Staff at the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) opened their emails on Wednesday morning to find a rather odd message from a confused assistant curator, saying: “There appears to be a dead mouse in this mousetrap which is not described as being there on the database.”
Within the 150-year-old mousetrap, the curators did indeed find a fresh dead mouse. The museum has a wealth of textiles, straw and wood in its collection, but the unfortunate rodent happened to cross paths with the “old, not obsolete” mousetrap.
Adding further curiosity to the story, the trap was not baited with anything other than a layer of dust. The mousetrap is able to capture unwitting pests alive with a seesaw mechanism. As the mouse walks along an internal plank, the pest’s weight will tip the seesaw over, leaving it trapped in bottom of the box.
The contraption was patented and manufactured in 1861 by Colin Pullinger & Sons of Silsey, West Sussex. On the side of the box, it accurately boasts: “Perpetual Mouse Trap" and "will last a lifetime.”
The scene of the crime. Image credit: Museum Of English Rural Life (MERL)
MERL, which is part of the University Of Reading, said in a blog post that the mouse “managed to get in while construction work has been carried out for the museum’s redevelopment.
“We have traps set for pests, but we can never catch everything all of the time,” it added.
“For the moment, however, the mouse remains in the trap while we decide what to do with it. One option is a dignified burial, another is to desiccate it or have it prepared to remain as a permanent feature of the mouse trap for our new displays. We’ll let you know what we decide.”