Growing up, people don’t particularly like being dragged to the museum. As part of a class field trip or even a family outing, the thought of walking around for hours simply doesn’t excite anyone. There are some positives, however: visiting museums fights stress, is good for the brain and can even make one smarter. Whether it’s slowing down to study the well-organized colonies of insects or staring at Dali’s surrealism, you can lose yourself for a few hours. That has to be good for something, right?
But that was studying art and insects; how is staring at food supposed to calm someone down? We’re not talking about #foodporn on Instagram. There are entire museums dedicated to specific foods. From the Idaho Potato Museum to the New England Maple Museum in Vermont or the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Osaka, they’re all over the globe.
Food aside, how does one “become calmer” while strolling through a catacomb? At the Catacombe dei Cappuccini in Palermo, Sicily, the exhibits are mummified corpses. The crypt below the Capuchin monastery is home to almost 10,000 embalmed friars, nobles and famous people.
While the condition of the bodies is a testament to the skill of the embalmers, it’s not on anyone’s list of fun stuff to do in Italy.
It seems like, regardless of what floats your boat, someone, somewhere has amassed a collection of it. From the mundane to the scary, there’s a collection out there. Don’t believe us?
Here are 15 of the most unusual museums around the world. Many of them just make you ask “WHY?”
15. Museum of Bad Art, Boston
Why bother with walking for miles staring at old bones and paintings by artists whose names you can’t pronounce? Try something new and view art by totally incompetent artists! Opened in 1994, the Museum of Bad Art’s dedicated to, well, bad art and bringing the worst of art to the widest of audiences.
MoBA “…proudly showcases terrible works of ‘art’ created by the talentless, the colorblind, and those suffering from hand tremors..” With a collection standing at about 600 pieces, you’re sure to find something to take your breath away.
14. Musée de la Médecine, Brussels
With detailed anatomical models, antique medical instruments and anatomy books from different parts of the world, the Brussels Museum of Medicine is a treasure trove for anyone interested in medicine. It’s chock full of wax models of humans in different stages of health, from the healthy to the disease ravaged.
One freaky exhibit is the Spitzner collection which shows, in extreme detail, different parts of the human body plagued by STDs. Originally a PSA of sorts, the Spitzner collection was displayed in fairgrounds around Europe to warn people of the unpleasantness of catching an STD.
For some incredibly detailed views of what disease can do to the body, head on over to Lenniksebaan 808, 1070 Anderlecht, Belgium.
13. Paris Sewer Museum, Paris
From the scary to the smelly, let’s hop across the North Atlantic to Paris. Like the über efficient Paris Metro, the sewers of France are adept at moving their cargo around quickly to avoid any blockages and accidents.
Though constructed in the 1850s, this engineering marvel still continues to ferry waste and fresh water around Paris. A trip to the Musée des Egouts de Paris allows you to penetrate depths of the city which you normally wouldn’t be exposed to.
Primarily a trip that engineering and history buffs will enjoy, a trip down here isn’t as smelly as you’d expect. Expect to see stuffed rats, a massive flushing boat, mannequins dressed as maintenance workers and ancient sewer maintenance equipment.
12. Icelandic Phallological Museum, Reykjavík
Yes, there’s an entire museum devoted to penile parts. Located in the Icelandic fishing village of Husavik, this collection was started in 1974 by Sigurður Hjartarson. His collection currently has over 280 specimens from 90 different species; every animal from blue whales to hamsters.
The collection even includes specimens for mythological creatures like elves and trolls. They are also open to receiving human specimens. Aiming to revive the study of phallology, the museum is open all year round.
11. The Meguro Parasitological Museum, Tokyo
Ready to be thoroughly grossed out? Then hop on a plane and visit the Meguro Parasitological Museum. Described as the only museum devoted to parasites, this museum boasts some exhibits that will make your stomach turn. Simply staring at them and letting your imagination run wild will totally creep you out.
The 45,000+ exhibits include specimens like the world’s longest tapeworm (8.8 metres long), a rat with its belly distended due to parasitic infestation and even interactive exhibits. Though the museum isn’t particularly expansive, the exhibits are enough to make you think twice before your next meal.
10. Velveteria, Los Angeles
On a lighter note, visit the Velveteria, a museum dedicated to the collection and display of all things velvet. First opened in Portland in 2005, it has moved to Los Angeles and is now known as the Velveteria Epicenter of Art Fighting Cultural Deprivation.
With subjects ranging from Jesus blessing an 18-wheeler to nudes and mythical creatures, the art in Velveteria has no rhyme or reason. And the owners, Carl Baldwin and Caren Anderson, would have it no other way. Theirs is simply a collection of all things velvet art. The museum displays 400 paintings from their personal collection of over 2,000 pieces.
Fancy a day with a velvet Michael Jackson and a nude Britney Spears? Visit Velveteria at 711 New High St, Los Angeles.
9. Hair Museums
Ever heard of Leila’s Hair Museum in Independence, Missouri? It was opened in 1989, by retired cosmetologist, Leila Cohoon. The museum is filled with locks of hair from the 19th century, brooches from as far as the 16th century that come from sources as diverse as dead babies to celebrities.
