Ten Delightfully Weird Museums

Most of us spent some chunk of our formative years in one museum or another. Scifi addicts are no strangers to the pleasures of accumulation, organization, and presentation of knowledge (not to mention obsessive collections of stuff). Sometimes that knowledge is of a broad subject which is well-regarded. Sometimes it's a little more niche-oriented. Have a look at the weird, wild, and wonderful museums that no one expected to see.

10. The Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia

This is an inspirational story from my home town. A computer technician once used the back of his store to show off his Pez collection. The collection grew and word got out, and it was first an unofficial, then ever-more-official museum. Eventually it became a full-fledged museum with the world's largest Pez dispenser and regular tours. (And, that staple of all museums, a gift shop.)

9. The Belgian Carrot Museum

There are a lot of strange museums around the world. What distinguishes this one is the inability of anyone to walk inside it. It's not a series of rooms, but a cabinet with a handle that can be turned to move interesting carrots along a conveyor belt inside. To be fair, I understand that the ticket prices are very reasonable.

8. Stalin World

Otherwise known as Grutas Park in Lithuania, this is part museum, part theme park. People are given a tour of old Soviet patriotic statues, but are also given demonstrations of what the place was like under Stalin. 'Stalin' himself gives long, boring speeches. 'Lenin' is seen fishing on a river bank. This is what Universal Studios would be if nothing good ever happened in LA.

7. The Barcelona Museum of Funeral Carriages

Elaborate funeral carriages carry the dead through Barcelona. But why spend all that money for something you're only going to get to show off once? The Barcelona government has found a way to keep from wasting all that death, and as a bonus it adds in a bracing dose of bureaucracy and a healthy blast of mistrust. In order to see these carriages, you must register with the municipal bureau of funeral services (I suppose to see what your descendents will be going through once you kick it). Then you will get escorted through by guards. They have to make sure you don't damage the merchandise. No one wants the customers complaining.

6. The Mütter Museum

Philadelphia hosts this museum that seems to defy the laws of hygiene, sanity, and basic human decency. It contains a large number of human remains, including a woman who died of yellow fever and whose body was turned to soap, many skeletons, and a jar that contains a tumor removed from the jaw of President Grover Cleveland. (I'd have to spend the entire time fighting the urge to run electricity through that jar and see if the tumor tried to run for office on instinct.)

5. The Sewer Museum in Paris

Ah! Paris! A closed, drained, and cleaned sewer passage still contains the smell of over a hundred years of Parisian product. While holding your nose and making plans to burn your clothes, you can inspect photos of the sewer's glory days, check out stuffed sewer rats, and come very close to the modern version of the same sewer, since it passes nearby. You can also contemplate with awe the fact that some Parisian's digested meal was preserved long enough for particles of it to hit your nose long after the Parisian him or herself has died. Truly, a place to consider the legacy of humanity.

Ten Delightfully Weird Museums

4 and 3. The International Rival Hair Museums

A Turkish potter tried a publicity stunt to raise awareness of his handmade ceramics by collecting as much hair as he could from women all over the world. He has 16,000 samples, but this would not be a very remarkable story if it weren't for the fact that he has international competition. Independence, Missouri has its own hair museum. Leila's Hair Museum has only 2,000 samples of hair so far, but it includes 59 wreaths of human hair, and some touching stories. Two sisters had their heads shaved before entering a convent and a wreath was made of both of their hair before they left.

2. The Museum of Questionable Medical Devices

A vibrating chair to cure constipation. A foot-operated breast enlargement pump. See all the medical devices that seemed like a very good idea . . . at the time.

1. The Secret Museums

At certain times, in certain places, archaeologists, curators, and art enthusiasts unearthed art that, while it had educational value, was unsuitable for public display. The Romans and the Greeks were wonderful producers of such things, and the curators were wonderful hiders of them. Museums in England and Italy had secret rooms, or entire secret buildings, in which such art was kept. One museum was rumored to have a door which was bricked up to keep the public pure, but other collections were on display, to gentlemen, for a price. These 'museums' changed their rooms, their collections, and their accessibility, throughout the years, making them not only museums but secret raves of illicit knowledge. In 2005, many of these art pieces were collected in a room at the Naples National Archaeological Museum, where it may be viewed - still not by the general public, though.

Via The Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia, the Carrot Museum, the Huffington Post, and Travel Generation.