Eccentric and Eclectic Museums

By Wightman, Richard | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 18, 1998 | Go to article overview

Eccentric and Eclectic Museums


Wightman, Richard, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Philadelphia has long been known as a citadel of the arts - from the great hilltop gallery called the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the Rodin Museum to the famed Barnes Foundation with its more than 200 Renoirs, 65 Matisses, 100 Cezannes and 35 early Picassos.

Less well known, however, is that Philadelphia also is a unique center of offbeat, oddball museums. Here is a sampling of its weird delights:

DENTAL MUSEUM, Broad Street and Allegheny Avenue. Here visitors find a 200-year-old dentist's chair and a bucket containing thousands of teeth pulled by Edgar "Painless" Parker, who saved all the teeth he pulled at his West Coast offices in the early 19th century.

SHOE MUSEUM, Eighth and Race streets. The 500 types of footwear include Eskimo snowshoes and burial sandals, Lucille Ball's hot pinks and shoes of Billie Jean King, Jack Nicklaus, Ringo Starr and Nancy Reagan.

EASTERN STATE PENITENTIARY, 22nd Street and Fairmount Avenue. The massive, brooding building was open from the 1820s until 1971. Lucky tourists get to see Al Capone's cell.

INSECTARIUM, 8046 Frankford Ave. This place is crawling with 100,000 live cockroaches in a model kitchen and their more dangerous relatives, such as scorpions and tarantulas.

MUSHROOM MUSEUM, 1 Kennett Square. This is said to be the only museum in the country that deals fully with the history, lore and mystique of mushrooms; it offers films, dioramas and slides as well as exhibits on the subject.

MUMMERS MUSEUM, Second Street and Washington Avenue. …

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