Jul 282009

We love finding strange museums in our travels around the country, and we have discovered some real finds as we explore this great land of ours. Here are fifteen of my favorites, in no particular order.

Mustard Museum; Mount Horeb, Wisconsin – You can learn everything you ever wanted to know, and some things you never thought to ask about mustard, at this fun and quirky museum, which has it’s very own college called, what else, Poupon U!

Spam Museum; Austin, Minnesota – No, not that aggravating e-mail, we’re talking the original Spam, the meat that won World War II. Find out the history of this canned meat product, and the contributions the Hormel Company made to our nation during the war effort.

World’s Smallest Museum; Superior, Arizona – At just 143 square feet, smaller than your average motorhome, this museum has an amazing amount of stuff crammed inside, from Indian pottery to antique cameras to mining artifacts.

Tow Truck Museum; Chattanooga, Tennessee – At the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum you will find a fascinating collection of restored antique wreckers and equipment.

Marsh’s Free Museum; Long Beach, Washington – You’re guaranteed to have fun here as you see everything from shrunken heads to dinosaur dung, and even a two headed calf! And don’t forget Jake, the Alligator Man!

Mid-America Windmill Museum; Kendallville, Indiana – You will find over 50 historic windmills on display at this interesting small outdoor museum.

Music House Museum; Acme, Michigan – This interesting museum near Traverse City is home to the world’s largest collection of mechanical musical devices.

Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum; Farmington Hills, Michigan – This fun museum is home to a fun and funky collection of everything mechanical, from historical and modern arcade machines, sideshow wonders and curiosities to carousels, posters, coin operated kiddie rides and much more.

Leila’s Hair Museum; Independence, Missouri – And you thought hair was just for brushing! Leila’s Hair Museum displays over 150 wreaths and more than 2,000 pieces of jewelry containing, or made of, human hair, dating before 1900.

Heaton-Bowman-Smith Funeral Museum; St. Joseph, Missouri – The wicker basket that carried the body of Jesse James from his house to the funeral parlor in 1882 is among the unusual collection of funeral industry artifacts displayed at this unique museum.

National Bird Dog Museum; Grand Junction, Tennessee – You can see displays of art, photography and memorabilia reflecting a variety of pointing dog and retriever breeds, hunting, field trial activities, and shooting sports covering more than 100 years of sporting tradition at this small town museum.

International Rock-a-Billy Hall of Fame and Museum; Jackson, Tennessee – Dedicated to preserving and promoting Rockabilly Music, this museum’s displays recognize the pioneers of Rockabilly music with stage costumes, instruments, and memorabilia.

National Watch and Clock Museum; Columbia, Pennsylvania – You’ll find everything from sundials and ancient Egyptian hourglasses to ultra-modern atomic clocks that can measure time in nanoseconds at this surprisingly interesting museum.

Easton Museum of Pez Dispensers; Easton, Pennsylvania – This small museum displays an amazing collection of the candy dispensers loved by kids and collectors alike.

Bead Museum; Glendale, Arizona – The Bead Museum tells the story of beads, which have been used as currency, jewelry, and in religious rituals dating as far back as 30,000 B.C.

These are just some of the fun and interesting museums waiting to be discovered in every corner of America. Post a comment below and tell me about some of your favorite oddball museums.

Thought For The Day – I’ll try being nicer if you’ll try being smarter.

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Nick Russell

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  18 Responses to “15 Great Oddball Museums”

  1. Nick, we’ve only been to two on your list (Spam and World’s Smallest) and loved them both. We’ve also been to the International Klown Museum — thousands of clowns, from dolls, porcelin figurines, paintings, even a parade costume — in Plainview, Nebraska ; the World Circus Museum — with live circus acts in a one-ring tent, old circus train cars, etc., — in Baraboo, Wisconsin; the Bily Clock Museum — in a house where Anton Dvorak lived while composing his New World Symphony, near Decorah, Iowa; the Vesterheim Museum — featuring everything Scandinavian — in Decorah, Iowa. There was also the Prairie Heritage Museum in Chetwynd, British Columbia, that made us feel like museum pieces ourselves — old home appliances like we’d used as young marrieds!

    And of course, in Deming, New Mexico, the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum, with everything!

  2. Nick if you ever get into the SE section of Ohio near where I70 & I77 cross plan on spending half a day, visiting the Shenandoah Museum (located in a 20 foot trailer but enough displays to keep you busy for an hour), then the rest of the time exploring and finding the three different crash site. Now that I think of it better plan on a full day here.
    Info on the Museum link.


