'Can't we just kill all the midges?' - Edinburgh's National Museum of Scotland curators reveal the funniest (and toughest) questions asked by children

One Primary 3 class who got the chance to meet astronaut Tim Peake last year asked him how he went to the toilet in space.

Thursday, 14th November 2019, 11:45 am

Employees at the National Museum of Scotland are experts at keeping straight faces when asked hilarious questions from youngsters visiting the museum.

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But even the professionals have to laugh sometimes and, as part of a new campaign ‘kids say the funniest things,’ staff have revealed the best anecdotes they have heard from young history fans.

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Children at the National Museum of Scotland. Pic: National Museum of Scotland

Sarah Cowie, a learning officer at the museum, said: “We had a primary three class in to meet the astronaut Tim Peake last year and they asked how he went to the toilet in space.”

"At another school event, one pupil asked an engineer what was the worst thing they had invented."

Dr Daniel Potter is a curator of ancient Mediterranean at the museum. His favourite comment came up when showing a group of children an object from ancient Egypt.

He said: “The object was a replica hand-held copper mirror, however, the answer from one of the kids was ‘a pizza cutter.’

Some excited children enjoying their time at the museum. Pic: National Museum of Scotland.

“I asked them if they thought that the ancient Egyptians had pizza, and more importantly where did pizza come from?

“I had to stifle a giggle when they answered 'Dominos'."

'What are atoms made of?'

Sophie Goggins is now a curator at the museum but first found her passion for museums as a “wee girl.”

One of the curators.

She said: “My favourite book as a kid was about a brother and sister who ran away and lived in a museum.

“They slept in the beds on display and took baths in the museum fountains. I thought you would get to do that if you worked at a museum! Perhaps that’s part of the reason I became a curator.”

“Since working at the museum the questions children ask are really charming. My niece once asked me if all the best butterflies retire to the museum."

Ashleigh Whiffin, assistant curator at entomology ( the branch of zoology concerned with the study of insects), said: "I have been asked a few times ‘Can’t we just kill all the midges?’

More excited children at the National Museum of Scotland.

“I usually tell them I don’t think that would be a good idea! midges play an important role in the food chain.”

Rachel Drury works as a learning and engagement officer at the museum and she said: “I have been asked once or twice what it’s like to live at the museum – that would certainly be some dedication to my work.”

“But my favourite question was when our new Science and Technology galleries opened. I remember saying that ‘everything in the world is made from atoms’.

“This led one child to ask that if everything was made from atoms then what were atoms made from.

“This was a very fair question but I never thought that I’d be teaching sub-atomic physics to an eight year old…”

Edinburgh born Donnie McCathie now works as a visitor experience team leader and remembers visiting the museum when he was a child.

He said: “ When I was a child, my uncle worked at the National Museum of Scotland. I used to picture him on a horse in armour guarding the objects because I had heard my mum say he was working the (k)night shift.”