@mollyoldfield | mollyoldfield.com

This is a rare instance where you can judge a book by its cover - glittering gold, this book is truly a delight. The author lovingly tells the story of 60 different objects hidden in archives and stores around the world - spacesuits, Van Gogh's sketchbooks, blue whales, bits of Mars, sleds, explorers' hats...

The Secret Museum

One of the things Molly is often asked is ‘How do you find the questions for QI?’ Her answer is, she finds a lot of ideas for questions in museums – they’re a great place to go to learn, to get fresh ideas and to wander around in beauty. She used to visit museums, notebook in hand, scribbling down question ideas without realising that behind closed doors, most of each museum’s collection is hidden away.

That changed when two curators who look after the Natural History Museum’s fish collection invited the QI Elves to look around their secret realm. Molly leapt at the chance and spent three hours pushing open high-security doors and peering into tanks to marvel at specimens like Archie the Giant Squid (and his tankmate, the even bigger Colossal Squid) who is too big to fit in the galleries, and sharks that inspired super-fast Olympic swimwear. One of the specimens she saw that day - an anglerfish couple - made it into the pages of her book. She became obsessed, and spent the following year and a half visiting museums around the world to find hidden treasures in the world’s most interesting museum archives to lift into the light. The result was this unique and wonderful book – rich in atmosphere and anecdote, suffused with the surprising emotion of a personal discovery, but grounded in fascinating detail.

Whatever your interests, there are delights in store for you: take your pick – what about a space suit covered in moon dust? Or maybe three pieces of Mars, kept in storage at the Vatican Observatory? Van Gogh’s personal sketchbooks? A letter opener made from the paw of Charles Dickens’ cat? A friendship book written in by Anne Frank? Perhaps a tutu danced in by Margot Fonteyn? How about a piece of Isaac Newton’s apple tree? Or the hats Dr Livingstone and Stanley were wearing when they met in Africa – the ones they raised to one another when Stanley said, 'Dr Livingstone I presume?'

Delve in and have a look around.... 




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'Startlingly brilliant … I’ve rarely read a book so fuelled by sheer enthusiasm. It’s all quite delightful, a brilliant idea executed with great charm and unceasing joie de vivre.'


Readers' Feedback

It's lavishly illustrated with drawings and photos, the layout is beautiful and it stinks of quality. That extends to the content too...'

'I love the way this book is presented - fascinating stuff written in such an easygoing, friendly style with quirky illustrations.'

'Finding such a range of objects so fascinating is flattering to a reader's sense of themselves as quite the polymath - when in fact, it really comes down to the author's concise, informative and entertaining style and the breadth of her understanding of the value of this hidden inheritance. Thank you so much for this brilliant book.'

'Put it by your bedside and annoy whoever's beside you because you won't want to switch the light off. Excellent read.'

'The writing is fresh, lively, and above all, accessible - this is a book written for everyone. And the production of the book is just sumptious: full colour, glossy pages, and just the most lovely illustrations. A real treasure - 5 out of 5.'

Reviews from Amazon.co.uk

Oldfield’s genius is to see that museums have more stuff than they can display, and to persuade curators to show her their buried treasures.


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Richard Bacon (5 Live)

Georgina Godwin (Monocle 24)




A boundlessly fascinating inventory of sixty never-before-seen treasures too precious to display, culled from the archives and secret storage locations of some of the world's top cultural institutions.

Molly and Neil Gaiman - A Christmas Carol

Molly talks about one object from the Secret Museum - Charles Dickens' performance copy of A Christmas Carol - which is then performed by author Neil Gaiman, at the New York Public Library.