Grymm Tooms Travelling Museum
Hollytrees Museum, Colchester, Sat 14th March 2013



Previously on GrymmTooms Travelling Museum… cue montage of various events… and so on to Season 7 and our first show: We arrived at the Hollytrees Museum early enough to think that we would be standing around in the cold for some time but while I scouted round, Steve turned up and let us in. This is a wonderful old house, the sort of place that suits our collection. We were to set up in one of the museum rooms overlooking the park.

Clive Stacy had asked if we could do some magic lantern shows so after we set up our little museum within a museum, we set off to the upper teaching room to check out how we would use the space for our lantern shows. I must say that Dr Tooms and yours truly were somewhat apprehensive about light shows for the public, the last of which took place at Petersfield Museum back in the winter of 2009 on that icy evening when the Eurotunnel broke down.

There are a couple of dolls houses in the room, one of which is a model of Hollytrees and I wondered if within that model was a dolls house of Hollytrees; a museum in a dolls house, in a dolls house etc…sorry convoluted thoughts took over.

For some odd reason when I got into the building one of my first thoughts was “I bet this place has a few ghosts in it”. As it happens, the ghost of Anne Lisle wanders about and is most often seen by young children.

Our first lantern show was, had we charged, a sell out; we were surprised that so many people wanted to see something that is not in 3D. We did our old favourite ‘Birds and their Nests’ and the only odd questions was that someone thought that the slide of a weaver bird nest showed a dead pheasant! Wel and Karen from Happening History had snuck in while we were not looking but did not heckle us during our, possibly world famous, presentation of this beautifully illustrated but rather odd series.

We were very busy throughout most of the day and the only almost mishap was the brief kidnapping of my Easter Island Kava-kava man by an unruly and uncontrolled sprog. Thankfully Kava-kava was rescued by Cassandra…phew, that piece took me several weeks to make.

We had a full audience for our second show despite the usual random gremlins that caused slides to jam and words to jumble. One of our set pieces was ‘the Life and Times of Emperor Norton I of the United States of America and Protector of Mexico’, because we are great fans of this wonderful soul. We also tried a new slide set. This is an original eight slide set of ‘Robinson Crusoe’. We think that this is part of a series since it starts with Crusoe salvaging from the ship wreck. There is no cave in this story and the hero seems to be living in a semi-detached surrounded by his livestock, which also includes cats. Cats are in the book and Crusoe eventually lets them run wild over the island, where they no doubt contributed to the rapid extinction of endemic small mammals and flightless birds in the way that Tibbles did to the Stephen Island wren. The last slide shows Crusoe looking out to sea and holding Friday by the wrist, “By Jove!” exclaims Crusoe, “That’s a Phaethon aethereusor or I’m a stir fried scurvy bellied cephalopod!” It is rather strange that our only memory of this story is the shipwreck section; in their later years Crusoe and Friday travel through Europe and fight off wolves before Friday kills a bear in the manner he did back home. Presumably spectacled bears had a greater range in South America in Defoe’s time than they do today.

Well we had a very busy day and everything went well. Hopefully we will get a chance to regale a captive audience with our lantern show again. We would like to say thanks to the museum staff and a special thanks to Wel and Karen for their hospitality.

This is Prof Grymm who recently got a chance to see tropicbirds for real.