Special thanks to Molly Oldfield for answering 6 questions about her recently featured book – The Secret Museum: Some Treasures Are Too Precious To Display
Molly Oldfield studied Modern History at Oxford before becoming a writer and researcher on the BBC television show QI. She has worked on a string of bestselling QI books, writes the weekly QI column for the Daily Telegraph and is a researcher on a BBC4 radio show, The Museum of Curiosity.
#1 – What was the impetus for The Secret Museum?
I had the idea for The Secret Museum whilst working on the BBC television show QI. I have been a writer on the show since the first series – essentially forever and a LONG time. I went to lots of museums looking for questions and I met the fish curators at the Natural History Museum in London and they invited me behind the scenes to see what they get up to. I fell down a rabbit hole into a world of stories and treasures, all hidden away behind locked doors. I discovered that most museums only show between 1 and 5% of their collections and I was amazed. I decided to visit over 100 museums and meet curators and see the stuff few people ever get to see and then wrote a book about it all.
#2 – To you, what is it about the artefacts themselves that is important? The object? The story about the object? The rarity? Their significance in human history?
I like the stories of the objects. In each museum I saw thousands and thousands of things during my research trip and then I picked the object I found the most interesting and told its story.
#3 – What was the most moving artefact that you got to see?
A friendship book belonging to a friend of Anne Frank. Anne wrote a beautiful poem inside it and pasted in a photograph of herself as a beautiful young girl. In the corners of the pages she wrote For-Get-Me-Not. It was wonderful to see something she made when she was a happy go lucky school girl, celebrating her friends birthday. The family of her friend had donated the book to the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam and I was the first person to tell its story. I was moved to tears by my visit to the museum and hope I did justice to the experience, I was really lucky to see the treasure. The museum liked the piece a lot though and featured it on their blog and website so that was great.
#4 – With the availability of cheaper digitisation processes, will people be able to see more of these artefacts online?
Yes definitely. It’s getting easier and easier to see things in archives although of course you don’t find out too much of it’s story in traditional museum tags, and its the stories that I love and want to tell.
#5 – The book has been out just over a year, what feedback have you had from readers?
Pretty much positive. I’ve met lots of lovely people doing book events and had some great reviews, I’m really happy people have been so nice to my book because like every writer, it’s quite wonderful to see an idea become a reality and then for people to read that thing that was once just in your head. It’s a magical thing. If you have a book you’d like to write – go for it.
#6 – Are you working on any new projects/books?
Yes I am. A few things which are similar but also rather unique. I hope to be able to tell you about them soon.
[Image Credit: Author’s Homepage ]