Hidden Treasures

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Select media coverage: USA Today, NPR Hidden Treasures series, Seattle Times

hidden treasures“Radio producer Baskas distills her radio series Hidden Museum Treasures into stories about 50 strange items you’ll never get to see and the surprising reasons why. . . . The result makes for entertaining reading that’s surprisingly informative; armchair librarians and archivists will be delighted.”—Publishers Weekly

Globe Pequot Press is proud to announce the release of HIDDEN TREASURES: WHAT MUSEUMS CAN’T OR WON’T SHOW YOU, by Harriet Baskas (October 5, 2013, 978-0-7627-8047-1; $19.95 paperback), a look inside the back rooms and locked cabinets of more than 55 U.S. museums and the special collections and single objects that are rarely, if ever, displayed.

While there are more than 15,000 museums in our country, visitors get to see only about five percent of any institution’s collections—most museums simply don’t have enough room to display everything they’ve got! But while space is an issue, there are a wide variety of surprising and intriguing reasons why, for example, the Smithsonian Institution doesn’t display its collection of condoms; Florida’s Lightner Museum locks up all but one of its shrunken heads, and a world-class stash of Japanese erotica (shunga) art was kept in the Honolulu Museum of Art’s storage until only recently. Each item or collection included in HIDDEN TREASURES is described and placed in context with stories and interviews that explore the historical, social, cultural, political, environmental, or other circumstances that led to that object being kept from view, including:

  • At the Corning Museum of Glass, in Corning, NY, a 600-pound doeskin-covered glass coffin is never exhibited because of its size and weight and because, according to a museum curator, “pretty much anywhere you put a coffin in a museum, it’s going to make it look like a funeral parlor.”
  • The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, OH, can’t display Pink Floyd’s giant iconic inflatable pig stage prop because, at 17 ft. tall, 15 ft. wide and 25 ft. long, it’s just too darn big to fit in the museum.
  • The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, IN, has a matchbox containing a village diorama set inside the two halves of a hazelnut, complete with tiny flea-headed figures. The museum rarely displays the matchbox because it’s so small, it would be too difficult for more than one person to view at one time.
  • The Maryhill Museum of Art in Goldendale, WA, would love to display two medals originally given by explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to local Native American chiefs as symbols of peace. But, unfortunately, the medals were stolen from the museum.
  • The Haley Davidson-branded cigarettes and wine coolers in the collection of the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, WI, are unlikely to be displayed because, according to the museum’s curatorial director, “they’re not products the company looks fondly on in retrospect.”

Harriet Baskas is an award-winning multi-media journalist who writes regularly for NBCNews.com, USATODAY.com, CNBC.com, and other national and regional outlets. She’s the author of the popular blog, StuckatTheAirport.com, as well as seven books, including Washington Curiosities, Oregon Curiosities (both from Globe Pequot), and Stuck at the Airport (Fireside). Two of her 26-part radio series about museums, including the Hidden Treasures Radio Project, aired on NPR and other national radio programs. Baskas has a Masters in Communications from the University of Washington. She lives in Seattle.

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