Museum Curators Create a Contest to See Who Has the Creepiest Object: Ancient Body Parts, Cursed Toys, and More

Muse­ums around the world have tem­porar­i­ly closed due to the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, and each of these insti­tu­tions has used its down­time dif­fer­ent­ly. Some have pro­vid­ed online ver­sions of the expe­ri­ences pre­vi­ous­ly offered in their phys­i­cal gal­leries; oth­ers have start­ed pro­longed bat­tles on Twit­ter. No, not the kind of pro­longed bat­tle one nor­mal­ly asso­ciates with Twit­ter, but a friend­lier, more pro­duc­tive com­pe­ti­tion between pro­fes­sion­als. At times, how­ev­er, the #cura­tor­bat­tle, as it’s been hash­tagged, has looked just as repul­sive to the view­er as any Twit­ter con­flict: espe­cial­ly last week, when the York­shire Muse­um threw down the chal­lenge to pull the “creepi­est object” out of the archives and post it.

“Muse­um cura­tors are up to their ears in weird crap, some of which isn’t fit for dis­play,” writes Ruin My Week’s Ali­son Sul­li­van. “There are lots of niche muse­ums out there, too, who don’t get the kind of atten­tion the Smith­son­ian receives. They’re about local his­to­ry or spe­cif­ic inter­ests, and their col­lec­tions are the strangest of all.”

The York­shire Muse­um, which bills itself as offer­ing “Britain’s finest archae­o­log­i­cal trea­sures, and a walk through the Juras­sic land­scapes of York­shire,” is no dif­fer­ent: they start­ed off the chal­lenge of the week by post­ing a “3rd/4th cen­tu­ry hair bun from the bur­ial of a #Roman lady, still with the jet pins in place” — albeit ful­ly detached from the head it was buried on.

Oth­er par­tic­i­pat­ing insti­tu­tions saw the York­shire Muse­um’s hair bun and raised it a “sheep’s heart stuck with pins and nails, to be worn like a neck­lace for break­ing evil spells,” a P.T. Bar­num-style “mer­maid” con­struct­ed through taxi­dermy, a “CURSED CHILDREN’S TOY that we found inside the walls of a 155-year-old man­sion,” and small dio­ra­mas pop­u­lat­ed by gold-min­ers and card-play­ers made of crab’s legs and claws.

In the tweet post­ing that last, the York Cas­tle Muse­um describes the pieces’ cre­ators as typ­i­cal of Vic­to­ri­ans, who “loved weird/creepy stuff.” If your own such love isn’t sat­is­fied by the high­lights at Ruin My Week and The Guardian, have a look at the replies below the  York­shire Muse­um’s orig­i­nal tweet. You may not have asked to see a beaked 17th- or 18th-cen­tu­ry plague mask at this par­tic­u­lar moment, but try to take it in the spir­it of cul­tur­al exchange. View more creepy objects on Twit­ter here.

via Art­net

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The “Weird Objects” in the New York Pub­lic Library’s Col­lec­tions: Vir­ginia Woolf’s Cane, Charles Dick­ens’ Let­ter Open­er, Walt Whitman’s Hair & More

Inside the Creepy, “Aban­doned” Wiz­ard of Oz Theme Park: Scenes of Beau­ti­ful Decay

Hear Thomas Edison’s Creepy Talk­ing Dolls: An Inven­tion That Scared Kids & Flopped on the Mar­ket

The Creepy 13th-Cen­tu­ry Melody That Shows Up in Movies Again & Again: An Intro­duc­tion to “Dies Irae”

Charles Dick­ens Gave His Cat “Bob” a Sec­ond Life as a Let­ter Open­er

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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