The Most Unusual, Must-See Museums on the Planet
Browsing a museum can often times be a drab, predictable experience. However, the ones on this list definitely are not. The museums you’re about to see are one of a kind and dedicated to the every day and the absurd. The curious visitor will find pop culture paraphernalia and homages to every day items like salt shakers, mustard, and even ice cream. They may be strange collections to some, but the following museums learned how to turn odd passions into something profitable and fascinating too. Read on for some of the strangest museums this world has to offer and maybe go take a peek yourself.
1. British Lawnmower Museum: Southport, England
For most of us, a lawnmower is just one of those items that just happens to be there. It serves a purpose and then returns to its shadowy place in the garage once its duty has been filled. One museum in England, though, really gives the lawnmower the opportunity to bask in the spotlight.
But many of these specimens aren’t just any ordinary lawnmowers. For the bargain admissions price of just £3.00, you can get the opportunity to see up close the lawnmowers of such people as Princess Diana and Prince Charles. The museum also hosts lawnmower races. So if you have a talent for manning a lawnmower, this event might just be your chance to shine. The items on the next page get really weird.
2. International Cryptozoology Museum: Portland, Maine
Natural history museums are a great place to go to learn about creatures that once roamed the earth–but what about those that are assumed to be just fun legends? This dubious branch of study is known as Cryptozoology and there is a whole museum devoted to it in Maine.
Yes, this museum actually will indulge you with stories of the elusive Bigfoot and Loch Ness Monster. Visitors get the opportunity to explore exhibits featuring realistic-looking replicas of the magnificent beasts of which only folklore speaks. In sum, if you ever wanted to be towered over by a brooding lifelike jackalope, this is the place to come.
3. National Mustard Museum: Middleton, Wisconsin
Everything about this museum screams very peculiar but a blast nonetheless. Just a look at the place’s history will reveal that it does not try to take itself too seriously. Its founder Barry Levenson felt compelled to start collecting mustard after witnessing the defeat of a favorite baseball team. He later went shopping and found many bottles of mustard speaking to him: If you collect us, they will come.
And that he did. He even stepped down from his job as assistant attorney general of Wisconsin just to pursue those prophetic murmurings that emanated from the condiment section. The grocery aisle of dreams, so to speak. In any case, the museum opened its doors in 1992. If you ever dreamed of beholding over 5,000 bottles of mustard from all over the world (70 different countries!), then you will truly be in heaven here. The next museum gets even weirder.
4. Sulabh International Museum of Toilets: Delhi, India
Here is a collection of thrones that would take anyone’s breath away, even if they are not exactly so regal and dignified. But it is not solely the standard Western toilet that sits in the limelight here. This museum covers the toilet habits of over 50 countries.
The museum is a salute to the history of sanitation methods and the huge strides in sanitation efforts that toilets have made over the years. There are toilets here that date back to as early as 3,000 BC. Additionally, the museum features exhibits that take a closer look at the social embarrassment surrounding toilets and bathroom-related matters.
5. The Mütter Museum: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The human body is fascinating and even somewhat enigmatic. For those who are not so squeamish, this museum located in Philadelphia may well be worth a visit. Here you can see bones of all sorts and skeletons belonging to all sorts of people. Wonder what a 7’6″ person would look like on the inside? The Mütter Museum has a real skeleton of such a person on display.
If your stomach can stay strong long enough, you might want to take a stroll through the museum’s “wet” specimens–that is, real human body parts that have been suspended in fluid and then preserved in glass. You will find over 1,800 of such specimens here. For something extra informative, the museum offers incredibly intricate anatomical models, some of which mimic what people of the 18th and 19th century would use to better understand the human body before it was all that well understood.
6. Cancun Underwater Museum: Cancun, Mexico
To access this museum, there are no velvety ropes or high vaulted ceilings. You will have to dive beneath the surface, so get your snorkeling gear ready! You will not exactly be seeing a brilliantly pink coral reef, but you might find it even more fascinating than that, especially if you are a sucker for great art. This museum is a sprawling collection of underwater sculptures.
Visitors can observe artist Jason Decaires Taylor’s Man of Fire, as vibrant fish swim about its mangled body. Take a peek inside precarious-looking structures: a decrepit house, an asymmetrical threshold. The best part? These sculptures are teeming with all sorts of marine creatures, since the clay from which the sculptures are crafted are compatible with marine life.