  3. National Hobo Museum in Britt, Iowa, has memorabelia from many hobos through the years. My favorite was the guy who used a gas can as a suitcase because he got more rides when carrying the gas can. They still crown a king and queen of the hobos at their festival.

    I second the vote for the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Their performance was amazing! If you get there at the right time of year you can see the loading and departure of the circus train.

  4. The Hammer Museum in Haines, Alaska — more kinds of hammers than you knew existed!

  5. Hey, Nick, a couple of years ago, Rob (my husband) dragged me to a Lubbock, TX windmill museum. It turned out to be an extraordinary home to more than 100 windmills. Although a native Texan, I had no idea of the history of, and differences between, windmills. I always took for granted that a windmill is a windmill is a windmill. Not so, obviously. While there, we even met the artist just beginning a huge mural on the historical importance of windmills. I see that the public unveiling of her two years of work on that massive mural will take place in October. http://www.windmill.com

    While in the relatively small city of Lubbock, don’t miss the Buddy Holly museum. You’ve probably already seen it, but, if not, check it out. http://www.buddyhollycenter.org/ The museum is well-done and honors and celebrates the originality of this talented Texas musician.

    Another museum in Lubbock that we visited is the Silent Wings Museum which “preserves and promotes the history of the World War II military glider program.” http://www.silentwingsmuseum.com/info.htm It shares some interesting tidbits on dropping gliders from planes to silently float into enemy territory. Unfortunately, a number of gliders, heavily weighted down inside with a jeep and several men, accidentally landed offshore and sank into deep water, drowning all inside. It’s a story not generally told, and worth a look today.

    And, of course, for my money, anytime we travel NEAR Lubbock, we have to go check out the Prairie Dog Town http://parks.ci.lubbock.tx.us/extra/prairieDog.aspx

  6. I need to go to the Silent Wings Museum as my father took a glider into Normandy on D-Day. Thanks for this info.

    I found a neat museum in Galena Kansas on the history of this former mining town. It was a huge undertaking at the time (early to mid 1900s). Not only is there lots of mining stuff, there’s also toys and cars, including a Model A. The 80+ year old lady who took me around was full of interesting information, most of it firsthand.

  7. We recently visited the Miracle of America Museum in Polson MT. This several acre museum has over 20 buildings and everything and anything you could ever imagine! Their website is miracleofamericamuseum.org. You would especially like the converted bus that sits at the entrance! A few weekends ago they had their annual festival and offered rides on some of the old vehicles, the train and observation of craftspeople making brooms, weaving, lace making, etc. It’s quite a place!

  8. Here’s another oddball museum.

    Jolly Green Giant Museum in Blue Earth, Minnesota

    Blue Earth is the home of the largest Green Giant statue in the world. We attended the ribbon cutting and grand opening ceremonies for the museum just a couple of weeks ago. The museum is located in the building that houses the Chamber of Commerce. It is a small museum that contains Green Giant memorabilia.

    Blue Earth is a very small town, but has some of the friendliest people we met on our recent 2000 mile trip – our first as full-timers.

    As an added note, as we were driving down the road I mentioned attending your seminar at last year’s rally in Celina and how you talked about staying at Elk’s Lodges or Fairgrounds. Hubby suggested I try to find one. Using my iPhone and aircard I discovered the Faribault County Fairgrounds located in Blue Earth and we decided to give it a try. Imagine our surprise and delight to learn that the town promotes their free 48-hours of camping at their campground (some electric, water, and sewer available too). Plus, we just happened to arrive during their Green Giant festival weekend. We ended up spending 3 nights and 4 days at the fairgrounds – enjoying a car show, a demolition derby, and the Historical Society luncheon and farm implement museum – all at the fairgrounds. The additional night of camping was $5.

    One last thing, Blue Earth also has Minnesota’s first stained glass window and Blue Earth is the home of the birth place of the Chocolate Dream that is now known as the Eskimo Pie.

  9. One of our favorites is The House On The Rock, just west of Madison , WI . You will need the whole day to see this one in over 20 buildings.

