The London Science Museum Need Your Help Identifying These Unusual Items

Could this glass contraption be a coffee maker a la Gale Boetticher? The Science Museum has no idea. Science Museum Group

Rachael Funnell 24 Jul 2020, 17:21

Television shows such as Cash In The Attic and Storage Hunters have had many of us dreaming of undiscovered treasures tucked away in our homes. Unfortunately, extensive searches more often than not only yield a few pogs and some dog-eared copies of the Mr. Men. Still gold in their own right but not exactly what one might call big-ticket items. In what must have been one of the more exciting clear outs at home however, the Science Museum in London have stumbled across a few objects that have even their esteemed curators completely stumped.

Unable to identify the mystery items, which range from small gold hammer-like objects to 18th-century sticks of wood and steel that look a bit like an early dog-ball-thrower, the museum has taken to the internet in search of answers. A new campaign is asking members of the public who might be able to identify the oddities to email their answers to mysteryobject@sciencemuseum.ac.uk and we couldn’t be more excited to see the results.

The mystery objects have been hiding among the 7.3 million items in the Science Museum Group’s collection and were uncovered during a project to transport 300,000 artifacts from Blythe House in London to their new home in a purpose-built facility in Wiltshire.

This unkown "medical gentleman" sits among the unidentified objects. Not sure why, but something tells me he was a great singer. Science Museum Group

“As part of that move we are having to look at and handle and inventory, and photograph every object stored at Blythe House,” said Jessica Bradford, the keeper of collection engagement at the Science Museum, in an interview with the Guardian. “It is like one giant house move project but with the added excitement that these objects are part of the national collection, and that they have incredible stories to tell.”

The mammoth project began in 2018 and has already seen success in identifying some weird and wonderful pieces. One particularly puzzling piece was a Chinese incense clock that seemed to be full of small, maze-like stencils. Eventually, a curator who was familiar with such items worked out the mazes acted as a timer, allowing the user to burn incense for a specified amount of time by dusting it within the mazes. Incense clocks were often used during ceremonies and their unique structure meant different fragrances could be introduced as the burning incense worked its way around the maze.

Perhaps a tiny, inefficient coat stand? Honestly we're stumped. Science Museum Group

However, despite their many curatorial legends, the museum has still found itself at a loss when it comes to a few of their discoveries, and Bradford hopes that the public’s hive mind may help them find some answers. “They are likely to be the kind of thing that maybe only one or two people in the world have ever seen before,” she said.

Antiquers of the world, unite! The Science Museum Group needs YOU.

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