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The Museum once had a ‘Cabinet of Obscene Objects’

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Others have called it the British Museum’s ‘porn room’, but the title it was originally given is a little more salubrious: the Secretum. Opened in 1865, following the publication of the Obscene Publications Act (1857), the Secretum contained around 200 objects, labeled (possibly with the curator’s tongue firmly in cheek?) as ‘abominable monuments to human licentiousness’. Anyone who wanted to get in for an afternoon of fun and games and serious study required a special permit. Strictly for gentlemen only, one needed to demonstrate ‘mature years and sound morals’ to qualify. Details on how this was decided have not been recorded…

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