Potato peels that look like Miley Cyrus, the world’s largest ball of twine, butter sculptures, or historic advertisements for Spam may not rate a room at the Louvre, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth seeing. Or laughing at.
For our weekly pursuit of fun, we asked Sandra Gurvis, author of "America’s Strangest Museums: A Traveler’s Guide to the Most Unusual and Eccentric Collections," to cite a few of her favorites for our FWW ladies.
Not only will these exhibits bring out the kid in you – you can take the kids too. Who knows? Your pint-sized Picasso may be inspired — and so will you.
The Museum of Bad Art , Massachusetts
“My kid could do that!” In this museum, it is true. The Museum Of Bad Art (MOBA) in Dedham, Massachusetts, south of Boston, boasts a collection of works by artists who go beyond the merely incompetent and soar into heights of banality, sloppiness, sentimentality, and pretentiousness.
MOBA presented its first show in March 1994, in someone’s basement. Since then, MOBA's collection and ambitions have grown exponentially. The collection is now housed in the basement of the Dedham Community Theater, next to the men’s room. Admission is free, and the art can be seen any time the movie theater is open. (Right now, “The Women” and “Nights in Rodanthe” are playing). Bonus: wine is sold at the refreshment stand. Best to consult the movie theater’s schedule for hours. The theater (and art museum) are at 580 High Street, Dedham, Massachusetts. New acquisitions can be seen at www.museumofbadart.org (or check out a charming example, right).
The Museum of Questionable Medical Devices, Minnesota
Over the years, quacks have sold snake oil, rebottled alcohol for “what ails you,” and hawked gadgets to “cure” headaches or relieve unsatisfied wives of their female problems. The actual Museum of Questionable Medical Devices is closed, but several pieces from the collection are on display at the Science Museum of Minnesota. A teachable moment is at hand with the Fluoroscope, a machine used in shoe stores to X-ray the feet to see if shoes fit. (The machines, which leaked radiation, were outlawed in 1970, and are suspected to have caused cases of thyroid cancer.) Also on display, a “phrenology” machine, to predict behavior from the shape and size of the head, and a “vibratory chair.” (You might consider that last one for adults only.) Admission to the science museum exhibits is $11 for adults and $8.50 for children 4 to 12. It is open Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5pm, Saturday, 8 am to 6 pm, and Sunday 10 am to 3 pm. The Science Museum is at 120 West Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul, Minnesota.
The Liberace Museum and Foundation, Nevada
Have a gay son? Not sure? Offer him a trip to the Liberace museum in Las Vegas. Even if you are too young to have heard of the flamboyant pianist Liberace yourself, this will be an eye-opener: the world’s largest rhinestone, a bejeweled piano, costumes, a replica of Liberace’s bedroom in Palm Springs, his gaudy cars. The Liberace Museum is located in two flashy buildings in a strip mall at 1775 E. Tropicana Avenue (at Spencer Avenue) in Las Vegas. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, and Sunday from noon to 4 pm; admission $15 adults, $10 students and seniors. Speed past the admissions desk where the meals at the Liberace café and classical music concerts are hawked.
The Mustard Museum, Wisconsin
A visit to a museum devoted to mustard might not thrill the kiddies, so consider this a day for adult mustard nuts: 5,000 jars, bottles, and tubes of mustards from 50 states and 60 countries. Also: mustard pots and vintage mustard advertisements, mustard tins, and (in case you forgot where we are) assorted mustard memorabilia. The museum, open seven days a week from 10 am to 5 pm, is at 100 West Main Street, in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. Many gourmet foodstuffs will attempt to waylay you as you exit. There are carved wooden trolls lining the streets of Mount Horab, which is west of Madison, Wisconsin, and lots of antiquing around town. While you’re in the area, check out Little Norway, a homestead hand built in the 1880s by a Norwegian immigrant: open May through October.
Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum, Michigan
Like the scene in “Big” when Tom Hanks goes to a fortune telling machine? This is the place for you and any children and boyfriends and girlfriends you happen to have with you. Here are coin-operated machines (all functional) that range from children’s coin operated rides to the newest videogames and stopping at magic items, “torture” machines, robots, a mechanical lion tamer, a machine to help you “end” your fear of spiders, contemporary driving simulators like Daytona, neon gizmos, pinball machines, the Cardiff Giant from P.T. Barnum, a real electric chair from Sing-Sing prison, and of course a coin-operated (you bring the coins) gypsy fortune teller. There is a Marvin and he describes this as a hobby that got out of hand. Bonus: free WiFi. Marvin’s is at 31005 Orchard Lake Road, Farmington Hills, Michigan, near Detroit. It is open Monday to Thursday from 10 am to 9 pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 am to 11 pm, and Sundays from 11 am to 9 pm.