In a change to my political blogs of the last 6 weeks or so, I had the chance yesterday (6th August) to visit Warrington Museum and hear a talk on weird and wonderful objects. As I recently signed up as a Culture Warrington member, was offered an invite to the first exclusive event.
Collections officer Craig Sherwood led a fascinating talk about the more extraordinary and rare items in the collection, and offered time to handle some of the objects. These included a Fiji mermaid, a cannibal fork and the scold’s bridle (used as a punishment for women who gossiped). It was an intimate talk in a small room at the back of the museum, with Craig firstly asking “what is weird?” The two answers given were Pokemon Go and those who take part in the game, and my better half describing particle physics briefly.
The museum has a rare two headed Fiji mermaid which were originally from Japan not Fiji, and presented at side shows as the mummified body of a creature that was supposedly half mammal and half fish. Craig described that the original object was exhibited by P.T Barnum in his American ‘Museum’ in New York in 1842 and then assumed destroyed in a fire. It also was exhibited in London previous to that, although was realised to be a fake there.
The cannibal fork, similar to the one above was of Fijian origin and known as “Ai Cula Ni Bokola”. They are pronged wooden forks of this type are often assumed to have been used for eating human flesh. The most famous one surrounds a 19th century Chief named Udre Udre, who kept a stone for every enemy he tasted the flesh of, with over 800 over his grave, making him allegedly the most prolific cannibal:
Warringtom museum has a long history with the original opening in 1848 and moving to the current building a decade later. The museum’s collection was originally based upon the collection of the Warrington Natural History Society but it has since grown in excess of 200,000 objects, covering many areas including natural sciences, antiquities, social history, and various types of artwork. Other museums have a focus on local history but here is a wider range of exhibits. More information can be found at: http://www.warringtonmuseum.co.uk/