These Museums are Delightfully Strange and Unconventional
These Museums are Delightfully Strange and Unconventional

These Museums are Delightfully Strange and Unconventional

Larry Holzwarth - August 5, 2021

These Museums are Delightfully Strange and Unconventional
The past, present, and future of toilets are subjects studied at the International Museum of Toilets in Delhi, India. india.com

16. A museum dedicated to the history of the toilet

In 1970, Sulabh International formed in India to improve the sanitation and hygiene systems and practices of the people. A non-profit supported by more than 50,000 volunteers, Sulabh International has created innovations in waste management, waste storage and removal, and other improvements to sanitation. It operates public facilities, sometimes called Sulabh Complexes, which provide toilet, bathing, and laundry facilities. They are resorted to by nearly 10 million per day. Their work is internationally recognized and lauded. In 2007 the organization announced the creation of a toilet which breaks down human waste into recoverable biogas and fertilizer. So, it is really no surprise that an International Museum of Toilets, located in Delhi, India, is operated by Sulabh International for the education of the public.

The museum, through its displays and artifacts, traces the development and use of toilets throughout the world as far back as 2500 BCE. According to its website, it also holds a “rare collection of beautiful poems”, praising the use of toilets. The history of the toilet and how to use it can be traced chronologically through 5,000 years, by touring the museums three main sections; Ancient, Medieval, and Modern. The website boasts the latter section contains, among other things, “interesting toilet related cartoons” as well as a section with “toilet jokes”. Bidets are also displayed and explained in the museum and its website. The museum draws tourists, students, and the merely curious, as well as dignitaries visiting Delhi, and is entirely supported by the Sulabh organization. For those curious about the history of sanitation and the human practice of relieving the call of nature it is a must see.

These Museums are Delightfully Strange and Unconventional
Dolls Charley McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd with their voice and manipulator, Edgar Bergen in 1966. Wikimedia

17. The museum dedicated to dummies

The Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, a suburb of Cincinnati, calls itself, “The World’s Only Museum Dedicated to Ventriloquism”. As with many of the museums listed here, it began with a personal collection of artifacts, in this case, ventriloquist’s dummies. Interestingly, the collector, William Shakespeare Berger, did not perform as a professional ventriloquist. That did not stop him from serving as the President of the International Brotherhood of Ventriloquists for many years, as well as the publisher of a monthly magazine called The Oracle. The magazine was widely read by both amateur and professional ventriloquists. Berger arranged for his collection to be supported by a charitable foundation upon his death, which continues to support the Vent Haven Museum, now open to the public, though by appointment only. Curated tours allow the public to learn the history of ventriloquism and its stars.

Nearly 1,000 mute ventriloquist’s dummies stare out of wooden, glass, or plastic eyes at their visitors as the latter learns of their history and that of the art itself. Some of them date back to the late 19th century. Nearly all were donated by their former user, and none are used to display the ventriloquist’s art. By arrangements of the museum’s charter, the dummies are destined to remain voiceless forever, as their “voice” came from the person who donated them. While Lamb Chop (voiced by Shari Lewis) is present, the famed Charlie McCarthy (voiced by Edgar Bergen) is a replica. Some of the dummies may be handled, to allow visitors to see how they were manipulated but the overwhelming majority are off-limits to visitors. The museum also supports an annual Vent Haven International Ventriloquist Convention, with visitors from all over the world.

These Museums are Delightfully Strange and Unconventional
A LEGO advertisement in Swedishb and French from the late 20th century, as the toys appeal expanded rapidly. Pinterest

18. A museum dedicated to plastic interlocking bricks

The Lego Group began selling their plastic bricks in 1949. Since then, the Danish company has produced over 600 billion bricks and associated parts. It also expanded into board and video games, films, clothing, and amusement parks. In 2011 LEGO kits (as they are styled) flew in space, assembled by the astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The official LEGO Museum, operated by the company, is located in Bilund, Denmark, the international company’s headquarters. An interactive museum and educational facility is located in LEGO House. Other LEGO museums exist, some affiliated with the company or its various subsidiaries. But in one small Ohio community, Bellaire (population 4,000), there exists a museum dedicated to LEGO in everything but name. Known as the Toy and Plastic Brick Museum it claims within its collection the largest LEGO construct in the world. It depicts a semi-truck and trailer.

The museum, housed in a former school building, presents statues built by Adult Fans of LEGO (AFOL) and LEGO Users Groups (LUG). The existence of such formalized entities indicates the extent by which LEGO has permeated culture in its 70-odd years of existence. After the museum received certification from Guinness World Records of holding the world’s largest LEGO structure the company forbade the use of its name. Thus, the Toy and Plastic Brick designation for a museum displaying structures entirely from LEGO. As with other museums, the Bellaire facility began with a private collection, and expanded into the collections on display, supported by the enthusiastic LEGO community. The museum covers three floors of a former middle school building, which houses the world’s largest privately held collection of LEGO objects.