  10. Thanks for the list of interesting museums we have never been to. Every day I log onto your blog and learn something new. Maybe a tip on how to save money as we travel, maybe an insight into the different RV organizations out there, or maybe, like today, places we never new existed that we have to add to our travel list. It is always interesting and well worth my time. Thanks for all of your efforts

  11. In Springfield, Illinois at the entrance to the Oak Ridge Cemetery (Lincoln is buried there) is the Museum of Funeral Customs. It presently is closed unless you call 217-525-2000 and ask for Duane. He can come out and open the museum when you make an appointment. Donation of $3 each. They (the Illinois Funeral Director’s Association) hope to open it more often when they develop a plan for its operation.
    There is lots to see and do in Springfield: Lincoln stuff (museum, home, law offices), the second most well preserved Frank Lloyd Wright house in the USA (the Dana Thomas House, to die for), free tour of the Executive Mansion, old Capitol building, new capitol building, Illinois State Museum, Illinois State Military Museum, Grand Army of the Republic Museum, Elijah Iles house, Air Combat Museum, Edward’s Place (oldest house in Springfield), Vachel Lindsey house, Route 66 (Shea’s Gas Station Museum), home of the corn dog (called a Cozy Dog at the Cozy Dog Drive In), Illinois Fire Museum (call for appointment), zoo, memorial gardens, etc. Are you tired yet? Most we spent at any one facility was $7.50 (museum senior rate). Most were free or small donation. Go downtown to old train station now Visitor’s Center to get brochures and maps. Lots of free parking if you look around.
    Stay at the city CG, Riverside Park CG, for $15 a night 30 amp E, water, dump on site. Very nice summer work campers. Eat at Two Olives Cantina (lunch, just south of Old Capitol & next to a great used book store), also lunch or dinner at Chesapeake Seafood Restaurant (dinner early bird special til 6pm) and lunch or dinner at Diamond’s Buffet. Locals eat at all 3.
    Why do we know so much? Peter born there, our tombstone in family plot in old section of Oak Ridge Cemetery. Many relatives buried there (both sets of Peter’s grandparents, several sets of great grandparents, one set great great grandparents many cousins, etc). Sort of “our hometown” although Peter only lived there his first 2 years of life. Stay a week and enjoy!

  12. Cranberry Museum – Long Beach WA. Learn about history (all the way back to pre-Columbian!). See antique harvesters and stroll actual (test project) bogs. Museum and gift shop – well worth a few hours.

    Pacific Coast Cranberry Research Foundation Museum
    2907 Pioneer Rd. Long Beach WA 98631


  13. Nick,
    We shouldn’t forget about the nice museum in Lyons, KS. It is the only museum that I know that has artifacts from Coronado’s search for the gold in the new world. Farmers have found remnants of the mall worn by Spanish solders in the nearby fields.

    Another very intersting place was the Barbed Wire Museum in La Crosse, KS. They have 2000 different patented samples of barbed wire. The city park on the other side of the block allowed free camping. Electric was available via a slot machine at a quarter an hour. You could load it with 4 quarters for 4 hours of electric.


  14. How about the Marble Museun in York, NE, The Jello Museum in Leroy, NY, the Dental Museum and the Public Works Museum in Baltimore, MD, Pharmacy Museum in Guthrie, OK, Steamboat Arabia Museum in Independence, MO, just a few we’ve seen in our travels……

  15. Has anyone mentioned the Barbed Wire Museum in Texas? We spent a lot of time there. Very interesting! Did you know barbed wire was called Devil’s Rope?



  16. Thank’s for mentioning me I do live in a spectacular museum and part of the country. Another interesting Museum is The Buford Pusser Home & Museum about 100 mi. east of Memphis Tennessee. Buford was the sheriff in Walking Tall it’s a real slice of 1970’s small town Americana.

  17. Check out the Tinker Town Museum near Albuquerque, NM. It is on the Sandia Crest Road. The owner (now deceased) spent his life creating this great museum with tiny scenes of old west towns, a circus, along with all sorts of interesting “things”. I found out Henry Kissinger dropped by on a rainy cold day all by himself. It is also on the way to Madrid which is where the movie “Wild Hogs” was filmed. A friend and I ate at the biker restaurant there. Pretty funny for a couple of old women!

  18. Awwwww, Nick, you missed my favorite museum. And curator Bob McCoy is as unique as his collection of quackery medical devices.

    Bob McCoy—The author of Quack! Tales of Medical Fraud from the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices is the founder and curator of the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices in St. Anthony Main in Minneapolis. This is the nation’s largest public display of “quack” medical devices and was founded in 1987. Mr. McCoy’s past occupations include soap salesman, mill steel salesman, and family planning clinic administrator. He is a hobby printer, licensed humanist minister, and a member of the Committee for the Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. It is as a skeptic that McCoy has worked to expose health fraud, and the museum is an entertaining and informative means of doing just that. He has been awarded the Special Citizenship award from the FDA for his work in exposing health fraud. McCoy is married with three grown children and five grandchildren.

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