7. The Hammer Museum: Haines, Alaska
On the outside, the place is not much to look at: just a humble little house with a giant hammer towering over it. Once you get inside, however, you will find yourself in hammer paradise, if you are really into these amazing tools.
The museum champions its featured tool as one of the first to be used by mankind. It opened its doors in 2002 and has amassed and maintained an impressive collection ever since. Specifically, you can look at over 5,000 hammers, each one with its own story and purpose. Why not take a look at the dental hammers? You might not actually want them anywhere near your mouth, though.
8. The Museum of Jurassic Technology: Los Angeles, California
Stepping foot into this museum is an almost surreal experience, especially if you are a first time visitor. The exhibits do not seem to have any one distinct thing in common other than one: they are all very unusual, some even haunting. and many have little to no explanation behind them. Your objective is simply to study each one carefully and come to your own conclusions. What is fact and what is fiction?
So, what exactly can you find at the Museum of Jurassic Technology? Perhaps one of the most fascinated exhibits is a collection of dice, all varying in condition. These dice are said to belong to a magician named Ricky Jay. Some look relatively intact, just a few blemishes here and there. Others hardly look like dice anymore at all. There is even a painting featuring Soviet space dogs. You really cannot make this stuff up, so it is best you go look for yourself!
9. International UFO Museum and Research Center: Roswell, New Mexico
If you thought you had to keep your fascination with UFOs and extraterrestrial beings to yourself, in fear of seeming too spaced out, you will surely feel at home at this museum. The International UFO Museum and Research Center will immerse you in the whole experience.
The location of the museum is auspicious. It is said that a UFO landed in Roswell 1947. As the legend goes, nobody was supposed to know about the incident, so the government went to work to cover it all up with shaky explanations. The museum allows visitors to learn all about the history of UFOs and reported sightings. Of course, you will also get to learn about Area 51, crop circles, and more.
10. The Museum of Ice Cream: Los Angeles, California
You can’t beat a nice, cold ice cream cone on a hot day. But if you’re absolutely in love with this frozen treat, step inside the Museum of Ice Cream in Los Angeles. This place is truly paradise, both for children and adults alike and not only has fun exhibits but tons of fun stuff to taste.
There is even a sprinkle pool! That is right: a pool filled with plastic sprinkles that guests are free to take a dip in. Get your tickets as soon as possible because they are limited and they do sell out fast.
11. Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum: Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Are you passionate about salt and peppers shakers? Probably not, but this Tennessee museum might be willing to change that, at least for a little while. How could you not be, after finding yourself surrounded by the things wherever you turn for an hour or two?
The collection boasts over 20,000 shakers and belongs to an anthropologist named Andrea Ludden, who has devoted an untold number of hours studying them. Only natural, then, that she would have an entire building dedicated to them. It would be quite difficult to contain all those salt and pepper shakers in one cluttered study, after all.
12. The Neon Museum: Las Vegas, Nevada
Nothing quite says Las Vegas like gaudy lights and color. How would you like to browse a whole museum browsing at the once-dazzling signs that adorned the famous Vegas strip? You can do just that, at The Neon Musuem. Hey, it might provide some respite after all the gambling and drunken shenanigans.
The place was founded in 1996 and offers one-hour guided tours through its Neon Boneyard, where you can find an overwhelming collection of signs that have burned out long ago. If you and the love of your life are really eccentric, you can even hold your wedding here.
13. American Computer Museum: Bozeman, Montana
Founded in 1990, this exciting museum features just about everything that involves computers. Some of the exhibits are truly fascinating. For instance, there is one called Hacking Hitler’s Code. Another is called The Proverbial Garage, a creative name for an exhibit that looks at the creation and history of the personal computer.
You can also behold such marvels as an actual watch that was “worn on the moon” and the Cal Tech Calculator, which was the first hand-held electronic calculator ever. What makes it all even better is that this labyrinthine museum has free entrance!
14. Museum of Bad Art: Brookline and Somerville, Massachusetts
Some cannot understand why a canvas with a blotch of red paint on is at a well-regarded art museum. But then there is actually one museum whose whole point is to assault your eyes and make you laugh and feel better about your own artistic talents.
At the Museum of Bad Art, you’ll find paintings of unusual landscapes, haphazardly executed in most cases. The portraits are a real treat, if you want to see how creative some artists can get with getting human anatomy very wrong. In sum, pay a visit if you love art and don’t want to take it so seriously.
