Out of the Ordinary Museums

At our local art museum, I observed a youngster stomping her feet in protest as she wanted to go home.  Her well-intentioned parents calmly explained the exhibit was a life enriching experience.  The child had my sympathy as the museum held works of little interest for a child.  While most are educational and enlightening, some are dull and frankly make adults wish they’d stayed home.   I’ve grown older numerically; though my desire to experience new and exciting things hasn’t aged.  For those who yearn for excitement, here are some interesting and strange museums destined to spark our imagination or at least make us laugh.

  • Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum – Located in New York City in Times Square, this cool museum features three dimensional life-like wax figures of celebrities.  See famous wax stars from entertainment, music, sports, politics and history.  Take a peek behind the scenes to learn how wax figures are made to look so real and learn the story of Madame Tussaud.  There’s a theatre which delivers shows featuring 3D technology with 4D effects including wind, mist and scents.
  • International Spy Museum – Interested in the world of espionage?  This one’s for you.  Its mission is to educate the public in an interactive manner with focus on human intelligence and spy technology.  There are exhibits where guests adopt a cover identity, memorize details, and learn to keep cover.  Offering live action covert spy adventure, this museum is full of secret espionage artifacts.  Located in Washington, D.C., it is worth the adventure.
  • The Trash Museum – Located in Hartford Connecticut, many find it’s an interesting attraction.  This recycling center owned and operated by the CRRA (Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority) features educational exhibits about the history and methods of trash disposal.  The programs emphasize the importance of reducing, reusing, recycling, recovering and rethinking in order to preserve our environment.
  • The Mütter Museum – This landmark Philadelphia museum is designed to educate the general public about medicine as an art and science.  It will enhance ones appreciation for the heritage and development of medical advancement and contains a collection of oddities and antique medicinal equipment.  The Museum is part of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and is not for the faint of heart.  It is best known for the Hyrtl Skull collection and specimens such as a piece of tissue removed from the thorax of Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and parts of Einstein’s brain.
  • The UFO Museum – Opened to visitors in 1992, this museum welcomes believers and non believers of UFO’s.  Located in Roswell, NM, the site of the crash of an alleged flying saucer, the goal is to provide the public with information on the subject of UFO phenomena.  Exhibits include facts on Roswell, crop circles, UFO sightings, and Area 51.  The museum’s objective is not to convince anyone to believe in aliens, but to present information gathered by scientists and to encourage visitors to ask questions.  It’s a great place for curious minds.
  • Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia – This mini-size museum, located in a small town in California, brings back childhood memories for many who love and enjoy Pez candy.  Visit this storefront museum with two rooms open to the public and featuring the World’s Largest Pez Dispenser.  See rare candy dispensers and take a short private tour to learn Pez trivia.  It’s a nostalgic trip down Pez Candy Lane for those who love this classic confection.
  • The Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) – Ouch!  This is honestly dedicated to the collection, preservation and celebration of bad art in all its forms.  It was first housed in the basement of a private home in Boston, Massachusetts.  Now with two permanent galleries, one located outside the men’s room in a 1927 movie theatre in Dedham Square, and the second in the basement of The Somerville Theatre in Davis Square.  I must confess some of the extra terrestrial looking portraits made me laugh.  It is a community based privately run institution with free admission boasting odd museum hours as the gallery is open whenever movies are showing.
  • Roadside America – Described as “An unforgettable panorama of life in the United States from early pioneer days to the mid-20th Century”, Roadside America is considered one of the most unique attractions in the United States.  It’s genuinely  one of the world’s greatest indoor miniature villages that features an 8,000 square foot landscaped display with miniature structures, trains, trees, miniature people, rivers, streams and interactive animations that can be activated by visitors to this Shartlesville, Pennsylvania location.
  • Sulabh International Toilet Museum – This rates high amongst weird museums in my book.  While I have no strong desire to go there (no pun intended) others may find it amusing.  Located in New Delhi, India, this museum is dedicated scientifically and historically to the preservation and evolution of the toilet and all its glorious designs.  Set up by a non-profit voluntary organization in the field of sanitation in India, this rare museum displays toilets of various worldwide designs.
  • The SPAM Museum – Located in Austin, Minnesota, this museum is dedicated to the “delicious meat” first created by Hormel Foods in 1937.  Designed for all ages, the museum is full of information on SPAM artifacts, history and fun.  There’s even a World War II exhibit and a game show quiz and, best of all, admission is free.
  • The National Farm Toy Museums – This fascinating museum pays tribute to agricultural history.  Farm loving enthusiasts will love the thousand of toys and exhibits displayed throughout its two story exhibition space.  Located in Dyersville, Iowa, this museum combines history, technology, and art and features a life size John Deere soil-sifter and miniature farm replicas to express the growth of farming in America.  While you’re in town, check out the “Field of Dreams” where the movie that inspired millions and won “Best Picture of the Year” was filmed.
  •  The Barnum Museum –   Located in Bridgeport, Connecticut and opened in 1893, the Barnum Museum strives to preserve Bridgeport’s industrial and social history.  The first floor hosts an exhibit of P.T. Barnum’s multifaceted life and career through numerous artifacts and personal items, souvenirs from his humble beginnings to his creation of “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Museums offer artistic, historical or scientific experiences of great significance.  However, there are many that stretch beyond the norms of our imagination.  The aforementioned museums offer opportunities to explore and experience new adventures.  On the off chance you’re wandering in a yawn-worthy museum, kick things up a notch by checking out “off the beaten path” museums.  They are guaranteed to leave a lasting impression.

