If you’ve ticked off the Tates, lost hours in the Louvre and seen enough fossils to last you a lifetime in the world’s natural history museums, then you’re probably looking for something a bit more exciting from your next museum visit. Here is a list of the top ten weirdest museums from around the world. Housing the strange, the macabre, and the downright disturbing, these are museums you may actually want to explore.
1. Avanos Hair Museum, Turkey
2. The Dog Collar Museum, England
More info: www.leeds-castle.com
3. Museum of Bad Art, United States
Enter The Museum of Bad Art, the world’s only museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all its forms.
The ever-changing exhibits (there is no shortage of terrible art, it seems) feature in themed areas such as ‘blue people’, ‘poor traits’ and ‘unlikely landscapes, seascapes and still lifes’.
Clashing colours, out of proportion figures and a general lack of talent will have even the most weary of visitors chuckling as they wander the halls.
It is all summed up in the museum’s statement that it displays: ‘the work of talented artists that have gone awry to works of exuberant, although crude, execution by artists barely in control of the brush. What they all have in common is a special quality that sets them apart in one way or another from the merely incompetent.’
More info: museumofbadart
So what you think makes a woman beautiful? Is it itty-bitty tiny little feet squished into child size shoes? Or maybe it’s a perfectly conical shaped head that’s been molded since the time she was a baby? If you just can’t get enough of a woman with a neck stretched with brass rings or eat your lobes made huge with plates, this is the museum for you. On the third floor of the People’s Museum are exhibits dedicated to the extremes people go to to fit in with their cultures ideas of beauty.
- Siriraj Medical Museum, Bangkok Thailand
Also affectionately known as the museum of death, the Siriraj Medical Museum is where you should go should you ever find yourself pondering what your lungs would look like if you got attacked by a crazed psychopath and stabbed to death. Some exhibits of note include hemorrhaged brains, examples of limbs that were severed or mutilated, and even skulls that had bullets puncture the bone and bounce around in there for a while.
6.The Kunstkamera, Russia
What is the one reason that Russia would create its very first museum? Why, to dispel the widespread belief in and fear of monsters, of course. The problem with this plan is that they filled this museum with every medical oddity they could find. Though the museum’s contents are a bit tamer now, you can still find a decapitated human head that has been preserved for over a century in vinegar, an assortment of creatures that were born with extra limbs, and their prized collection of hundreds of deformed human fetuses. Nothing to be afraid of there, right?
7. The Bread Museum, Germany
This museum might not be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but at least you can learn about one of the world’s most beloved foods here. There is a truly astonishing 18,000 exhibits here. Through these exhibits you can learn the fascinating history of 6000 years of bread featured in works of art as well as seeing ancient artifacts from actual bakeries that were in operation thousands of years ago. Don’t get caught up in the evolving technology and cultural lessons and get a hankering for a sandwich, however. You won’t find a single edible slice in the entire museum.
8. International Cryptozoology Museum, United States
Cryptozoology is the study of animals and creatures that have not been verified by science, are doubted to exist, or who only exist in myth or legend. This museum is dedicated to offering everything you ever wanted to know about such mythological creatures as Bigfoot, mermaids, and the Loch Ness monster. Whether you are a believer or not you may find yourself scratching your head when you are presented with the “evidence”—casts of those famous enormous feet, perhaps?
9. Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum, Japan
If you’ve ever gone through a financially lean time such as those scary college years when you’re too busy trying to make something of yourself actually be something, it is likely that you have indulged in a bowl or two of Instant Ramen. Who doesn’t love a hot bowl of broth and noodles? This museum contends that the answer to that is nobody. Created to honor the creator of the instant soup, this museum chronicles the history of the meal from when it was first developed as a cheap food alternative for the survivors of World War II to its honored place on the grocery shelves of today. You can even stop by the Museum’s kitchen and make yourself up a hot bowl of the chicken flavor, still considered the most popular.
10. Parasite Museum, Tokyo
When was the last time you took a moment to think about the mighty parasites of the world? Not too recently? Well, a visit to Tokyo’s Parasite Museum can change all that.
A celebration of the world’s greatest scroungers, the museum boasts 300 varieties of parasites with the piece de resistance being a 30-foot tapeworm pulled out of an unsuspecting woman who had reportedly picked it up eating sushi – that’s all you need to take a vow of starvation.
As if that’s not enough, the museum, which was set up by four scientists specialising in parasites and is also a research facility, has pictures alongside some creatures showing the adverse affect they have on their hosts.
The bonus is, this museum is free, which means more money to spend on souvenir t-shirts with pictures of parasites on, or even rulers and keyrings with dead specimens trapped inside. Lovely.
More info: http://www.kiseichu.org/Pages/einfo.aspx
11. Museum of Funeral Carriages, Barcelona
There is a lot of beauty in Barcelona, from Gaudi architecture to the surrounding coastline, so you might question why anyone would want to forsake a few hours under the Spanish sun in favour of going underground to a dusty museum full of funeral carriages.
There’s no accounting for taste though and this macabre museum has become an unlikely hit with visitors.
Perhaps it has something to do with the sense of adventure in finding it. Visitors have to report to the city’s Municipal Funeral Services from where they will be guided to the basement by a security guard and the exhibition unlocked.
Or maybe it’s the eerie silence that hangs heavy as you make your way around the exhibit’s ornate carriages, which date from as far back as the 18th century and are manned by dummies (or are they?) in period costume.
Either way, the free attraction gives an insight into the Catalan capital’s darker side. It will almost be a shame when the museum moves to the cemetery at Montjuic – although this doesn’t look like it’s happening any time soon.
