I had a very exciting experience this weekend that I would recommend to anyone in the Madison, Wisconsin area: I visited the Mustard Museum. It's largely a store full of any type of mustard you can possibly imagine (I bought apple mustard and raspberry mustard), but it does have some very funny exhibits.
The Mustard Museum
(That's soap in a mustard bottle, which I thought was clever) Photos by Stacy Conradt Mt. Horeb, the town the Mustard Museum resides in, is also the home of trolls. You know, those little dolls with the neon hair that sticks straight up? Apparently they originated there and the residents are quite proud of it. Anyway, the Mustard Museum made me wonder about what other strange museums are out there. I'm always up for detours on road trips. Below are a few that I found interesting - and one that I wouldn't stop at if my life depended on it.
The Museum of Funeral Customs, Springfield, Ill.
As you can tell by my Mustard Museum appreciation, I appreciate a museum with a sense of humor. That's why, strange as it may seem, I would make a stop at the Museum of Funeral Customs. Its slogan is "Death is only the beginning" and the gift shop is where the fun is really at. But I'll get to that. Among the interesting things you'll find at the museum are a recreated 1920s embalming room, a recreated 1870 s funeral parlor, embalming equipment, a full-sized reproduction of Abraham Lincoln's coffin, a scale-sized model of his tomb and railroad coach, and rare books on embalming dating as far back as the 16th century. The Lincoln stuff might seem a little random, but it makes sense - his tomb is in nearby Oak Ridge. But the gift shop is where the fun comes in. Here you can purchase shirts that say "I Dig the Museum of Funeral Customs" or "Everybody's Gotta Go Sometime". Sweet tooth? Dig into a chocolate coffin. Coffin paperweights are also available. Makes me wonder what people at the office would say if you were using one of those to keep your files in order. (Photo by Wikipedia user Mycota)
The Pirate Soul Museum, Key West, Fla.
photo by Wikipedia user Deror Avi Pirate Soul was started by Pat Croce, the former president of the Philadelphia 76ers, Olympic commentator and writer. It boasts a pretty impressive collection of pirate memorabilia, and we're not talking about Johnny Depp (although I would probably visit that museum too). Croce has managed to get his hands on Blackbeard's dinner plate, a real Dutch East India Company cannon, the 1699 Journal of Captain Kidd's Last Voyage, gold retrieved from Blackbeard's warship and one of two authentic Jolly Roger flags left in the entire world. So next time you're in Key West, tear yourself away from Fantasy Fest, Ernest Hemingway's house and Sloppy Joe's Bar and hit up Pirate Soul... arrrrrr!! (sorry, couldn't resist)
Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey, Bardstown, Ky.
Photo by Wikipedia user Bedford I might be embarrassing myself by admitting this, but I do love Jack Daniels. So this museum would be right up my alley. It takes us through the history of whiskey from the Colonial days through the 1960s. Artifacts include Abraham Lincoln's liquor license, prescriptions for the medical use of alcohol and an exhibit on George Washington, who was the federal union's largest whiskey distiller after his Presidential terms were up. The Oscar Getz Museum is just one of the stops on the American Whiskey Trail, which has stops all along the east coast and Kentucky.
The Museum of Bad Art, Dedham, Mass.
Photo by Wikipedia user Sdedeo "Art too bad to be ignored". And with a tagline like that, how could you? This 400+ piece collection is located in the Dedham Community Theater. About 30-40 pieces are displayed at any one time. The piece above is Lucy in the Field with Flowers and it is the art responsible for the birth of this museum. One of the founders of the museum spotted this lovely work in a trash pile on the streets of Boston and decided he had to have it. Actually, a lot of the work acquired by the Museum of Bad Art has been saved from the curb. Another popular scouting spot seems to be the Salvation Army. I can't believe I was in Boston last month and I didn't know this museum existed then.
Spam Museum, Austin, Minn.
Photo by Flickr user thalling55 I'm only a few hours away from the Spam Museum, so it's kind of surprising I haven't hit up this weird spot yet. At the museum, you can try your hand at packaging Spam, see how Spam was used during wars and check out old-school Spam advertising. The Web site also mentions a Spam Spa, but they're kidding... I think. Of course, there's all kinds of Spam memorabilia for you to buy as well. Spam earrings? They've got 'em. Spam flip-flops? Got 'em. Necktie? Yep. Lapel pin, mouse pad, three-legged pig figure, full-sized Spam costume? Yes, yes, yes and yes.
Mütter Museum, Philadelphia, Pa.
Photo by Flickr user John H. Kim I can attest to this one. I lived in the Philly area for about a year and kept putting the Mütter Museum off. The weekend we found out we were moving again, we immediately hit up this Museum of medical oddities. It didn't disappoint. There's all kinds of bizarre stuff, from a tumor removed from Grover Cleveland's jaw to a corpse that turned into soap to a plaster cast of Siamese twins. It's really fascinating stuff. The museum itself is located in a really unassuming building of the College of Physicans of Philadelphia, but it's definitely worth seeking out. Finally, the Museum I will die before I set foot in:
The International Clown Hall of Fame, West Allis, Wis.
Photo from the Clown Museum I have never found anything remotely funny about clowns. They scare me, and not in a good way. But if you're into that sort of thing, you'll find exhibits dedicated to Bozo, Emmett Kelly and Red Skelton, among others. Willard Scott gets a tribute because he played both Bozo and Ronald McDonald before moving on to the Today Show. You'll also find out about the history of clowns and the different categories of clowns. If anyone has been there, let me know if you still have nightmares.
It's never very crowded, and super cheap.