The world’s weirdest museum exhibits?

Would you decorate your toes with golden covers? Or how about wearing a helmet made from porcupine fish? Would you play a trumpet made from a human leg bone? Or a guitar with 42 strings?

A copy of Lonely Planet's new Incredible Cabinet of Wonders book alongside a model Tyrannosaurus Rex and pirate coins - a look through some of the world's weirdest museum exhibits

At least you don’t have to live your life fearing the Terror Bird and the Megalodon. Though keep an eye out for the Dracula bug! As the quote goes, “The world is full of marvels, if you’re willing to travel far enough to see them”.

With the latest book from Lonely Planet Kids, Incredible Cabinet of Wonders, you needn’t even leave your armchair to discover a few – although if you’re not inspired to make at least one trip as a result, I’d marvel at that.

One hundred of the world’s weirdest and most fascinating creations are gathered together, divided into 12 fantasy collections – the cabinets of wonders – themed around everything from music, science and toys to archaeology, the natural world and monsters. Tucked away until you lift the flaps, this is one treasure hunt I couldn’t resist.

And from the gems hidden in the book, these are three of my freakily fabulous favourites.

The tailor’s cabinet: the world’s weirdest museum exhibits

Travel for me is not about geography – it’s about the people who shape it. And whether it’s our beliefs, our artistry or our sheer ingenuity, we’re as weird and wonderful as anything on this earth.

So fashion in this tailor’s cabinet is no mere fad… although I’m glad current trends don’t insist on a 2m wide Mantua dress or those ancient Egyptian toe covers and Pacific island porcupine helmet.

A woman's black platform high heeled shoe against a yellow background - a look through some of the world's weirdest museum exhibits

But are we so far away from Renaissance Venice, whose platform shoes totter into this collection? Known as chopines, the higher the platforms, the greater the social status, proving the wearer would be carried wherever she needed to go rather than having to walk.

A pair of black platform shoes in my own collection, very definitely not designed for public transport, suggests not.

The monster hunter’s cabinet: the world’s weirdest museum exhibits

Red in tooth, claw, fang and beak – the world’s monsters are no myth. From Tyrannosaurus Rex to the Terror Bird of Brazil, the fearsome clawed Moa bird which once roamed New Zealand to the prehistoric shark Megalodon, whose jaws were so large that you could drive a car through, Earth has been home to some truly terrifying creatures.

A Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton with its jaws wide open - a look through some of the world's weirdest museum exhibits

I can only be thankful I’ll never come face to face with a predator which makes a polar bear and great white shark look as fearsome as a guinea pig.

And the Dracula Bug? Look beyond the unnerving markings on its back, uncannily like a vampire’s face, and this particular monster is found sucking up plant sap rather than blood.

The archaeologist’s cabinet: the world’s weirdest museum exhibits

What would the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huang, have thought if he saw his 8,000-strong army of terracotta warriors being kept pristine by a lady wielding a feather duster – one of the funnier moments of my trip to China where I saw the ranks of ancient clay soldiers in Xi’an.

Or the mummified Egyptian royalty whose elaborate preparations for the afterlife have resulted in them gracing the halls of the British Museum – along with a mummified crocodile – instead.

But more fascinating still are the ones we don’t completely understand. The cave of hands deep in Argentina’s Patagonian desert were painted 9,000 years ago, with paints sprayed around the outlines of hand after hand, and details of everyday life depicted all around – even the experts aren’t sure what every section means.

An Olmec giant stone head - a look through some of the world's weirdest museum exhibits

Even more mysterious are the giant stone heads of the Olmecs. Sculpted from colossal boulders which would have been transported long distances despite many weighing over 20 tons, we can only speculate on who they were and why they were created. Olmec rulers? Perhaps. Or maybe the real explanation is weirder and more wonderful still.

Incredible Cabinet of Wonders costs £15.99 from Lonely Planet Kids


Disclosure: compiled in association with Lonely Planet*

Main image copyright MummyTravels, all others courtesy Pixabay