Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can’t or Won’t Show You

Harriet Baskas. Lyons (Globe Pequot, dist.), $19.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-7627-8047-1
Though the U.S. has over 15,000 museums, visitors only see an estimated 5–10% percent of their holdings at any given time. The primary reason is lack of space, and the fact that some items are too old or too delicate to display. Radio producer Baskas distills her radio series Hidden Museum Treasures into stories about 50 strange items you’ll never get to see and the surprising reasons why. Some artifacts, like one of Pink Floyd’s giant inflatable pigs housed at Cleveland, Ohio’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum are simply too big to display, while others, like Marie Curie’s radium and a Taoist statue made from a highly toxic form of arsenic, are too dangerous. Then there are the oddities: the 612 “time capsules” containing ephemera that Andy Warhol collected and the glass coffin housed at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y. Yes, there are mummified thumbs and anatomical artifacts, but gruesome items are in the minority. Baskas prefers to focus on quirky items with cultural significance (artifacts related to 9/11 at the TSA Museum) or those with a good story behind them (a slice of 150-year-old wedding cake from Tom Thumb’s wedding at the P.T. Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, Conn.). The result makes for entertaining reading that’s surprisingly informative; armchair librarians and archivists will be delighted. Full-color illus. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/2013
Release date: 10/01/2013
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