15. International Banana Museum: Mecca, California
Are you bananas for bananas? Then it is time to go bananas at the International Banana Museum in Mecca, California. Visitors will find over 20,000 banana-themed items plastered with this magnificent fruit, from socks to shirts to toys to candles.
But the banana bonanza does not have to end there. Those with a sweet tooth can stop by the banana bar for a banana milkshake or even a banana soda. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you can try a banana soda float. Oh, and of course it would not be a banana haven if you could not find such classics as chocolate-covered bananas and banana splits.
16. Idaho Potato Museum
For many, the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the word Idaho is the potato. This museum cherishes its state reputation as a potato paradise and welcomes visitors to get excited about this tremendous tuber as well. The place certainly lives up to its name.
It is filled to the brim with genuine Idaho potatoes of all shapes and sizes. Find lumpy ones, smooth ones, giant ones, tiny ones. You will also be enlightened on the history of the potato and exactly what went down when the potato industry totally revolutionized. You can also learn about the potato’s rich nutritional value and methods of production. Do not forget to stop by the cafe for a fresh baked potato.
17. The Mini Bottle Gallery: Oslo, Norway
Museums that revolve around miniature artifacts are not totally new. You can find a general miniature museum in Arizona, and another dedicated to miniature toys in Missouri. However, this Norwegian museum stays true to just one kind of miniature: bottles.
And there are thousands of the things, quite literally. You can find precisely 53,000 mini bottles at this museum, with approximately 12,500 of them scattered among three distinct floors. If you feel so inclined, you can even opt to have a classy dinner at the museum.
18. Lunchbox Museum: Columbus, Georgia
For most of us, the lunchbox is simply something with which we transport our sandwich and chips to work or school each day. But this museum in Georgia puts countless of these durable containers on display for visitors to admire. These lunch boxes are the good, old-fashioned metal kind with superheroes and cartoon characters plastered on the front.
The collection belongs to a man by the name of Allen Woodall Jr. He lost count of his collection long ago, but it is clear to even the casual observer that he has thousands of them. You will find lunchboxes featuring everything from King Kong to Superman to Hot Wheels cars. If you are interested in purchasing one of his duplicates, you can visit Allen in his bartering room to make a deal.
19. Vacuum Cleaner Museum: St. James, Missouri
If you thought exhaustive vacuum collections existed only in comedic universes with token neat-freak characters, think again. You are about to dive into the history of this popular clean machine and curator Tom Gasko is delighted to talk about his collection with all who pay a visit.
Gasko discovered his affinity for vacuum cleaners when he was a young boy. He eventually moved on to door-to-door sales and quickly accumulated a collection of his own. Today, he oversees approximately 800 functional vacuum cleaners. If you are ready to know all there is to know about vacuums, from their fascinating history to their complex anatomy, Gasko and his vacuums will be awaiting you.
20. Museum of the Weird: Austin, Texas
Museums as a whole are known for showcasing the rare, the phenomenal, and the unusual. This Texas museum focuses solely on everything that is just downright bizarre, and you can take a look for the low price of just $12.
What will you find at a place called the Museum of the Weird? If it would make a spooky addition to your Halloween display, you will probably discover it here. That includes such things as shrunken heads, mummies, and several different zoological enigmas.
21. Glore Psychiatric Museum: St. Joseph, Missouri
You might have seen this museum featured everywhere from PBS to The Discovery Channel, and for good reason. Founded in 1967, Glore Psychiatric Museum consistently ranks among the top museums in the United States. It is the perfect place to visit if you are fascinated by all things mental health and how various people and cultures have approached it throughout the years.
Not only can you look at such questionable tools and devices like the Giant Patient Treadmill and the Bath of Surprise, a large tub that submerged patients in ice-cold water. You can also see how those who struggled with mental illness once coped: through art, sculpture, and more.
22. International Spy Museum: Washington, D.C.
If you have ever daydreamed about being a spy, this museum housed in the U.S. capital has you covered. One of its features is that guests are invited to assume the role of a spy in one-hour, realistic missions. You can hype up the realism by taking a guided tour of D.C., through the eyes of one sly spy.
The actual exhibits will not disappoint either, as the International Spy Museum boasts the largest collection of spy artifacts in the world. You can uncover exactly what spies of the past used to stay undercover and learn what the future holds. Also, be sure to stop by an exhibit called “Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains” to learn about some of James Bonds’ most notorious villains and the methods to their madness.
