THE SECRET MUSEUM
'This is a rare instance where you can judge a book by its cover - glittering gold, this book is truly a delight. The author lovingly tells the story of 60 different objects hidden in archives and stores around the world - spacesuits, Van Gogh's sketchbooks, blue whales, bits of Mars, sleds, explorers' hats...'
One of the things Molly is often asked is ‘How do you find the questions for QI?’ Her answer is, she finds a lot of ideas for questions in museums – they’re a great place to go to learn, to get fresh ideas and to wander around in beauty. She used to visit museums, notebook in hand, scribbling down question ideas without realising that behind closed doors, most of each museum’s collection is hidden away.
That changed when two curators who look after the Natural History Museum’s fish collection invited the QI Elves to look around their secret realm. Molly leapt at the chance and spent three hours pushing open high-security doors and peering into tanks to marvel at specimens like Archie the Giant Squid (and his tankmate, the even bigger Colossal Squid) who is too big to fit in the galleries, and sharks that inspired super-fast Olympic swimwear. One of the specimens she saw that day - an anglerfish couple - made it into the pages of her book. She became obsessed, and spent the following year and a half visiting museums around the world to find hidden treasures in the world’s most interesting museum archives to lift into the light. The result was this unique and wonderful book – rich in atmosphere and anecdote, suffused with the surprising emotion of a personal discovery, but grounded in fascinating detail.
Whatever your interests, there are delights in store for you: take your pick – what about a space suit covered in moon dust? Or maybe three pieces of Mars, kept in storage at the Vatican Observatory? Van Gogh’s personal sketchbooks? A letter opener made from the paw of Charles Dickens’ cat? A friendship book written in by Anne Frank? Perhaps a tutu danced in by Margot Fonteyn? How about a piece of Isaac Newton’s apple tree? Or the hats Dr Livingstone and Stanley were wearing when they met in Africa – the ones they raised to one another when Stanley said, 'Dr Livingstone I presume?'
Delve in and have a look around....
'OLDFIELD'S GENIUS IS TO SEE THAT MUSEUMS HAVE MORE STUFF THAN THEY CAN DISPLAY, AND TO PERSUADE CURATORS TO SHOW HER THEIR BURIED TREASURES...HER CABINET OF CURIOSITIES REVEALS VERY ENGAGING PERSONALITY'
Reviews & Feedback
'A BOUNDLESSLY FASCINATING INVENTORY OF SIXTY NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN TREASURES TOO PRECIOUS TO DISPLAY, CULLED FROM THE ARCHIVES AND SECRET STORAGE LOCATIONS OF SOME OF THE WORLD'S TOP CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS.'
MARIA POPOVA - BRAIN PICKINGS
'A UNIQUE TOME - BEAUTIFULLY RESEARCHED'