Secretum (British Museum)

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The Secretum or secret museum was a section of the British Museum created officially in 1865 to store all historical items deemed to be obscene.[1] Although many items considered obscene were kept under key as early as 1830.[1] From the 1960s onwards, the artefacts were removed from this special collection and incorporated to the pertinent sections in the rooms open to the public. Nowadays only few items remain under key in the Cupboard 55 and 54 in the Department of Medieval and Later Antiquities.[2] Among many other items, it previously contained the collection of ancient erotica given to the museum by George Witt (1804–1869), physician and collector of phallic antiquities. Inaccessible by the public, it was a repository for exhibits of an erotic nature.[3]

Appearances in popular culture[edit]

The Secretum may be the inspiration for the "secret annexe" of the British Museum, the base of operations for "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" in the eponymous series of comics. Exhibits there include a yahoo skull (from Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels and given the scientific name Homo gulliverus) and statues labelled "Cult of Ayesha" (from H. Rider Haggard's She), continuing the high game of literary allusions throughout the series.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Gaimster, David (2000). "Sex and Sensibility at the British Museum". History Today 50 (9). Retrieved 14 May 2012. 
  2. ^ Perrottet, Tony. "The Pervert's Grand Tour". Slate. Retrieved 14 May 2012. 
  3. ^ Petrides, Olivia (March 2009). Anthem Guide to the Art Galleries and Museums of Europe. Anthem Press. p. 321. ISBN 978-1-84331-273-4. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 


  • Johns, Catherine (1982). Sex or Symbol: Erotic Images of Greece and Rome. 

Coordinates: 51°31′08″N 0°07′37″W / 51.519°N 0.127°W / 51.519; -0.127