23. The Kazoo Museum: Beaufort, South Carolina
If you tried to think of a random musical instrument right now, the last thing would come to mind is likely the undignified kazoo. It is often disregarded as a cheap novelty toy, dug from the bottom of a cereal box and then later discarded to the side. This museum, though, gives the kazoo the attention that it might well deserve.
Here, you can learn all about the kazoo and its surprisingly rich history. You can also take a look at rows of the instruments and their official patents. In total, there are over 200 artifacts on display. While the museum featured here is located in South Carolina and was founded in 2011, the very first kazoo museum was located in Seattle, Washington. It opened its doors in 2007.
24. Center for Puppetry Arts: Atlanta, Georgia
Learn all about puppets at this fun, interactive museum located in Atlanta, Georgia. You can discover puppets from all over the globe and learn about the various puppetry techniques that span across cultures and continents, from Europe to Africa and then back to North America again.
The museum’s greatest highlight is arguably its collection of puppets from the Muppet legend himself, Jim Henson. You can learn about the creation of such iconic creatures as Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog. Do not forget to take a peek at Mr. Henson’s office and studio!
25. OZ Museum: Wamego, Kansas
Toto, don’t you worry. You are in fact in Kansas if you have stumbled upon this fun, quaint museum devoted to all things Wizard of Oz–and not just the timeless movie featuring Judy Garland. You will also learn plenty about the book by L. Frank Baum that started it all.
Visitors will learn plenty about the classic 1939 film and behold many real items and costumes from the movie. You will also get to learn about related Oz-related endeavors, most notably the ’70s musical film The Wiz, starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross. In sum, this little museum overflows with over a century’s worth of Wizard of Oz history. True fans may find that this place is the one that comes close to home.
26. Vent Haven Ventriloquist Museum: Fort Mitchell, Kentucky
Ventriloquist dummies are arguably the creepiest things to inhabit planet Earth. But they’ve also provided plenty of entertainment and nowhere else in the world will you find such a vast collection of ventriloquist figures as at the Vent Haven Ventriloquist Museum. They hail from over 20 different countries.
Still, do not panic when you find yourself surrounded by over 600 of these figures, because that is about how many the museum houses. It was founded by a man named W.S. Berger, and it opened its doors in the early 1970s. This collection meant a lot to him, in all its terrifying glory.
27. The Dog Collar Museum: Kent, England
And we all thought cat people were the crazy ones! At this museum, you can take a gander at a seemingly endless collection of canine accessories. This collection include collars dating back hundreds of years. Yes, even way back when, people wanted to ensure their loyal, furry friends had their names on them at all times.
Some of the collars you will find here are not quite like the cheap nylon ones you might buy at your local pet store. Some look fit for royalty while others seem guaranteed to inspire terror. You will find the 18th-century collars to be particularly intriguing: all flair with little function, just the way these dog owners preferred.
28. New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
You do not have to be a medical professional to understand that medicine has certainly evolved over the years and shows no sign of slowing down. Fortunately for those who like to keep up with the times, the New Orleans Pharmacy of Museum still has preserved plenty of specimens that offer a glimpse into the medical treatments of the past.
And indeed, you will be transported to a time when strange potions and bloodletting seemed to be viable medical options. You will even get to see what the apothecary of the very first established pharmacist in America looked like, as you will be standing on the very ground that housed it.
29. Barbed Wire Museum: La Crosse, Kansas
Barbed wire may be intended to keep things trapped inside from getting outside; however, this museum in Kansas invites you to come and go as you please. Once there, visitors learn there is much more to this intimidating-looking material than you might have thought.
At this museum, you will get the opportunity to immerse yourself in the shockingly extensive history of barbed wire and see over 2,000 varieties of it. Additionally, you can learn how this seemingly random invention shaped the landscape of America’s prairies.
30. National Museum of Funeral History: Harris County, Texas
Having a museum dedicated to the history of funerals may seem morbid, but you might end up finding it to be more than a quick shiver down your spine. Founded in 1992, the Texas museum sprawls on an impressive 35,000 square feet of land and boasts an enormous collection of artifacts from many periods of time, all of which were designed to deal with the unpleasant but inevitable matter of death.
The goal of the museum is in fact not solely to shock but to show people how death has been handled over the years. The museum even teamed up with the Vatican to bring visitors a thought-provoking exhibit that examines the deaths of popes and the sophisticated ceremony surrounding them.
