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10 Strangest U.S. Museums

Published: May 7, 2017

If you can collect it, a museum probably exists for it — from the quirky and quaint to the macabre and mysterious.

1. The Vacuum Cleaner Museum

Vacuum

1968 Hoover Constellation, ©Tacony Corporation

The small town of St. James, Missouri is host to a museum of more than 800 vacuum cleaners, and the admission is free. Several of the first vacuum models, from the early 1900s, are still in working condition too.

http://vacuummuseum.com/

 

2. Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast

House

Lizzie Borden House, Wikimedia Commons

If you have ever wanted to stay overnight in a bedroom where an axe murder took place, the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum is for you. The house is decorated as it would have been in 1892 at the time of the murders, and tours are given seven days a week. There are even psychic readings and ghost hunting events for the supernaturally inclined.

https://lizzie-borden.com/

 

3. Treasures in the Trash Museum 

New York City sanitation worker Nelson Molina has saved thousands of items from the trash in his more than 30 years on the job. The massive collection includes typewriters, toys, instruments, art, glassware, and several artificial Christmas trees. Molina’s museum of treasures doesn’t have hours of operation, but visits can be arranged with the NYC Department of Sanitation at [email protected].

 

4. The Hammer Museum

Hammers

The Hammer Museum

“Man’s first tool” is celebrated at this small museum in Haines, Alaska. The Hammer Museum’s collection has grown to include ancient instruments, medical mallets, and a Tlingit warrior’s pick unearthed during the erection of the building itself.

http://www.hammermuseum.org/

 

5. National Mustard Museum

Jars of mustard

National Mustard Museum, Wikimedia Commons

This shrine to the versatile condiment has set out to celebrate the illustrious history of mustard since opening in 1992. The founder and curator, Barry Levenson, served as Assistant Attorney General of Wisconsin until the call of the stone ground sauce prompted him to turn over a new leaf. If you visit the Middleton, Wisconsin location, keep your love of ketchup to yourself.

http://mustardmuseum.com/

 

6. Dialysis Museum

Dialysis machines

Dialysis Museum, ©Northwest Kidney Centers

Looking for a weird medical museum? Urine luck! You can find a museum for practically anything, as proven by Seattle’s Dialysis Museum. Less of a gift shop tourist attraction and more of a timeline and testament to the life-saving machine, the small gallery features models from the 1960s that were manufactured by the makers of ice cream machines.

https://www.nwkidney.org/about-us/dialysis-museum/

 

7. Museum of Death

Paintings by John Gacy

Original artwork by John Wayne Gacy, photo by John Mosbaugh

The morbidly curious will have a hell of a time at the Museum of Death. Locations in both Hollywood and New Orleans display crime scene photos, replicas of execution devices, and “the world’s largest collection of serial murderer artwork.” Minors are technically allowed into the grisly gallery, but only mature audiences are recommended.

http://www.museumofdeath.net/

 

8. Museum of Broken Relationships

The original Zagreb, Croatia museum was, fittingly, started by a pair of artists who had broken up and who wished to display the remnants of their relationship. The Los Angeles location opened in 2016 and hosts a collection of sappy memorabilia donated by exes from around the world. The accompanying stories depict grief, revenge, healing, and (presumably) resilience. There’s even a gift shop.

http://www.brokenships.la

 

9. The Hobo Museum

OUtside of a Hobo Museum

The Hobo Museum

According to Oxford University Press, a hobo is a migrant worker. According to the Hobo Code of the Britt, Iowa Hobo Museum, “When no employment is available, make your own work by using your added talents at crafts.” The museum displays such crafts as well as many other artifacts from the free-spirited American tradition of hoboing. There is even a hobo convention in which attendees vote on a hobo king and hobo queen.

http://hobo.com/museum.html

 

10. Ventriloquist Museum

Ventriloquist Dummy

Tommy Baloney, ©Vent Haven Museum

More than 800 dummies await visitors to give blank stares and maybe a wisecrack or two at Vent Haven Museum in Kentucky. The collection, sprung from ventriloquism enthusiast William Shakespeare Berger’s obsession, has grown to include Edgar Bergen dummies as well as a “stunt double dummy for Farfel the Nestlé dog.”

http://venthaven.org/

 

See more weird museums in our 2011 article.

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  • I wouldn’t mind going to the vacuum cleaner museum because it would give a historical look at this extremely important machine and how it has evolved over the years.

    The Lizzie Borden House would be interesting for just the tour. I like the idea of stepping back into 1892 for a little while, but spending the night there not so much.

    The discarded items museum looks interesting after seeing the photos. I’m sure in most cases many were perfectly good items someone simply didn’t want anymore, for whatever reason.

    The Museum of Death just gives me the creeps. I’ve got a great idea though for an art museum tailor made for the elite, snobby New York art gallery crowd; owners and customers: a museum of just emptied vacuum cleaner contents! They can marvel at the beauty of it, all dressed up with champagne glasses and hors d’oeuvres in hand, fully taking in what they appreciate most.