- A Museum Miscellany, by Claire Cock-Stanley. Bodleian Library. $26.99.
Claire Cock-Starkey has previously compiled The Book Lovers' Miscellany (2017) and A Library Miscellany (2018). A Museum Miscellany is the final volume of what she has termed her 'Miscellany Trilogy'.
A Museum Miscellany ranges from national institutions such as the Musee du Louvre, the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art to niche collections such as the British Lawnmower Museum in Southport, the Museum of Bread Culture in Germany and the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum.
Another quirky example is the Museum of Broken Relationships, which was established in Zagreb in 2006 and was followed by a second Museum in Los Angeles in 2016. This Museum also has an online presence where people can upload their items and memories of relationships past. Cock-Starkey notes one museum item is a diamond ring with the caption 's(he) be(lie)ve(d)'.
Given these examples, Cock-Starkey understandably says the perception of what constitutes a museum in the present day has become much wider than the traditional concept of a building to house a collection. The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, which opened in 1683, was Britain's first public museum, "documenting both the word and the concept in the English language".
In addition to actual museums, such as the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, there are entries under subject headings such as 'Museums in Literature'; 'Oldest Museum Objects', including moon rock in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington and 'Dangerous Museum Objects' such as a cyanide ampoule in the Imperial War Museum in London.
'Writers' House Museums of Note', includes the Jane Austen House at Chawton and the Bloomsbury Set Monk's House in Sussex. Artists House museums include Monet's House and gardens in Giverney and William Morris's Red House in Bexleyheath.
Yorkshire's Warley Museum claims to be the world's smallest Museum, and is housed in a red telephone box with only one person allowed to enter!
Museum entries are largely from western sources, although Cock-Starkey's 20 top global museums in terms of visitors does have two Chinese museums in Beijing and Shanghai in the top ten.
A Museum Miscellany, given its relatively small size, is indeed a miscellany rather than a comprehensive overview of museums. Nonetheless, it is a delight to dip into and is perfectly formatted to slip into a museum lovers pocket. Many will surely endorse the quotation of Sister Wendy Beckett that "a country that has few museums is both materially poor and spiritually poor . . . museums, like theatres and libraries, are a means to freedom".