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Britain has some world class museums - The British Museum, The V & A, The Science Museum etc, etc - but we also have plenty of not so famous ones. How many people know that in the UK there are museums devoted to fans, lawnmowers, old wireless radios and even the humble baked bean? It is a fair bet that there will be many people unaware of their existence that only live within a few minutes from their location.

In his latest book Hunter Davies investigates these offbeat museums but primarily the people who have put them together and now run them. He attempts to find out what kind of people they are and what it is that motivates them. He soon learns that it is certainly not for financial gain as most of these museums barely break even let alone make a profit. Predictably he finds the occasional eccentric (the baked bean museum is ran by a man who has had his name changed to Captain Beany, and his mobile phone ringtone requests that Captain Beany communicate to Planet Beanus) but also a lady who has used her museum to help get over a bereavement, a man whose love of the old fashioned help curve his childhood criminal tendencies and various people whose mania for collecting has left them with the desire to exhibit their treasures to the public.

Unfortunately I don't really think these stories are sufficient to carry a whole book and I would have preferred to have read more about the actual museums and their contents than what this book offers. This kind of information is far better given in the two `Bollocks to Alton Towers' books that also cover this type of visitor attraction. Not only are these books more informative but they are also written in a much more entertaining style.

Whilst this is not a bad book, I was expecting rather more from it than it offers. It is certainly not in the same league as the same authors mighty `The Glory Game', forty years on still the finest ever look at the everyday life of a professional football club.
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VINE VOICEon 30 September 2012
I am a fan of all things bizarre and strange museums are often much more fun to visit than the standard high tec ones, so with this in mind I thought I'd delve a little deeper. Davies writes well, as he should as he's a former Sunday Times journalist and author of countless books concerning music, walking and football. He takes the reader through a series of museums spanning various genres including The Greenwich Fan Museum, The National Football Museum, The Baked Bean Museum and The Cumberland Pencil Museum. I do agree that he is seemingly more concerned with trying to get inside the heads of the various curators instead of concentrating on the exhibits themselves and as such, covers some very similar ground to a book about eccentrics which I read a few months ago.

Saying that, it's an enjoyable canter through the country though and I thought that the information about Pete Best's mother's personal museum was one of the most fascinating, especially given Davies' Beatles credentials.
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on 16 November 2011
This is an entertaining enough traipse through some of Britain's more eclectic museums. The title suggests this is going to be an irreverent and tongue-in-cheek look at some daft institutions, but while a couple of museums are eccentric (The Baked Beans Museum of Excellence in particular), most of the others are verging on mainstream (such as The National Football Museum at Preston, since moved to Manchester). Davies is more interested in the people behind the museums rather than the collections themselves, and this is definitely where the book is strongest. We see what motivates the museum owners and what impact collecting has had on their lives. However, the central reasoning behind the book - that Davies is a collector himself who wants to open his own museum - comes across as contrived and fake. I got the feeling right from the start that he was never going to open a museum, it just gave him a hook on which he could sell a book to a publisher. Each chapter ends with some kind of "when I open my own museum I'll borrow that idea..." until at the end of the book Davies decides he isn't going to open a museum after all. Surprise surprise!
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I don't accept that all these museums are "mad". Still, I found most of the chapters entertaining, whether or not I would actually visit those museums. If there is a disappointment, it is the uneven geographical spread. Large parts of Britain are completely ignored while NW England is heavily represented. From where I now live in central England, the nearest featured museums are far away.

The Bath postal museum brings back childhood memories. I remember visiting Bath regularly then, and my father and I sometimes bought stamps there. The family who ran the shop (and still do) operate the museum now; it didn't exist then.

The chapter on the lawnmower museum is particularly good, even though I hate mowing a lawn. Last time I had one, I ended up hiring a gardener to mow it once a month for me. However, I would visit the museum if am ever in the area.

I don't think I have any Armstrong ancestors, but I like the idea of a clan or family museum. Fiona Armstrong, who became a familiar face on British TV, sometimes helps out at the museum.

A theme running through the book is the author thinking about setting up a museum to share what he has collected with the public. There are easier ways now write Amazon reviews (if the stuff is listed on Amazon) or set up a website. I chose writing Amazon reviews.

There is much else to like about this book, especially the money museum and the packaging museum. There are a lot of museums that could have been included, and from a wide geographical spread. Perhaps I'll find another book eventually based on the same idea, but this is a good start.
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This has weird objects and quirky characters aplenty. It’s a bit like going to a car boot sale in a remote village. Davies visits unusual museums and tells us about both the creator and the items on show. My favourite quote from a museum owner is that a magistrate said to him “You are behaving like you are writing a book about yourself ”. My favourite chapter was the one about Robert Opie’s packaging museum, but each chapter was good, even if the item collected (lawnmowers for instance) wasn’t something I personally find fascinating.
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on 31 March 2013
This would be a very enjoyable book if it was just about the museums he visits, but it's about a lot more than that - it's about collecting, obsession, vanity, loss, national pride, regional pride etc. All done with a modest light touch.
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on 20 July 2015
Present for a friend
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