‘Creepiest object’ challenge started by Yorkshire museum goes global

Since its closure due to Covid-19, the Yorkshire Museum has been challenging restless museum experts worldwide to showcase their weird and wonderful collections on social media. This week’s theme urged museums to share the ‘creepiest’ objects and – be warned – it did not disappoint!

Yorkshire Museum kicked off the friendly challenge on Twitter with a shocking picture of a 1,700-year-old bundle of hair with pins intact, which had once belonged to a Roman woman. “Can you beat it?” they goaded.

The #curatorbattle post has subsequently had more than 220,000 engagements. Many museums from the UK, Germany, France, Canada and the USA responded.

Prince Edward Island Museum in Canada submitted a sinister picture of a supposedly cursed children’s toy. The museum claims to have discovered it tucked inside the walls of a 155-year-old mansion. “We call it ‘Wheelie’ – and it MOVES ON ITS OWN,” announced the museum. “Staff put it in one place and find it in another spot later on …”

The UK’s Royal Armouries endeavoured to “turn the creep up to 100” by posting the image of a grinning iron mask from the Tower of London. The creepy headpiece might have been worn as an executioner’s mask or a muzzle designed for public humiliation.

Adding to the list of hair-raising objects, York Art Gallery wrote: “GUYS we know we have already won. This severed lower leg by Kerry Jameson has sprouted its own legs and a rather beastly head. @COCAYork #RethinkCeramics”.

Perhaps one of the weirdest objects to come out of the challenge is a terrifying mermaid diorama preserved in the National Museums of Scotland. The Victorian example of taxidermy combines various animal parts and glaring glass eyes to recreate the image of the mythical sea creature.

The curator battle has been gradually building as more and more museums and the general public look at our Twitter feed every Friday to see what theme we’re going to pitch,” explained Millicent Carroll form the York Museums Trust. “Last week’s best egg contest had replies from the Hermitage in Russia and the American Museum of National History, but the creepiest object has taken it to another level.

Yorkshire Museum’s weekly #curatorbattle series intends to unite institutions and virtual visitors across the world during lockdown. Previous themes for the weeklong competition have included the dullestprettiest, and deadliest objects.

It is great for us and other museums to be able to still share our collections with the public when our doors are closed. We just hope we haven’t given anyone any nightmares!”

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