Book Report #2: Researching in the darndest places
The Cockroach Hall of Fame and 101 Other Off-the-Wall Museums by Sandra Gurvis* may not seem like a helpful book for children’s writers at first blush, but stick with me. I’m awfully persuasive.
Four ways this book could be useful to you:
1. You are writing a non-fiction piece for Cobblestone magazine about toys of the past. Turn to your handy-dandy Cockroach Museum book to find directions to the Mary Merritt Doll Museum, the Crayola Hall of Fame, the Toy Train Museum or the Barbie Hall of Fame. (Including Skipper, Francie, Ken, and the ugly friend Midge that nobody wanted to play with.)
2. You are writing a historical novel and need to know what kind of every day appliances the maid would use. Look up the Maytag Exhibit, the Cookie Jar Museum or the Hoover Historical Center. (Motto: We suck and we’re proud.)
3. Maybe one of your minor characters is an eccentric. Perhaps a kindly grandfather who devotes his time to running a bizaare museum. Use Marvin Johnson’s Gourd Museum, the Curt Teich Postcard Archives or the Post Rock Museum for inspiration. (I would NOT recommend Exotic World: The Burlesque Hall of Fame. Even though it houses “…the largest (and perhaps only) collection of feather boas, elbow length gloves, breakaway jeweled gowns, G-strings and pasties…” Might be a little much even for YA.)
4. Your main character enters the dilapidated mansion housing the mad scientist. What kind of things will he find? Something like the Soap Lady at the Mutter Museum? (“The Soap Lady is a preserved corpse who looks as though she were auditioning for a musical version of The Night of the Living Dead. The soft tissue of her body decomposed after burial into a fatty was known as adipocere, which is similar in composition to lye soap.”)
Or maybe the Combat Cockroach Hall of Fame, in the “sensational roach art” section. These are actual dead roaches dressed up for the edification of the museum-going public. (“…Roach Perot standing on a pile of money…Marilyn MonRoach complete with blond hair, white dress, and spiked heels, bikini’d roaches on surfboards…”)
You just never know what you’ll need until you need it.
*This book has been expanded and repackaged as America’s Strangest Museums: A Traveler’s Guide to the Most Unusual and Eccentric Collections.