On the ground floor of the museum is a room full of vintage slot machines. There is one of those laughing sailor puppets, a thing that does automatic palmistry, a haunted house, and a sort of mechanical crystal ball. There is even some Edwardian smut. You put 20p in a machine, turn a handle, and a bunch of photographs flip round so you can see a lady dance while disrobing behind a rather flimsy bit of cloth. It's rather sweet, and nostalgic, and she doesn't look a bit anorexic or porn-titted or anything. She looks quite cheerful, actually. And the photographs are a bit dented and faded inside the machine, so you know she's been dead a long time. It's kind of odd, and elegaic, and a bit sad, like seeing a ghost, but not an unhappy one.
There are also ghosts in the haunted house machine. They appear in windows and things while a man sits at a table. That was my second favourite, although I also liked the automated palmistry machine. You put your hand on a sort of metal pad, and little metal pins come up and feel the shape of your hand. Then it spits a little card at you, about the size of a matchbox. Mine basically told me what a great person I was, which which fab, cos I can't remember the last time somebody told me that, and we all need to hear it sometimes. The automated crystal ball told me I was going to have a great year. Hurrah! I totally believe all that, now.
Not all the machines are functional. There was one that played football – it looked a bit like table football in a fishtank, except the players had miniature knitted jerseys. That wasn't working. Neither was the electric chair execution scene. Maybe we can have a whip-round to get them repaired?
Incidentally, the rest of the museum was rather good, although it gets off to an unpromising start. You go in and there's a boat, which has a stuffed seagull standing on it. After the slot machines, the stuffed seagull was a massive disappointment. It didn't move, or anything.
Anyway, past that, there's a Victorian cottage with some of the rooms done up like they would have been in Victorian times. This is great, and the rooms are actually very pretty. Sadly they've spoilt it by using some of the front rooms of the cottage for regular displays. Shame – they should do the whole house.
There's also quite a lot of costumes on display, including a dress from 1840 which is really very beautiful. And a collection of smocks, which I've never seen before. A Victorian dentists chair; some amazing photographs of a Victorian family; a section of prehistoric pathway; and the skeleton of a baby from Roman times. It's all, frankly, rather random and odd, and the archaeology section smells of formaldehyde, which in my book, can only be a good thing.
Seriously, the best thing about it is that there is no interactive computer-screens or attempts to shoehorn any of these things into any 'hot topics' or issues. There is nothing blahhing or shouting at you. There is not even a great deal of explanation. There is just a few rooms of well preserved things that you can point at, and go: 'oh my God, that's amazing/sad/freakish/looks just yesterday'.
Definitely worth a visit on a rainy afternoon. Although probably not the stuffed seagull, to be honest.