Sunday, May 27, 2012
Offbeat Museums of America
I saw a recent list of an interesting cross-section of weird and offbeat museums in America. With this being Memorial Day weekend, the summer vacation and travel season is now underway. If you find yourself in these cities, you might stop and check it out.
PHILADELPHIA PIZZA MUSEUM:
Pizza Brain is the world's first museum dedicated to pizza. And guess what—it's also a restaurant serving (you guessed it) pizza. It's the brain child of Brian Dwyer, the Guinness World Record holder of pizza memorabilia. It is located in Philadelphia's Fishtown neighborhood.
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 BONSAI & PENJING MUSEUM:
Located in Washington D.C., the museum was created in 1976 by the Department of Agriculture as a result of Japan's Bicentennial gift to the U.S. It now contains three pavilions—Chinese, Japanese, and North American—with approximately 150 living sculptures among viewing stones and strolling paths. What makes this museum a special treat is its tranquility…a moment of Zen.
PSYCHIATRIC AND CRIME MUSEUMS:
There are several museums dedicated to this topic. Our fascination with crime and forensics is obvious. Just check out the number of televisions shows—both entertainment programs and documentaries—that deal with solving crime with forensics. Glore Psychiatric Museum located in St. Louis, Missouri was once housed in State Lunatic Asylum No. 2. Founded in 1903, the museum is a history of treatment of mental illness including treating patients possessed by witchcraft or demons. The National Museum of Crime and Punishment is located in Washington D.C. and opened in 2008. It 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. And if you happen to be in Los Angeles, check out the Los Angeles County Coroner's gift shop.
SPARK MUSEUM OF ELECTRICAL INVENTION:
Located in Bellingham, Washington, the museum has been around in various stages since 1985 and moved to their 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.
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 3 acre lot referred to as Neon Boneyard. At the moment, you must call ahead and make a reservation to visit the 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 on a 15 mile dash.
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 in1947. 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.
Other museums to get honorable mention are three Barbed Wire Museums—the Joseph F. Glidden Homestead & Historical Center in DeKalb, Illinois; The Devil's Rope Museum on Route 66 in McLean, Texas; and the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum in LaCrosse, Kansas. And final honorable mention goes to the Museum Of Bad Art in Boston which houses…you guesses it…a collection of bad art.
Have you come across any odd or unusual museums in your travels?