The Black Museum was a 1951
radio crime drama program produced by Harry Alan Towers
for the BBC and based on real-life cases from the files of Scotland
Yard's Black Museum. Ira Marion wrote the scripts, and music for the series was composed and
conducted by Sidney Torch.
Orson Wells was both
host and narrator for stories of horror and mystery based on Scotland Yard's
collection of murder weapons and various ordinary objects once associated with
historical crime cases. The show's opening began, “The Black Museum, a
repository of death. Here in a grim, stone structure on the Thames which houses
Scotland Yard is a warehouse of homicide, a very strange room where everyday
objects... of a woman’s shoe, a tiny white box, a quilted robe... all are
touched by murder.”
Walking through the museum, Welles would pause at one of the exhibits, and
his description of an artifact served as a device to lead into a tale of terror
or a brutal murder. With the story themes deriving from objects in the collection, the 52
episodes had such titles as "The Tartan Scarf," "A Piece of Iron Chain,"
"Frosted Glass Shards" and "A Khaki Handkerchief.". An anomaly to the series as
well as the purpose of the museum itself was an episode called "The Letter". It
was not a murder story, but a story about forgery.
In America, a program
of similar scope, using many of the same picked cases as The Black
Museum, and nearly mirroring its broadcast run was broadcast by NBC called
Whitehall 1212. The
two shows were different in the respect that while Whitehall told the story of a
case entirely from the point of view of the police starting from the crime
scene, The Black Museum was more heavily dramatized and played out scenes of the
actual murders and included scenes from the criminal's point of view.