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Museums and collections


Melanie Worgan, Learning Officer
Museum of Cambridge

The main reason I love this bedbug trap is because it makes me think about the types of beds people used to sleep in a long time ago – they had a lot more layers in them than people do today. In the past people had lots of different layers of mattresses, loads of blankets, and they also had lots of bugs. And what they did to get rid of them was have lots of layers of traps like these.

Here, in our museum, we have one made by someone called Professor Okey. I don’t know a lot about Professor Okey, but he’s obviously very proud of his handmade bedbug trap because the label we have to go with it reads: Presented in 1925, made for the museum by Professor Okey, who as a young man worked as a basket maker in Spittlfields, in London.

He’s a sole survivor of the basket makers who made traps like these from wicker. Being made of wicker actually means it would have been very uncomfortable. He would have needed lots of layers to sleep on top of it – a bit like the princess and the pea! You have to imagine a maid, in the morning, shaking all those layers of bed out of your window to get rid of all those bugs!

This object came to us in 1925, but the museum didn’t actually open until 1936. So they kept hold of it, they thought it was special enough. And here it is on the wall in 2013!

The children who visit love the bedbug trap because it reminds them of the little rhyme Sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite! And they love the idea of that gruesome history of when people were a bit smellier, a bit dirtier and it makes them feel very lucky that their family have washing machines and driers on hand to do that work for them!