Collected works or how your gonk museum got started


Good news for Stockport’s Hat Museum! There has been an upsurge in visitors from the Far East recently after it featured in a Chinese documentary.

The Hat Works has over 400 hats from around the world, and shows visitors what life was like when hat manufacturing was a thriving industry in the area.

Hong Yane Wang, who made the documentary about British traditions, said: “We found exactly what we were looking for in the museum.” (Although, given our climate, that might have been a cabinet of spotty plastic rain hoods.)

I’ll say one thing for us Brits, we do excel at large displays of objects you’d usually find gathering dust in cupboards. In Merseyside, for example, there’s a Lawnmower Museum. Devon has a House of Marbles, which at least gives frustrated parents somewhere for their lost ones to go. And there’s the Pencil museum in Keswick, about which you’ll have to draw your own conclusions.

But my favourite has to be the dog collar museum in Kent. You wouldn’t think there was enough rain in the world to drive a person to visit a dog collar museum and yet, amazingly, they do. 


The museum got started after the first articles were donated by Gertrude Hunt in memory of her husband, a distinguished medievalist. I think herein lies a clue to how some of these ‘collections’ began.

You know the scenario. Say, on a whim, you buy yourself a ceramic pig. A friend notices the purchase. ‘Hmm, she likes pottery pigs,’ they think. ‘That’s her birthday present sorted!’ You haven’t the heart to say you don’t actually like pigs very much after all, so you have to display the pig they buy you, along with the pig that caused all the trouble, every time they call round.

Now you have two pottery pigs, and that’s going to draw some attention. ‘Ah, so she’s a pig collector,’ future visitors observe with interest. Soon, you’re the recipient of a pig tea pot, a pair of piglet salt’n’pepper shakers, a pig Toby jug. Everyone’s convinced you love pigs. And how can you claim otherwise, when you’re pouring their tea out of a snout? So the pigs keep coming. Pigs in dungarees. Pigs on motorbikes. Pigs with eyelashes, propped up lasciviously on one elbow. Eventually, it becomes easier just to give into it. When the pig count becomes great enough, you’ll open a museum.

I can only imagine this is what happened to the dog collar people, except with dog collars, instead of pigs.

One hopes the same cannot be said of a museum in Iceland devoted entirely to phalluses – over one hundred penises and penile parts belonging to mammals from land and sea. You don’t even have to be a member to get in.

It could, however, explain the Hair Museum in Turkey, which features some 16,000 locks of hair from women around the world, a real home-from-home for the serial killers amongst us.

But there is simply no reasonable explanation for the last attraction on our list, the Parasite Museum, Tokyo, which plays host (ha!) to 300 varieties of parasites including – and forgive me if you’ve just eaten lunch – a 30 foot tapeworm allegedly removed from a woman who ingested it whilst eating sushi. This is, perhaps, the only museum in the world where you don’t want to pick up something interesting from the gift shop.

No wonder those visitors from the Orient are so keen to look at a nice, harmless hat…