Video and photo gallery: Discover Norfolk’s smallest museum – and meet its nine-year-old curator
copyright: Archant 2014
While some youngsters’ bedrooms are adorned with posters of their favourite sportman or musician, Shae Williams’ walls are plastered with pictures of a different kind of hero.
His bedroom has been turned into a museum dedicated to Norfolk’s most famous son, Lord Nelson, and his ship, the HMS Victory.
The nine-year-old even charges friends and family for visits his HMS Victory Museum, encouraging them to sign his visitors’ book, browse his makeshift gift shop and round off their visit with a cup of coffee in the cafe.
History-mad Shae, who lives in Costessey, started the museum last year as a way of displaying his growing collection of Nelson and HMS Victory memorabilia - and it has proven so popular he’s even had to bring six-year-old brother Kye on board as security guard.
He said: “My museum is the best because I’ve got original copper from the Victory, a DVD area which you can read, a shop and seabiscuits that you can eat for free.
“I don’t really know why I like Nelson and the Victory so much, but I like learning about history.”
The Bawburgh School pupil has held open days for friends in the past, but has been picking up tips from other museums during his Easter holidays after being invited for VIP visits to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.
His mum Karen wrote to the museums to tell them of Shae’s interest, and was amazed when they replied to invite him for behind-the-scenes tours with their experts.
“It was epic,” said Shae. “We got to see the things that other people weren’t allowed to.”
The visit to Portsmouth was a return to where Shae’s passion for the past really took off five years ago – albeit with VIP status this time around.
Mrs Williams said Shae’s obsession with all things Nelson extends to wanting to go to Ormiston Victory Academy next year, and encouraging his parents to move out of their home in Vanguard Chase and buy a house in nearby Lord Nelson Drive.
She said: “I don’t know whether it’s because he’s a Norfolk boy that he’s got the connection, but when we went to Portsmouth last week, he profoundly said as we drove in ‘I’m coming home’.”
When he’s not running the museum, Shae can often be found in his back garden, where he and his father, Matt, are reconstructing a First World War trench.
“It started as a Great Escape tunnel, but when it came to the centenary of the start of the war, it turned into a trench,” said Mrs Williams.
“Shae’s interest in history takes over all parts of our life – he even tries to charge me when I come in to clean the museum.
“But we like to encourage Shae in learning about history and running his museum, because I’d rather he was doing this than playing on his Xbox.”
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