Museums in Books: The History Keepers

Welcome back to another Museums in Books! Previously I’ve explored The Mystery of the Whispering Mummy and now I’m turning my museum-y gaze to another book aimed at younger readers -Damian Dibben’s The History Keepers.


A photograph showing the cover for The History Keepers
The History Keepers

You might recall me mentioning Damian Dibben in a previous post. Well, that’s because Damian is a big fan of museums.  Not only is he a patron for fantastic museum-y charity Kids in Museums but he has helped with shortlisting the Family Friendly Museums award for this year – find out more about who has been shortlisted here..

Damian has said that ‘Museums totally shaped my life from a very young age, so I feel truly passionate on the subject of getting young people into museums.’

This brings me nicely back to the book. The whole premise of The History Keepers is about being able to go back in time. Although museums lack a TARDIS (well most do – this one doesn’t) they can help you feel like you have travelled back in time.

There is an excellent passage in the  book  that really hammers this home, if you have a copy, you can find it on page 12.

“The truth is, he did love old paintings, but he was used to keeping it a secret: he felt that most of his friends at school – and all his enemies – lacked a certain type of imagination. Jake, on the other hand, often slipped off to the Dulwich Picture Gallery on his own, got up close to the paintings, half closed his eyes  and imagined himself there, in another era. Often a sour-faced guard would tell him to stand back. He would wait until they had gone before immersing himself once again.”

It’s not every day that the time-travelling, swashbuckling hero of a children’s book is an art lover!

Although the museum only appears once, it is important as it subtly introduces the idea of  time travelling. For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to be able to travel back in time, this small yet key passage shows us how we can develop a way of looking at things that can help us imagine what things were like.

I think that Dibben’s use of a real life museum, rather than a fictional  museum is a very nice touch.  The sour-faced guard telling Jake off is something we can all relate to. I think that there’s a lot to be said about this being the first time Jake is allowed to remember something in the story. He has just been ‘kidnapped’ and is in a very stressful situation, but this is where his mind goes – to his happy place?


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