Monday, November 18, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide: The Secret Museum by Molly Oldfield

The title goes quite beyond explaining the book. The Secret Museum: Some Treasures Are Too Precious to Display (Firefly). But the book is about the museum you never see. The objects that are, for various reasons, tucked out of sight, hidden in secret locations and kept from public view.

Author Molly Oldfield tells us that all museums have these things: items too precious, or secret or controversial to be viewed by the steaming masses. “Usually there is more hidden than there is on display,” she writes in The Secret Museum. “There are all sorts of reasons why.”

Items that might be too fragile or too precious or simply too large, as is the case of a blue whale in the National Museum of Scotland at Edinburgh.

At the Royal Geographical Society in London, one will not see Livingstone and Stanley’s hats.

If you go to the Nobel Museum in Stockholm you also won’t see Alfred Nobel’s will (the museum is just too small for the atmospherically controlled display case that would be required to make it possible).

At the Royal Opera House in Kent, England you won’t see Dame Margot Fonteyn’s tutu from when she danced  the role of Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty in 1946. (A madly big deal at the time.)

At the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo you won’t see the logbook of the Kon-Tiki Expedition and at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London you won’t see the flag from the battle of Trafalgar.

In total, Oldfield looks closely at 60 items museums are keeping mum about, while mentioning many more. Those who love secrets, museums or just a twisty tale of the entirely true variety will enjoy The Secret Museum. ◊

Aaron Blanton is a contributing editor to January Magazine. He’s currently working on a book based on his experiences as an American living abroad.

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