Collecting, Obsession, and Wealth

What an odd natural history museum taught me about privilege and the human desire to acquire

Carly J Hallman

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This past year, I made it my personal mission to visit as many local museums as possible. The more bizarre or niche, the better. One of the first on my list was the Natural History Museum at Tring.

Yes, it’s a slightly creepy and probably haunted Victorian building containing the taxidermic corpses of hundreds of long-dead animals. Yes, it’s often buzzing with screeching British children delighting at the dead. And yes, all of this does sound vaguely reminiscent of something out of an arty A24 horror film.

But if you can look past all of that, you’ll see that this museum is an ode to oddity. A monument to a trope that still captures the collective cultural imagination: the eccentric rich person.

Picture: Author’s own

There’s a meme, one I believe started on Twitter, that poses the question, “What’s classy if you’re rich and trashy if you’re poor?”

Speaking two languages. Asking for money (begging vs. fundraising). Police escorts. Fake teeth.

And my favorite answer, which sort of sums it all up: If you’re weird and rich, people just call you eccentric, but if you’re weird and poor, people call you crazy.

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Carly J Hallman

Just another 30-something writing about the internet, nostalgia, culture, entertainment, and life. Author, screenwriter, copywriter. www.carlyjhallman.com