children as a recognisable toy. “Brickman”, Ryan McNaught, currently has seven different exhibitions in circulation, including the Jurassic World exhibit, with Brickwrecks set to add to this selection when it opens at the Australian National Maritime Museum in December. While LEGO cannot substitute for the learning opportunities afforded by real artefacts, it is a great way of engaging new and young audiences with museums and their exhibitions.
Bridget Scully is about to commence a Master of Museum and Heritage Studies at the University of Sydney having previously completed a Graduate Certificate in Digital Communication and Culture at the university. Bridget previously studied a Bachelor of Arts in Ancient History and Education at Macquarie University. Her main area of interest is museum engagement, including museum education and program development.