A Nod to the Odd: The 10 Weirdest Museums in America

By Rimstidt, Aaron | The Saturday Evening Post, September-October 2011 | Go to article overview

A Nod to the Odd: The 10 Weirdest Museums in America


Rimstidt, Aaron, The Saturday Evening Post


NOTHING WRONG WITH GOING to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Getty in Los Angeles, or Chicago's excellent Art Institute. You'll have a fine time if you like that kind of thing. But what happens when you get home? Try to tell your neighbor about your trip and the best reaction you'll get is a suppressed yawn. (Don't even think about showing the video!) Want to give your friends something to talk about? We've scanned the country for the weirdest museums possible. After reviewing hundreds of quaint, quirky, and just plain stupid collections, here are our top 10!

[1] Mutter Museum

WHAT: Possibly the strangest, most fascinating display of historical medical specimens imaginable.

WHERE: Philadelphia, PA

HOW IT STARTED: The Mutter grew out of an 1850s-era collection of instructional exhibits for doctors in training.

HIGHLIGHTS: A tumor removed from president Grover Cleveland, a piece of John Wilkes Booth's thorax, and the conjoined liver of Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker.

DID YOU KNOW? A person can choke on practically anything. One popular Mutter exhibit contains drawers full of objects removed from gagging patients' throats including collar buttons, hair dips, safety pins, diaper tabs, jacks, and skate keys.

CONTACT: 215-563-3737; collphyphil.org/site/mutter_museum.html

COST: $14; $10 for 6- to 17-year-olds and seniors

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[2] National Mustard Museum

WHAT: More than 5,300 mustard containers and 1,000 pieces of mustard-related memorabilia from 79 countries.

WHERE: Middleton, WI

HOW IT STARTED: "I began collecting jars of mustard on October 28, 1986, at 2:30 a.m.," says founder Barry Levenson, who hails from Boston. "I couldn't sleep because on the 27th the Red Sox lost the World Series. I didn't know what to do, so I went to the grocery and just walked up and down the aisles. I had a moment in front of the mustards--and that's how it all started."

HIGHLIGHT: NMM houses the only jar of mustard to appear in the U.S. Supreme Court.

DID YOU KNOW? Shakespeare loved mustard. He mentions it four times in his plays. He never once mentions ketchup.

CONTACT: 800-438-6878; mustardmuseum.com

COST: Free

[3] Cockroach Hall of Fame

WHAT: A collection of both live and dead critters amassed by exterminator Michael Bohden.

WHERE: Plano, TX

HOW IT STARTED: Launched as a publicity stunt to attract more customers to his extermination business, the collection was featured on CNN, Johnny Carson, and other shows. Eventually the museum eclipsed Bohden's business.

HIGHLIGHT: "Libe-roachi," (pictured above) a musical diorama that includes a piano, candelabra, and a cockroach dressed as the famously flamboyant piano player.

DID YOU KNOW: There are roughly 4,500 species of roaches, only 30 of which are associated with human habitation.

CONTACT: 972-519-0355; pestshop.com/cockroaches. html

COST: Free

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[4] Museum of Salt and Pepper Shakers

WHAT: More than 20,000 shakers of all makes, kinds, and origins.

WHERE: Gatlinburg, TN

HOW IT STARTED: "When I was young, my mother's pepper mills kept breaking," says Andrea Ludden, curator. "When one broke, she would put it on the windowsill and get a new one. As they accumulated, friends and family began to give us theirs, and the collection just grew!"

HIGHLIGHT: A salt shaker made from the ashes of Mount St. Helens. It's shaped like the volcano, of course. When you open the top, it resembles the "after" photos.

DID YOU KNOW? Many people share Ludden's obsession. There's a club for collectors of salt and peppershakers. To join, visit saltandpepperclub.com.

CONTACT: 888-778-1802; thesaltandpeppershakermuseum.com

COST: $3; 12 and under free

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[5] Museum of Bad Art

WHAT: Plenty of museums are dedicated to good art, says Permanent Acting Interim Executive Director Louise Reilly Sacco, but this museum strives to be different. …

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A Nod to the Odd: The 10 Weirdest Museums in America
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