Museums…we've all been to them whether in our home town or on our travels. And there are all types of museums housing and displaying treasures depicting so many different themes. There are art museums presenting all types of art from the paintings of the old masters to modern art and all varieties in between, museums dedicated to specific historical events and times, living history museums including live demonstrations and presenters in period costumes, museums of cultural relevance, and museums such as those of the Smithsonian that cover just about everything from fossils millions of years old to space travel.
I came across a couple of lists for offbeat and weird museum that I've combined into one list of 12 offbeat museums, presented here in no particular order. I checked and all of these have valid websites.
Located in the heart of New York City's Lower East Side, the Tenement Museum pays homage to New York's immigrants. It traces the history of a single tenement building constructed in 1863 and located at 97 Orchard Street. From the outside it doesn't look any different from any other building in the area, but inside is the story of the waves of immigrants arriving in the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries. The building was condemned in 1935, which is where the museum's focus ends.
National Museum of Funeral History
This Houston, Texas, museum was founded in 1992 and claims that "any day above ground is a good one." The museum's mission is to preserve the heritage of the funeral industry. They offer exhibits such as a full-scale replica of Pope John Paul II's crypt, a 1900s casket factory, and a Civil War embalming diorama.
Leila's Hair Museum
This Independence, Missouri, museum is dedicated to…you guessed it…hair. According to the museum, in Victorian times it was popular to make wreaths, jewelry and other ornamentations out of human hair and Leila's Hair Museum keeps the tradition alive. Visitors can see many wreaths and over 2000 pieces of jewelry containing or made of human hair that dates back before 1900.
This Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, museum is probably the best known of those on this list. I've seen it in show segments in the Mysteries At The Museum series on the Travel Channel. It's a museum of medical oddities and specimens such as Grover Cleveland's tumor, a conjoined liver from Siamese twins, a slide of a murderer's brain, a woman who turned to wax after death.
And I'm not talking about unwanted email. This Austin, Minnesota, museum is dedicated to SPAM, often heralded as America's favorite canned meat. The Hormel company created SPAM in 1937. Museum visitors can practice canning SPAM and brush up on SPAM trivia including its role in World War II.
The Museum Of Bad Art
Good art can be found anywhere, but bad art? That's a whole different thing. This museum, founded in 1993, has three Massachusetts locations—Dedham, Somerville, and Brookline and is "dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition, and celebration of bad art in all its forms and in all its glory."
Devil's Rope Museum
This McLean, Texas, museum was founded in 1991 and is the largest barbed wire museum in the world. Appropriately nicknamed devil's rope, the barbed wire museum gives the history of barbed wire, shows artifacts, the significance of the invention, and the impact on the development of the Old West.
The National Museum of Crime and Punishment
Located in Washington D.C. and opened in 2008, the museum contains artifacts and interactive exhibits including an FBI shooting range, high speed police chase simulator, and various forensics techniques. There are also historical exhibits, forensics workshops, and CSI summer camps for teens.
There are several museums dedicated to this topic. Our fascination with crime and forensics is obvious. Just check out the number of television shows—both entertainment programs and documentaries—that deal with solving crime using forensics, all the cold cases that have been solved, and wrongly convicted people released from prison since DNA testing became part of our reality.
Spark Museum Of Electrical Invention
Located in Bellingham, Washington, the museum has been around in various stages since 1985 and moved to its current home in 2001. You'll find lots of gadgets and complicated objects that look like they came out of a steam punk scenario but in reality changed the course of history and modern life, items paying tribute to Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Enrico Marconi and Nikola Tesla.
Their website currently shows the museum as temporarily closed.
The Neon Museum
Located in Las Vegas, Nevada, the museum houses the neon signs no longer being used by casinos, chapels, restaurants, and other businesses. Vegas' iconic art used to be sent to the scrap yard. In 1996, the non-profit Neon Museum began preserving the city's legacy in a three acre lot referred to as Neon Boneyard. The museum has assembled an outdoor gallery along the east end of Fremont Street and is available free to the public 24 hours a day.
American Visionary Art Museum
Located in Baltimore, Maryland, this innovative museum houses such oddities as an enormous ball made out of more than 18,000 bras, a replica of the ill-fated Lusitania constructed of nearly 200,000 toothpicks, a floor mat created out of hundreds of toothbrushes, an extensive Pez collection, and sculptures made from Styrofoam cups. In the spring the museum hosts the annual Kinetic Sculpture Race where entrants create wacky sculptures that travel on both land and sea.
The International UFO Museum And Research Center
Located in Roswell, New Mexico (where else?), it is the result of the famous (or infamous) UFO crash in Roswell in 1947. At first identified as a UFO by the Air Force, they quickly recanted and declared it a downed weather balloon thus beginning decades of cover-up accusations. The furor finally died down until 1978 when a UFO researcher started interviewing locals who claimed to have seen the debris and said it was part of an extraterrestrial craft. From that, the stories expanded and Roswell became the world's most famous UFO crash.
Have you come across any odd or unusual museums in your travels?