More info: Museu de Carrosses Fúnebres, Carrer Sancho de Avila 2, 00 34 93 484 17 00
12. Phallus Museum, Iceland
The land of fire and ice announces its popular attraction by saying it is ‘probably the only museum in the world to contain a collection of phallic specimens belonging to all the various types of mammal found in a single country.’
And the museum is totally serious. Pass under the penis-shaped sign (of course) and you can enter the world of phallology – the study of the penis, and of its place in history, art, and society.
The exhibition contains a collection of over one hundred penises and penile parts belonging to almost all the land and sea mammals that can be found in Iceland.
Ranging from displays of blue whale members to those from mice and shrews, the museum also has a section on folklore with examples it claims are from elves, trolls and sea monsters.
If you are thinking that the museum is one member short, you would be right. But a 92-year-old volunteer has given the museum a legally-certified gift token for a future specimen belonging to homosapiens.
13. Paris Sewers Museum, Paris
The network of tunnels made famous by Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables are brought to life under the Quai D’Orsay on the Left Bank where the museum introduces visitors to the world of sewage disposal from 13th-century drainage systems to the first closed sewers introduced in Napoleon’s time.
Guides talk through the history of keeping Paris clean and the tunnels’ past as a tourist attraction, when people could sail through the tunnels or be pulled along the pungent expanses in carriages.
There is no such transport now, but a walking tour of the vaulted subterranean channels is offered for any visitors who can cope with the stench. The tunnels, which follow the Paris roads, have blue and white street signs and each building’s outflow is identified by the house number. More info: Quai d’Orsay, 00 33 1 47 05 10 29
14. Museum of Witchcraft, Cornwall
If you thought Cornwall was the ideal spot for innocent beach holidays and country pursuits, then the world’s largest collection of witchcraft-related artefacts will certainly change your mind.
One of the most popular museums in the South West, the collection has been going for forty years and visitors in search of some hocus pocus are still flocking.
The unusual exhibition was set up by Cecil Williamson, a man who had always dabbled in the occult and was even employed as an undercover agent by MI6 to collect information on the occult interests of leading Nazi military personnel.
With categories including everything from devil worship and satanism to the persecution of witches it’s certainly a complete collection of all things dark.
Visitors can see old-fashioned dipping chairs, used to ‘prove’ whether a woman was a witch and ritual poppets – or dolls – which were supposedly used to inflict harm on others.
There is even a library of over 3000 books on witchcraft and the occult in case you want to get involved yourself…
More info: www.museumofwitchcraft.com
15. Museum of the Holy Souls in Purgatory, Rome
OK, it doesn’t exactly sound inviting. Who wants to spend any more time in Purgatory than they absolutely have to?
Located in an eerie room off the Chiesa del Sacro Cuore del Suffragio church on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, the museum purports to show traces of apparitions who reside in Purgatory – the flaming half-way house where people pay for their sins before being allowed access to heaven.
Scorched handprints adorning bibles, tables and clothing are hailed as signs from souls trapped in fiery Purgatory trying to contact their loved ones to pray for them and reduce the amount of time they have to spend outside of heaven.
The collection was started by a priest who saw a figure in the midst of a fire that destroyed the altar in the church. He thought it must be a soul from Purgatory and started to collect information on the appearances of these pained souls from around the world.
More info: Chiesa del Sacro Cuore del Suffragio, Lungotevere Prati 12, Rome
16. Torture Museum, Amsterdam
Gruesome displays including a rusty guillotine, stretching tables, screws to crush your fingers, your head and any other body part and a chair of nails – just some of the instruments that will leave you grateful you live in 21st century Europe.
Anyone perplexed by what some instruments were used for will be enlightened by detailed explanations and old paintings showing how they were used to inflict maximum pain – the picture of how an old saw was used will have male visitors crossing their legs.
Fascinating and with a serious message, the museum points out to departing tourists that the USA still employs executioners and the death penalty still exists in countries around the world, begging the question, how much have times really changed?
More info: www.torturemuseum.com
17. The Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, New Delhi, India
The porcelain throne has come a long way from its humble beginnings, and thanks to a socially-conscious sanitation consultant in New Delhi, India, you can learn about the evolution of the toilet and its impact on public health around the globe. Though it is unquestionably strange, the Sulabh Toilet Museum isn’t so much a useless oddity as it is a hygiene technology warehouse; the founder, Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, says one of the museum’s objectives is to “help sanitation experts learn from the past and solve problems in the sanitation sector.”
18. Toilet Seat Museum Alamo Heights, Texas, United States
Barney Smith, a retired plumber, has been creating toilet seat art for over 30 years. More than 1,000 of his decorated commode covers are on display in the Toilet Seat Museum (Barney’s garage) in Alamo Heights, Texas.
The toilet seats, made from sawdust and glue, are donated by a local company, and the decorative accessories were donated by various people, by mail. And even though his rapidly approaching 90, old Barney still has a nice supply of blank toilet seats, waiting to be adorned. So if you have any unique items you’d like used in the name of art, don’t hesitate to contact the artist.
19. The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum, Tennessee
The world’s only place dedicated to the many different forms of the much used condiment containers. This has 20,000 salt and pepper pots from all around the world.
20. International Spy Museum, Washington DC
Located a few blocks from DC’s main museum corridor along the National Mall, the International Spy Museum is the only museum in the world devoted to espionage. There you can learn the tricks and trades of spies, both historic and fictitious, with plenty of hands-on and interactive exhibits that appeal to history buffs, gear fanatics and kids of all ages.
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