While Visitors Are in Quarantine, Museums Are Sharing Their Creepiest Objects on Twitter

A long-dead Roman woman’s hair bun, jet pins and all.
A long-dead Roman woman’s hair bun, jet pins and all. / Yorkshire Museum // CC BY-SA 4.0

Though they may not be open to visitors during the COVID-19 crisis, museums around the world are finding ways to keep busy. Earlier this month, the UK's Yorkshire Museum challenged museums on Twitter to share the creepiest objects in their collections.

The Yorkshire Museum kicked off the #curatorbattle on April 17 by tweeting a picture of a hair bun recovered from a Roman tomb dating back to the 3rd or 4th century. Since then, dozens of institutions have participated.

The Egham Museum in the UK contributed an antique doll with a balding, cracked head that's simply labeled "MC 294." From the British Toy Museum of Penshurst Place came a red-eyed stuffed bear that pretends to drink when you feed it coins. The winner, at least based on Twitter's response, may be "The Mermaid" of the National Museums of Scotland's Natural Sciences department. The unsettling monstrosity was one of many monkey-fish taxidermy hybrids made popular by P.T. Barnum.

This isn't the first time museums have used social media to show off some of their more unusual items. In October of last year, the History Center of Olmsted County in Rochester, Minnesota, held a contest to determine which of the antique dolls in its collection was the creepiest. This latest challenge is not only a chance for museums to spotlight some underrated objects, but also to connect with the public when people are stuck at home.

If you think you can stomach it, you can view even more freaky museum objects under the hashtag #curatorbattle. For a more pleasant virtual museum experience, here are some world-class institutions you can tour online.