You’ve been to the Met, the Guggenheim, the Getty Center, the V&A and the rest. You’ve gazed in awe at Pollocks, Lichstensteins, Hoppers and Warhols, had your photo taken with prehistoric creatures and admired the treasures of ancient tombs.
These monuments to history, art, innovation and science are justifiably world-renowned, but today we’re celebrating the obscure, the less well-documented, the niche and the just plain bizarre. We’ve tracked down ten of the world’s more unusual museums, and doff our caps in thanks to the truly dedicated (and often eccentric) enthusiasts behind them…
London – The Museum of Brands, Advertising and Packaging
Almost hidden down an unassuming mews off Portobello Road, this Notting Hill museum is the personal collection of one man, consumer historian Robert Opie, whose fascinating collection of brand ephemera extends to toys, magazines, advertising design, fashion and souvenirs.
With over 12,000 original items on display, the history of consumerism is presented through the creative evolution of branding from Victorian times to the present day.
San Francisco – Musee Mecanique
One of the world’s largest privately owned collections of mechanically operated antique arcade games and musical instruments, Musee Mecanique is a truly enchanting dose of nostalgia.
Bring pocketfuls of quarters to play some of the ancient pinball machines, and don’t miss the toothpick fairground, handcrafted by the inmates of San Quentin prison. Find the museum at Pier 45, Fisherman’s Wharf.
Hong Kong – Tao Heung Museum of Food Culture
Any museum that has a “Rice Zone” and a “Seasoning Zone” is surely worth a look. The Museum of Food Culture in Hong Kong, previously known as Foods of Mankind, was established to promote an understanding of different food cultures around the world, and along with various simulated restaurant settings, it offers guided tours of tableware, utensils and containers. Incredibly, there’s 5,000 square feet of the stuff.
Los Angeles – The Bunny Museum
27,351 Bunny Items! Multiplying Daily! Most Bunnies in the World! – screams the rather exuberant website of Pasadena’s Bunny Museum. Located in the private home of bunny devotees and married couple Candace Frazee and Steve Lubanski, the ‘living museum’ is a testament to their longstanding love of the lagomorph, and is jam-packed with bunny matter, real and stuffed. There’s even a Rose Parade ex-float bunny gracing the front lawn.
Tokyo – The Meguro Parasitological Museum
Try to think about parasites without a feeling of fear, encourages Tokyo’s Meguro Parasitological Museum. It’s a good piece of advice, because a trip here will put you face to face with more than 300 specimens, including the world’s longest tapeworm which – at almost 9 metres – was pulled out of its human host after he ate one too many raw fish. There’s a gift shop too, so you can stock up on flea keyrings and tick t-shirts. Eat before you go.
Delhi – Sulabh International Museum of Toilets
The humble loo is displayed here in all its guises, from early privies to decorative chamber pots and bidets to fancy thrones. Put your Delhi belly jokes to one side however, because the International Museum of Toilets is actually the side project of Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, who runs a well-respected non-profit organisation which campaigns for the expansion of sanitation to India’s poorest people.
Cape Town – The Museum of South African Hip Hop
Newly opened this year, the first hip-hop museum in South Africa charts the turbulent course of the country’s hip-hop scene, from the voter education campaigns of Prophets of da City to award-winning rapper Zulu Boy. More than just a museum, the ‘urban music emporium’ sports a production studio and practise facilities, and aims to promote hip-hop as a positive choice of activity for South Africa’s youth.
Shanghai – The Propaganda Museum
With modern China forging a path towards prosperity, it’s easy to forget the extent to which the collective consciousness of the Chinese people was influenced by Mao and his Red Guard groups in the Cold War and Cultural Revolution eras.
The artworks of the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Center played an enormous part in attempting to create a sense of optimism, leader worship, industriousness, brotherhood and reverence for past glories, and this remarkable museum documents and preserves more than 5,000 examples.
New York – Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art
Heaven on earth for cartoon and comic book fans, MoCCA takes its stated mission to promote the appreciation of cartoon and comic art very seriously. Every conceivable variation of the genre is represented within its collection, from animation and political illustrations to graphic novels and computer art. It even organises an annual two-day festival which attracts thousands of fans, artists and publishers from across the globe – the next is April 9-10, 2011.
Las Vegas – The Mob Museum
We’re cheating a little bit here, because Las Vegas’s brand new Mob Museum isn’t even open yet, and won’t be for a few months yet. It’s already causing controversy though, with debates raging in Sin City between those who view a museum dedicated to the Mob as glamourising organised crime and those who see it as a genuine attempt to tell the real story behind what made Las Vegas the city it is today.
The museum, which aims to “provide fresh insights” into Vegas’s battle with crime over the past seventy years, will be located within the former federal courthouse and US Post Office, one of the last remaining historically significant buildings in Las Vegas and it’s hoped it will help to revitalise the downtown area.
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Have you been to any of these museums or do you have any other unique finds to recommend? Let us know in the comments below.