Visit the Avanos Hair Museum in the Cappodocian area of Turkey for another take on hair collecting. While not on the scale of Leila’s, it’s one of the few places you can find thousands of locks of hair on display.
Originally a potters workshop, female visitors to the guest house started to leave locks of their hair when they left. Since 1979, the museum has amassed 16, 000 samples.
Want to see some cool pottery and maybe leave your hair? Visit the Hair Museum at Cappadocia Hair Museum, City Center in Avanos.
8. Siriraj Medical Museum, Bangkok
Back to the macabre now and the wonder at the Siriraj Medical Museum a.k.a Bangkok’s creepiest museum or the Museum of Death. This complex is made up of five separate medical museums covering everything from parasites to forensic medicine.
The Parasitology Museum has everything from super-long tape worms to a human testicle infected with elephantiasis, which caused it to balloon to a whopping 35kg! Brace yourself as you enter the Songkran Niyomsane Forensic Medicine Museum. Accident victims, the preserved body of a prolific serial killer and damaged organs pickling forever are only some of the exhibits here.
With the other museums having something to do with dissected bodies in one way or another, you may find that you are not so hungry after a tour.
7. Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto
The Bata Shoe Museum is a treat for all lovers of anything to do with feet. With a display of over 13,000 exhibits, you are sure to find something interesting. The exhibits span 4,000 years of shoe history covering traditions to footwear examples from cultures across the globe.
From Renaissance footwear to a pair of Marilyn Monroe’s red heels to astronaut boots, this museum has it all. For those that appreciate hand crafted items, there are videos showing shoe making techniques from across the world and across the ages. For those who simply appreciate history and culture, you won’t regret a day at this museum.
Hop down to 327 Bloor St W. Toronto, and feed your shoe fetish.
6. El Museo De Las Momias, Mexico
While we’re at it, let’s take in the sights and sounds of Guanajuato, Mexico. No, not the local cuisine or watering holes, but the Mummies of Guanajuato. Yes, mummies; the displays at this museum are not for the squeamish.
First off, they’re mummified remains of people who died during a cholera outbreak in the city in 1833. Most of them are the bodies of those whose relatives couldn’t afford to have them properly buried. The bodies are propped up and arranged on either side of the corridor, forcing the visitor to walk between them.
A truly unnerving experience, not for the faint of heart, and that is before you realize some of these mummies are infants!
5. Museum of Brands and Advertising
From the downright scary to the totally prosaic, here is the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising. Located in Notting Hill, England, the Museum was set up to “…educate the public on design and the subjects of advertising and packaging …” Their 12,000 strong collection of consumer items in their original packaging dates back to the 1890s.
Japan has the ADMT Museum of Advertising and Marketing. It currently houses over 150,000 pieces of digitally archived advertisements, dating from Edo era advertisements to 21st century of digital advertising.
4. Museum of Death, Hollywood
Scary movies don’t faze you, right? Trust us, this museum will give you the shivers. From playing an embalming training video on repeat to presenting an “accurate” scene from the Heaven’s Gate Cult Suicide (complete with bunk bed and shroud from the house), this place boasts some creepy exhibits.
With a second location in New Orleans, this museum collects everything and anything about death. We mean everything; from body bags to coffins, and even devices like the Thanatron, the suicide device built by Jack Kevorkian.
The curators, Cathee and James “J.D.” Healy, caution that their exhibits are extremely graphic and tours are recommended for mature audiences. With old mortuary equipment, coffins, wicker caskets and graphic photos showing beheadings on display, we tend to agree.
3. Sewing Machine Museum
In the borough of Balham, England lies a museum dedicated to the humble sewing machine. As part of the Wimbledon Sewing Machine Company, this museum acts as a preserve of the century-long evolution of the sewing machine.
On display are over 700 types of sewing machines, including the first Singer machine produced and a one-off patent machine sent from America for the Great Exhibition of 1851. The collection was amassed over a 50 year period by the Managing Director of the Wimbledon Sewing Machine Co Ltd.
2. The Mustard Museum
Norfolk, England is the home to the Colman’s Mustard Shop & Museum, which pays homage to one of the oldest existing mustard brands. The Museum is decked out to resemble a Victorian shop and is packed with mustard memorabilia.
Gift options range from old-fashioned mustard pots to mugs and tea towels. You’ll be sure to find something for the mustard lover in your life.
Norfolk isn’t the only museum dedicated to this distinctive condiment. The National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wisconsin was set up in 1992, by an ex-Assistant Attorney General, Barry Levenson. With over 5,600 types of mustard on display, Levenson’s museum has grown to be one of Wisconsin’s most popular attractions.
1. Glore Psychiatric Museum, Missouri
Back to the creepy and your chance to walk the halls of a former mental health complex.
Started in 1967 by George Glore, the exhibits display different methods used in the treatment of mental illnesses. Displays include the 525 garbled notes found in a working TV on a ward. These notes contained answers to the questions doctors asked the patient during evaluations.
One disturbing display is art created from the 1,446 items swallowed by one female patient. Objects including spoon tops, screws, safety pins and nails were surgically removed from her stomach.
So which one are you visiting first?