VISITORS to a Lake District attraction have a rare chance to rummage through the holiday souvenirs of a much-loved children’s author.

A virtual exhibition is opening on Saturday at the Beatrix Potter Gallery in Hawkshead featuring touch screen animations.

And also on show at the gallery is a cabinet, never before seen by the public, containing a treasure trove of curiosities collected by Beatrix from about 1870.

Liz Hunter MacFarlane, house and collections manager for the National Trust’s Beatrix Potter Gallery, said: “We’ve been awaiting the cabinet’s arrival since 2012.

“It was a bit of head scratch deciding on how we’d interpret it to people, but it’s absolutely perfect, particularly with our holiday theme this year.”

The small dark wood cabinet has one drawer open that contains Beatrix’s collection of colourful butterflies.

Birds’ eggs, beetles, moths, dragonflies, cuttlefish and shells as well as fossils, gemstones and even a cannon ball make up the contents of the other 15 draws.

Visitors can explore them using interactive screens that display high resolution images of what’s inside.

The tiny treasures of natural history are all from Beatrix’s holidays across the British Isles, but there are one or two items from further afield, such as an American moth, believed to have been bought in London.

“Most interesting is the range of items that really reflect Beatrix’s quirky character and personality,” said Ms Hunter MacFarlane.

“She had an amazing capacity for learning and reproducing what she saw, which inspired her drawings that are almost photographic and even used by scientists in text books to this day.”

A collection of these original drawings, watercolours, illustrations and sketches are also on show upstairs in the gallery as part of the exhibition.

The cabinet was given to Beatrix Potter’s coachman when she died and has remained with his family until it was recently sold to the Beatrix Potter Society.

The coachman’s granddaughter is a member of the society, which has loaned the cabinet to the gallery.

Mandy Marshall, sales manager for the Beatrix Potter Society, said: “It’s accessible to everyone and I think that’s brilliant.

“The group is interested in preservation and so we buy pieces that will preserve the true detail of her.”

The On Holiday with Beatrix Potter exhibition will be open from February 15 until November 2.

Admission is £5 or free for members of the National Trust.