Welcome to an ever so slightly special edition of This Way to the Zoological Museum… an interview with Anna of Anna’s Museum! Since I did a post on this little-est of natural history museums, a lot of people seemed interested and intrigued (including me). So after Anna got in touch, I decided to put some questions to her and find out some more about this curious collection.
Anna’s Museum (not open to the public I hasten to add, so please don’t go knocking on their door) is on Upper North Street in Brighton. It displays the collection of a young girl called Anna, and includes skeletons, birds’ eggs, stuffed animals, fossils and pieces of pottery. And it’s all brilliantly labelled in neat little hand writing!
Anna’s mum informs me that she has been fascinated by the universe ever since she was little; collecting interesting things on summer holidays and visiting the fossils at the Natural History Museum.
Now twelve years old, she already has her own museum. Not bad going, I’m a tad jealous if I’m honest. So, with a little help from her parents, here is a bit of insider info into the world of Anna’s Museum…
So Anna, what was the first thing you collected?
PARENTS: Anna was always bringing back things from walks – sheep’s wool, sticks, pebbles and conkers. When she was tiny, she was very interested in her surroundings. All walks around town took a long time. From nursery, she wanted to know what the coal holes were and manhole covers – which was gas, and which was water – and which buildings had lightning conductors. She liked to know what materials things were made of – and asked ‘what is this?’ all the time. We went into the Lego shop when she was maybe 4 or 5 and they asked her if she knew where Lego came from – they said Elves made it! She said – ‘no it is petro-chemicals’!
Do you remember why you started to collect things in the first place?
PARENTS: Bearing in mind she lives in the middle of town, all natural things are special to her! Cow horns were a big first collection when she was 7.
ANNA: Because they [cow horns] reminded me of the cows that lived there – they looked really out of the ordinary and unusual and they smelt nice.
PARENTS: A farmer in France gave her the horns, and a friend working for BA brought them home, then we boiled them clean.
Your collection has such a wide range of different things – from stuffed animals to bones and fossils. Where on earth do you find everything?
ANNA: Anywhere and everywhere, lots of people give things to me.
PARENTS: People post things through our letter box: the stone from the tomb of all the Tsars of all the Russias, from St Petersburg; the birds’ eggs cigarette cards; Suki the dead stick insect – who was supposedly “a good stick insect “. And many friends bring back special things from their travels – meteorite, fossils, uncut ruby.
Do you have a favourite place to go looking for things?
ANNA: On the beach you can always find something interesting. In the Laines on a Saturday – the flea markets and stalls.
How big is your collection? Does it take up a lot of space?!
ANNA: It is a big collection, but we can fit all the smaller things into one trunk – not counting Squirrel Nutkins, Calcifer the Pine Marten and Pheasant.
What made you display your collection as Anna’s Museum? Were you inspired by other museums?
PARENTS: We always used to put different displays in the window, as it is a shop front. So near bonfire night, we would make paper rockets and put them in the window. Or at Christmas we’d make tissue paper snowflakes and hang them up. Or do a nativity scene with stuffed toys.
ANNA: I really like the Booth Museum [Brighton], the Fitzwilliam Museum [Cambridge], Pitt Rivers in Oxford, Natural History Museum [London], the Zoological Museum Cambridge, the Museum of Anthropology Cambridge, and the Scott Polar Research Museum Cambridge.
What is your favourite object in your collection?
ANNA: Ooh that is hard! I think the wood-pigeon’s egg. I found it in the middle of a long hike, away on wilderness camp near Harlech [Wales]. Every rain drop hurt, and I managed to bring it back, hiding it in a sweet wrapper in a large egg box, in a rotten tree stump.
I hear you’re already planning another re-hang, what are your plans for the future?
ANNA: Getting some more shelves up high.
Brilliant, thanks for answering my questions Anna. I can’t quite decide which is my favourite object in your collection, but I think it might be the puffer fish hanging from the top of the window… the bulging eyes really make me chuckle! I hope you keep collecting, and one day have a museum open to the public.
There are more pictures over on the Beetle Cherry Flickr account, but if you’re in Brighton then why not go take a look for yourself – just up from the clock tower on Upper North Street.