Do you have any “unique” museum experiences? Please share you stories with us!

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Bill Schick
9 years ago

There are many interesting museums throughout the world. Many are hands on and/or interactive.
I could name many both in this country and abroad. Here is a small sampling:
The flush toilet (invented by John Crapper) is part of a period museum in York, England.
This is less well known then the excellent railroad museum and the Viking museum in the same city.
Sacramento, California also has an excellent railroad museum.
The hands on Hiller Museum in San Carlos, California focus is on helicopters, but includes other aviation material.

Janie Winkle
9 years ago

The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) located at 4725 Mayo Blvd., Phoenix, AZ has musical instruments from all over the world. They have a large room with different musical instruments that the children and adults can play. The grandchildren I took loved it.

Jim Laubach
9 years ago

In Columbia, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is a fascinating museum called the National Clock & Watch Museum. There is everything from the beginning of recording time to the most modern time pieces. There are exhibits just for children and also some strange clocks. One clock that had very close attention from one of my relatives, who works in the space program, was a “Mars” clock made in 1954 by Hamilton Watch. The museum is worth visiting more than once.

9 years ago

My sympathies remain with the poor child dragged out to the art museum, particularly if it was along the lines of MOMA, a place I never intend to visit. Even a visit to a more traditional art museum can be an excruciating exercise for anyone at any age unless a knowledgeable and engaging person (I don’t mean some guide) is present to give life to what is presented.

Other museums, as the author points out, can be fascinating and when presented to children, in particular, makes them hungry for more, as in independent reading and research. After all, the purpose of a real museum is to present the past and inform us of how we came to be. One of my favorite museums as a child in Toronto before moving back to the US was the vast Royal Ontario Museum which kindled an intense interest in history as I grew older. Of course, Madame Tussaud’s in both Niagara Falls and NYC were also fascinating as is the founder’s story itself.

If visiting Tampa, I’d recommend the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), the small Tampa Bay History Center (used to be in a large closet), and the Henry B Plant Museum at University of Tampa.

3 years ago
Reply to  Jim

Toronto also has the Bata Shoe Museum. Bata might be the sponsor, but there are other shoes there as well. The museum is more interesting than one might expect.

9 years ago

Two interesting museums we have visited are the Drain Tile Museum near Geneva New York and the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles.

The drain tile history goes back to about 100 BC.

We found the name “Jurassic Technology” so strange we just had to visit. Quite an interesting display. The name does not come close to hinting at the contents. While there you are directly across the street from the studio where The Wizard of Oz was filmed in the late 1930s.

Still on our list is the Barbed Wire Museum in LaCrosse Kansas.

9 years ago

Being a native of Austin, MN the SPAM museum is a must stop when in town — you’ll be surprised.

Bob Stevens
9 years ago

One museum I enjoyed as a kid was the Museum of Science, and Industry located in downtown Los Angeles, Ca. They actually had exhibits that kids could touch, and work with. The curators were friendly, and accommodating to the kids questions. One example that I always enjoyed was the one sided paper display. I understand that there is also a Children’s Museum there now, too.

Dennis A. Steenbergen
9 years ago

There is a very unique ship museum in Vallejo, Ca. It is the Landing Craft Support Museum just opened and is located at a berth in the old Naval base at Mare Island. The museum is the USS LCS (L) 102. She is the only Landing Craft Support (Large) still afloat. She is being preserved as a memorial to all the brave men that went to war in this class of WWII ship. The LCSes were known as the “Might Midgets” and fought in almost every campaign in the Pacific war. Borneo, Philippines, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the occupation of Japan. The Skipper of the USS LCS (L) 122 , Richard M. McCool, received the Medal of Honor for his actions at Okinawa.

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