31. Circus World Museum: Baraboo, Wisconsin
Beneath that billowing big top circus tent lurks a vibrant history that is worthy of much exploration. This museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin preserves the fantastical history of American circuses over the years and has restored a number of antique traveling circus caravans.
The museum presents a number of exhibits on circus life and history as well as several fun live shows ranging from circus to slapstick. When you’re done, head over to the museum’s cherished Ringlingville, where the Ringling Brothers, circus crew, and animals used to spend the winter season.
32. Burlingame Museum of PEZ Memoribilia: Burlingame, California
How many PEZ dispensers can one guy possibly collect? For Gary Doss, that number is in the 900s. He has been perfecting his collection for over 30 years now and made a museum open to the public in 1995. Indeed, he claims to have every PEZ dispenser ever released. And it is indeed quite a sight.
Don’t worry if you get tired of PEZ dispensers too fast. The museum also has a classic toy museum, which boasts everything from View-Masters and Mr. Potato Head to Lincoln Logs. There’s even a Banned Toy exhibit that showcases toys that have been recalled, either due to safety reasons or because of their age inappropriateness.
33. Barney Smith’s Toilet Seat Art Museum: San Antonio, Texas
Well, we have an art museum on this list and a toilet museum. Perhaps it only makes sense that there would be a museum that showcases toilet art–well, toilet seat art to be precise. The museum is housed in a garage, which may not seem like much.
First, you have to walk up a driveway, which frankly looks like just about any other driveway in suburban America. However, once you step inside, you will be dazzled by Barney Smith’s collection of over 1,000 toilet seats, each one with a carefully painted design of its own. It may be weird, but there is something kind of charming about it that is hard to deny.
34. Museum of Broken Relationships: Zagreb, Croatia
Love can be brutal. Perhaps you will feel less alone by strolling through the Museum of Broken Relationships in Croatia’s capital. A certain sadness lingers over the place, although that is soon replaced by fascination once visitors realize what awaits them.
The museum is devoted to exactly what its name says: failed relationships. And what better way to portray a failed relationship than through abandoned items, bitter parts of former lovers that were cathartically shed? You can even read brief snippets about each object.
35. New England Maple Museum: Pittsford, Vermont
If you love to slather your pancakes and waffles with deliciously sticky maple syrup, you might want to pay a visit to this museum so that you can truly come to appreciate the stuff. And it is located in the one state hailed for its premium maple syrup: Vermont.
At the New England Maple Museum, you can brush up on your history concerning all things, well, maple syrup. And if you worry that you will bore too quickly from all the educational aspects of this sweet museum, fear not. Tastings will be available.
36. The National Museum of Roller Skating: Lincoln, Nebraska
Even if you are not exactly the most graceful of skaters, you will likely find yourself appreciating roller skating for what it is after you visit this museum. The museum aims to educate people about the history of the activity and have all sorts of artifacts that reveal the activity’s evolution over time.
Here, you will find several exhibits that offer a nuanced glimpse into rollerskating’s rich past. You can learn about everything from roller hockey to inline skating to roller derby. Of course, a roller skating museum would not be complete without actual roller skates, and you will find plenty here, of many different styles and from many different manufacturers. There are also several gorgeous competitive costumes on display.
37. American Precision Museum: Windsor, Vermont
We know, this museum sounds more like the name of an esoteric college course than a fun family afternoon. But we promise: you will find plenty to love here. The museum is actually devoted to all things concerning the precision tool-making machine and the building itself was once a factory that manufactured the interchangeable precision parts for such machines. It has been considered an official National Landmark since 1966.
The exhibits are meticulously organized, each offering a look into a distinct part of history. For instance, an exhibit called Shaping America will teach you the role the precision machine played in the Industrial Revolution and how such a time in history changed the country for the better. You can also learn all you ever needed to know about the waterwheel.
38. The Museum of Edgar Allan Poe: Richmond, Museum
Whether you can recite “The Raven” by heart or have read “The Tell-Tale Heart” dozens of times, you will likely get a thrill out of this museum dedicated completely to the legendary American writer Edgar Allan Poe. The museum is located in Richmond, Virginia, a place that Poe once called home. Now, much of Poe’s work lives on in this charming little house.
Nowhere else will you find such an extensive collection of Poe’s original manuscripts and letters. You can even get a close look at some of this literary giant’s most beloved belongings. Of course, you will also learn a whole lot about his personal life. Oh, and don’t forget to say hello to the museum’s resident black cats, Pluto and Edgar.
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