Curiosities of the Museum

The Harrogate Museums and Arts collection holds a lot of famous treasures, from Faberge and Grimshaw to unique ancient Egyptian items. But there are also more unusual sorts of treasures held within the collection, ones that reflect life in a different time, ones that seem a little strange to the modern observer, but these museum curiosities are equally treasured for the fascination and intrigue that they hold. Here is a little snapshot to give you a bit of insight into some of these more curious items.

Fancy having your weight recorded at the start and end of an extended hotel stay? No? Us neither! But some visitors to Harrogate did just that. This book records the weight of visitors to Harrogate between 1810 and 1886

. The Merlin weighing machine was used to gauge the effectiveness of any spa treatments through comparing weights before and after treatment courses. The idea of having your weight recorded for all to see is a little mortifying, but for the insight it provides into the health, thinking and life of the 19th century Harrogate spa visitor it is worth its weight in gold (or paper in this case).

Not an item often required by the 21st century lady, this clip is a skirt lifter. The long Victorian skirts, although desirable for both fashion and modesty, were a constant source of restraint and hindrance to the ladies wearing them. Swishing through filthy streets in garments that were hard to clean, negotiating kerbs, staircases and puddles were all problematic.

However, with the invention of the skirt lifter in 1846, help was at hand. The decorative clip attached half way down the lady’s long skirts and she pulled the attached cord at her waist, allowing her to elegantly lift the skirt and step up a curb, join in a dance or even ride a bike.

How about a bottle full of liquid that you can’t stand upright, would that be useful? Actually, surprisingly it is. This strangely torpedo shaped bottle is known as a Hamilton Bottle and came into general use in 1840. The shape meant they had to be stored on their side, which helped the water stay carbonated for longer than if it was stored upright. Bottled water, from many of the different mineral wells in Harrogate, could be sent to patients at home if they wanted to continue with the “cure” after their stay in the town.

Then there’s the children’s toy made from a goose vertebrae, the 1960s hydrotherapy treatment machines that to us look a little like devices used by Bond villains, the fascinating Valentine’s Day telegram that simply asks “Is this what you want?” and much much more. The Harrogate museum collection is a treasure trove of curious items providing a fascinating glimpse into the lives of Harrogate’s past inhabitants and visitors.

Read the next blog in this series too.

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