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In the Libraries: Curiosities and oddities from the Bill Memorial Library attic

A mummy’s hand, a piece of mosaic from the Palace of the Caesars in Rome, and bronze Aztec money shaped like an axe. What do these items have in common? They were all found in the attic of the Bill Memorial Library and are currently on display – along with other curiosities – in the library’s museum case until June 30.

Founded in 1890 by Frederic Bill as a memorial to his sisters, Eliza and Harriet, the library added a museum room in 1907 to house a growing collection of historic objects, paintings and taxidermy. How these items came to the library is lost to history, but one can assume that Frederic Bill brought some of them back from his many trips abroad. Following the Civil War, Bill imported and manufactured linen goods in the firm of Tracy & Bill in New York City and traveled the world to source materials.

The library’s collection includes Colonel Ledyard’s famous sword, a walrus head, butterflies from every continent but Antarctica, and curios from ancient Rome, Egypt and Mexico. There are historic items from the Civil War and unusual shoes from Japan, China and the Middle East.

Several taxidermied birds that were displayed at the library are on permanent loan to the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center in Mystic.

For more information, contact the library at 860-445-0392 or visit www.billmemorial.org.

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