The Museum Makers: A Journey Backwards – from Old Boxes of Dark Family Secrets to a Golden Era of Museums


Part memoir, part detective story, part untold history of museums – this is a fascinating and moving family story.

SKU: 9781912836147 Categories: ,

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‘Rachel Morris is one of the smartest storytellers I have ever met … a wonderful and beguiling book.’

James Rebanks, author of The Shepherd’s Life

‘Without even thinking I began to slide all these things from the dusty boxes under my bed into groups on the carpet, to take a guess at what belonged to whom, to match up photographs and handwriting to memories and names – in other words, to sort and classify. As I did so I had the revelation that in what we do with our memories and the stuff that our parents leave behind, we are all museum makers, seeking to makes sense of the past.’

Museum expert Rachel Morris had been ignoring the boxes under her bed for decades. When she finally opened them, an entire bohemian family history was laid bare. The experience was revelatory – searching for her absent father in the archives of the Tate; understanding the loss and longings of the grandmother who raised her – and transported her back to the museums that had enriched her lonely childhood.

By teasing out the stories of those early museum makers, and the unsung daughters and wives behind them, and seeing the same passions and mistakes reflected in her own family, Morris digs deep into the human instinct for collection and curation.

‘In this elegant and eloquent book Morris explores the contents of the boxes under her bed to calmly piece together a family pattern of loss and extreme eccentricity. As a museum curator, she meditates on the nature of museums: the Museum of Me we all carry in our heads, and the public institutions in which variations of the world’s history are told.’

Julia Blackburn, author of Time Song: Searching for Doggerland


‘A fascinating meditation on the life of objects and their power to trigger our memories. It awakened my curiosity to the realms of history, pain, and longing we access through the simple act of collecting.’

Dina Nayeri, author of The Ungrateful Refugee


‘Morris’ writing is immediately welcoming, and the content is warmly familiar for any reader working within the museums and heritage profession (although this is not a prerequisite to enjoying the book) … It is a timely book at a moment when the heritage sector is asking challenging questions.’

Ferren Gipson, Arts Quarterly


‘Skilfully interwoven, history, reflection and detective work bouncing off one another to build a spirited narrative … engrossing.’ 



‘Compelling … a transporting read.’ 

Cumbria Life


‘Immensely thought-provoking.’ 

The Herald

Read an extract.

Listen to Rachel Morris: talking about the book, reading an extract, in interview.


Available in paperback.

The ebook is also available to buy from your favourite e-retailers.