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The Secret Museum

Molly Oldfield

The Foundling Hospital was founded by an early SJW Thomas Coram who upset by the thousand babies a year abandoned on London streets early C18. The rich and famous helped fund it. Handel gave his first performance of the Messiah to a packed crowd in the Foundling Chapel, on an organ he had donated, and repeated it every year. Hogarth donated some paintings and encouraged other artists to do the same, and it became clear that there was a demand for public art galleries. Charity art shows, charity balls, charity concerts, all have their origins in Thomas Coram's Foundling Hospital.

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When a mother left her baby she was asked to leave a token which would link her to the child, in case she was able to come back to claim it. (16,000 were admitted between 1741 and 1760. Of these 152 were later reclaimed by their mothers.) Often the mother had nothing to leave, so a piece of fabric was cut out of her dress. The mother kept one part and the other was attached to the registration billet kept for each child. The tokens were found in the C19 and bound into books now kept in the London Archives.

Auguste Piccard an eccentric Austrian scientist fascinated by upper atmosphere. Built first balloon to make it up to the stratosphere. He was a funny looking man - bald head with tufts of hair, round glasses and usually wearing a lab coat. Herge spotted him walking on the street one day, recognized him as a classic absent-minded professor and used him as the basis for Prof Calculus.

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Same museum where Piccard's gondola stored (The Science Museum's Large Objects Store) also has a tandem bicycle design where 2 people sit side by side and share the pedalling.

Livingstone went to Africa primarily as a missionary, not an explorer, But in nearly three decades in Africa he managed to convert only one man, an African chief, who lapsed soon after "due to the temptations of polygamy". The journalist Henry Stanley who found him and was responsible for the famous line "Dr Livingstone I presume" was born John Rowlands. He met a cotton magnate in New Orleans, and adopted his name, pretending to be his son.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is world's only private art museum in which the building, collection and installation are entirely the creation of one individual. She built a replica Venetian palazzo in a then-unpopular part of Boston to house some of the best Botticelli, Francesca and Titians in US. Nothing has a label on it, bc that was how she wanted it. Nothing has been moved or rearranged. Entry is free to anyone named Isabella.

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During WW2 British auditioned code-breakers by getting them to complete the Daily Telegraph crossword. Those who could solve it in less than 12 minutes were in.

The biggest dinosaur known was discovered via social media. In 2006 a young geography student was out walking near his home in Minas Gerias, Brazil. He noticed a large bone sticking out of the ground, and posted a note about it on Orkot, a popular Brazilian equivalent to Facebook. Students at San Paulo Uni showed the post to their professor, who investigated. He found the paleontologist's Holy Grail, the dinosaur's skull, which turned out to belong to a titanosaur, one of the biggest dinos that ever lived.

Dino skulls are rare. A complete diplodocus skeleton found in Wyoming in 1899 was an exception. Casts from this appear in several European museums. But bc dino skulls are so rare, casts from the same skull tend to get jammed on top of lots of other partial skeletons (of unrelated species) in museums all over the world.

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