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An Eclectic Collection of Museums

Updated on November 8, 2023

Museums on the Fringe of Reality

The subject of weird and wacky museums first came to my attention in 2008, whilst working on another project. On joining Hubpages I decided to revisit the topic and seek at new list of sites. However, I was surprised to find that only 2 of the original 15 museums I had selected had since closed down, proving people are still interested in unusual and eclectic subjects.

I am sure the examples I include all but skim the surface or what is available out there, but I hope it will nevertheless provide with you an idea of what to look out for.

Balloon Museum

Alburquerque, NM, USA

Photograph: PerryPlanet via Wikimedia

In 1978, Albuquerque balloonists Ben Abruzzo and Maxie Anderson made history when they made the first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a gas balloon called Double Eagle II. Their subsequent adventures were to end in tragedy as died in a balloon accident in 1983, while Ben became the victim of an aircraft accident in 1985. The museum was set up in their honour.

The Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum is said to be the world's best facility dedicated to the art, culture, science, history, sport and spectacle of ballooning. It has been the host of an impressive collection of ballooning equipment and memorabilia dating from 1720, since it opened to the public in 2005.

Banana Museum Auburn, Washington

Online, Virtual Museum

The Washington Banana Museum is a collection of close to 4,000 items; a mix of artifacts, art and other cultural items devoted to the world's perfect fruit.

It all started with a trip to Hawaii that museum curator Ann Mitchell Lovell took in 1980. She recalls that "a friend and I found a bar there called Anna's Bannanas, and I bought a T-shirt with its logo." Over time, Ann found other items that made their way into her home. "I started finding banana things and saving them. Friends began noticing and would also seek out banana stuff." The rest, as they say, is history.

Barbed Wire Museum

LaCrosse, KS, USA

Barbed wires were invented as a way to control the movement of cattle, define boundaries and as a means of protection.

The Kansas Barbed Wire Museum in LaCrosse, Kansas is devoted solely to the history and legend of this artefact sometimes referred to as the "Devils Rope". Over 2000 examples of barbed wire are exhibited here, including samples manufactured between 1870 and 1890.

The museum presents interesting ways to learn about an important contributions to America's history. Dioramas of early barbed wire use, a theatre featuring educational films, the Barbed Wire Hall of Fame, the museum archives room and a research library all contribute to the learning experience.

British Lawnmower Museum

Southport, UK

Illustration: Wikimedia

The British Lawnmower Museum was started by ex-racing champion Brian Radam. His interest in this type of equipment stems from early involvement in the family business started in 1945. The museum has become a world authority on vintage lawnmowers and is reputed to be the largest supplier of antique garden machinery and parts.

The lawnmower was invented by Edwin Beard Budding in 1830 while working in a cotton mill in Stroud, Gloucester. In adapted a cotton processing machine to cut grass instead. At the time people were sceptical about his invention, so he was forced to test it at night, to avoid unwanted attention.

Included in the collection are manufacturers not normally associated with the garden industry: Rolls Royce, Royal Enfield, Daimler and Hawker Sidley Many of the exhibits are from the Victorian and Edwardian era and some used to belong to celebrities such as Brian May of the band Queen.

Cumberland Pencil Museum
Cumberland Pencil Museum

Cumberland Pencil Museum

Keswick, UK

At the Cumberland Pencil Museum you can journey through the history of pencils and pencil making, enjoy being creative in our Drawing Zone and relax over a cappuccino in the Sketchers Coffee Shop.

Enter the museum through a replica of the Seathwaite mine where graphite was first discovered 350 years ago. Through words, pictures and carefully restored machinery you can trace the history of pencil making and see how Derwent Fine Art Pencils are made today. The video theatre shows a presentation detailing the history of pencil making in Keswick, including the current production methods.

Be amazed at the Worlds Longest Coloured Pencil, and see a World War 2 Pencil designed like a James Bond Gadget.

(picture courtesy of Ophelia Tudeaux on Flickr)

Museum of Bad Art

Dedham, Mass, USA

The Museum Of Bad Art (MOBA) is a community-based, private institution dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all its forms and in all its glory.

MOBA was founded in the fall of 1993 and presented its first show in March 1994. The response was overwhelming.

Since then, MOBA's collection and ambitions have grown exponentially.

Initially, MOBA was housed in the basement of a private home in Boston. This meagre exhibition space limited the museum to being a regional cultural resource for the New England area.

Potato Museum

Idaho, USA

The Idaho Potato Museum is located within the old Oregon Short Line Railroad Depot and, appropriately showcases Idaho's potatoes industry.

The museum was built in 1912 and provides information on the history, growing and harvesting process, nutrition and educational potato facts. The railroad depot ties between the railroad and the potato industry.

If you can't make it to Idaho you could always take a virtual tour of the online potato museum!

Spy Museum Washington DC
Spy Museum Washington DC

Spy Museum

Washington DC, USA

If you have a love of spy "who-done-its" from film noir and the movies, a fascination with history and a desire to learn secrets behind world events, an urgency to understand the complexities of our world today then the International Spy Museum may be just your ticket.

Learn about the authentic tradecraft that has been used throughout time and around the world. Hear spies, in their own words, describe the challenges and the "game" of spying.

A spy must live a life of lies. Adopt a cover identity and learn why an operative needs one. See the credentials an agent must have to get in-or out, as in the case of six Americans exfiltrated from revolutionary Iran in 1979, courtesy of the Canadian Ambassador- and the CIA. Proceed directly to the Briefing Film where you'll come face to face with the real world of spying. Spies are motivated for very different reasons-what might motivate you? Patriotism? Money? A compromising situation? Your own ego?

Toilet Seat Museum

Alamo Heights, TX, USA

Barney Smith has been creating these works of art for 30 years and now has over 700 differently decorated Toilet Seats

Here is an eye-witness account of this, ahem, seat of learning: "I visited Barney Smith, famed Texas toilet seat artist, in early January 2002. His museum collection now encompasses 612 seats and he shows no signs of slowing down, even though he is rapidly closing in on 81 years of age.

I spent roughly two hours with Barney. He is a very articulate speaker who loves his work. Why does he paint and engrave toilet seats? Barney says, "I was a master plumber before I retired so I was comfortable with the medium."

Barney started to modify toilet seats about 30 years ago. It all started when he needed a place to mount a set of small deer antlers. Apparently the toilet seat lid was just about the right shape, and he stuck the antlers on the lid. And so it began.

Mr. Smith gets his inspiration for his seats from all over the world. Many of the seats have personal meaning to him, and some depict his travels around the world and his wedding anniversaries.

When I asked which was his favorite seat, he couldn't come up with one. He likes them all, some have more meaning to him than others, but they are all special. "That is why," he says, "none are for sale. They all mean too much to me."


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