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The stories behind five weird and wonderful objects at the Museum of Curiosities

By
Paula Erizanu
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Last month marked the one year birthday of the Museum of Curiosities - a weird and wonderful venue in South Hackney crammed with taxidermy, Victorian porn books, mystical objects and even McDonald's Happy Meal toys over two floors. It's also home to the Wunderkabbinet - an odd assortment of objects collected by the museum's founder Victor Wynd. 

Because the museum was created as a manifesto against the 'labeled drawers dictated by an obscurantist elite establishment', you won't find much background information to the objects it displays - so here's the stories behind five objects that embody the spirit of the place:

An eighteenth century mermaid Paula Erizanu

1. A mermaid 

Forget ginger haired Ariel, a mermaid is really a monkey with a fish tail. At least by eighteenth century standards when sailors brought the monsters from the seas. Wynd bought this one at an Essex flea market. 

The male version, the merman, can be found at the British Museum; 'caught' and mummified in Japan in the 1700s, it was then gifted to the grandson of Queen Victoria, Prince Arthur of Connaught.  

 

A dodo bird skeletonPaula Erizanu

2. A dodo bird skeleton

Wynd found several skeletons of the extinct birds at a private collector who had inherited the bones. Only five private owners in the world have dodo birds; two of them bought the bones from Wynd. The auction house Christie's evaluated them at £10-15,000 per bone. Now multiply that by 92 bones. 

  

3. Three slides of Victorian human foetus 

They belonged to the Royal Holloway Museum before its closure in the 1950s. You may find them gross or poetic, but Wynd thinks 'they're pretty and part of everyday life'.

A fake human handPaula Erizanu

4. A fake human hand  

A fake hand supposedly belonging to a nineteenth century strangler, acquired from a Parisian antiques and curiosities auction. Wynd says 'people held these hands in their houses in order to protect themselves from evil.'  

Mexican magical soapPaula Erizanu

5. Magical soap

Wynd bought these from the Mexico City witches' market a year ago. They supposedly cure everything from bad grades to an unfaithful husband. Wynd remembers seeing a varied local crowd at the market, including 'big muscular men with tattoos and big golden chains looking for goats, to sacrifice them on altars of the Santa Muerta cult.'

The museum and the bar attached to it on 11 Mare Street is open Wednesday to Sunday between 11am to 10.30pm. The entry is £4.

Find out more about the Museum of Curiosities

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