These Museums are Delightfully Strange and Unconventional
Visitors to the Funeral Museum may amuse themselves by watching the funeral of Franz Joseph (front) as well as view the bill for the funeral of his son, Archduke Ferdinand (second, in same uniform). Wikimedia

19. A museum dedicated to funerals

In Vienna, Austria, visitors may enjoy exploring the Funeral Museum, dedicated to death, funerals, and the funerary arts. Opening in 1967, the museum displayed changes to Viennese funerals and customs over the years. Undertakers’ practices and artifacts, coffins, hearses, pallbearers’ uniforms, and other exhibits sure to create a cheerful mood were prominently displayed. In 1784, Emperor Joseph II ordered the use of reusable coffins. Fitted with a trap door, the coffins allowed the body of the deceased to be dumped into the grave once the mourners had turned away. The emperor believed the device would help conserve wood. The Viennese rebelled against the Imperial conservation edict, and the law remained in effect for just a few months. One reason the Viennese rebelled was the commonly held fear of premature burial. Several methods were adopted to ensure the dead were, in fact, dead.

One was a device which placed a cord in the deceased’s hand. The other end of the cord, which penetrated the coffin and ran above ground, attached to a bell. Should the buried arouse and find themselves buried, they simply rang the bell to summon assistance. In another, well-to-do Viennese had a clause in their will which required a physician to pierce their heart after declaring them dead, just to make sure. All such devices and requirements are presented in the Funeral Museum, making it a decidedly uplifting place to visit. To add to the cheerful atmosphere, several historic funerals may be viewed on monitors, including that of Emperor Franz Joseph in 1916. Funeral dirges and songs play on the audio system. Located in Vienna’s Central Cemetery, visitors may be fortunate enough to espy a modern funeral as they depart the grounds. Truly a joyous place to visit.

These Museums are Delightfully Strange and Unconventional
Instant Ramen is a frequently delivered foodstuf during international emergencies and disasters. US Navy

20. A museum dedicated to Instant Ramen

A Japanese inventor and businessman named Momofuku Ando invented instant ramen noodles, bringing them to market in 1958 via his company, Nissin. Ironically, the product originally earned the reputation of being a luxury item, due to its prohibitive cost. Gradually, production costs lowered, as did the retail price, and instant ramen gained popularity throughout Japan and Southeast Asia, as well as in China. In 1971 Ando took his invention a step further, creating Cup Noodles. The styrofoam cups filled with ramen and desiccated meat and vegetables soared in popularity, fueled in part by the increasing use of microwave ovens. Ramen noodles became the go to meal of the temporarily broke, college dorms, bachelors, and others. They became so popular that in 2000, a poll of Japan labeled instant ramen as the best invention by a Japanese of the 20th century.

To celebrate such a noble achievement, the Japanese opened the Cup Noodles Museum in Osaka, Japan. It is not the only such museum dedicated to instant ramen. Another stands in Yokohama, and the two are affiliated. There is yet another in Hong Kong. The museums present the invention, evolution, and future developments of the world of ramen. Among the displays are a presentation of a joint effort between Nissin and America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration to create a ramen meal eaten in zero-gravity. In 2005 Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi became the first human to dine on ramen in zero gravity, while on a mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery. Rather than the famous dangling noodles, the space version contains ball shaped noodles, which reach the desired texture at lower than boiling water temperatures. Astronauts eat Space Ram, as it is called, with a fork.

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“First Scientific Collections of the Kunstkamera”. Article, Kunstkamera. Online

“Can I Drink the Tap Water in China?” Article, Tappwater.com. April 4, 2019. Online

“Welcome to the British Lawnmower Museum”. Article, Lawnmowerworld.co.uk. Online

“The Dog Collar Museum”. Article, Leeds Castle. Online

“The National Mustard Museum”. Article, Atlas Obscura. Online

“Museum of Beauty”. Article, Atlas Obscura. Online

“Kansas Barbed Wire Museum”. Article and entries, ruschcounty.org. Online

“The Anti-Museum”. Daniel Phelps, National Center for Science Education. February 26, 2016. Online

“CIA Museum”. Article and exhibits, cia.gov. Online

“Museum of Bread Culture”. Entry, Museums.eu. Online

“I went to a cryptozoology museum and everything was ridiculous”. Lauren Juliff, Never Ending Footsteps. May 13, 2021

“Innovation needs failure”. Article, Museum of Failure. Online

“Welcome to the World’s Only Museum Devoted to Penises”. Joseph Stromberg, Smithsonian Magazine. November 12, 2013

“International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center”. Bill Furbee, Bizarre News. Online

“Museum of Bad Art”. Article, Boston Central. Online

“The Museum”. Article, Sulabhtoiletmuseum.org Online

“Inside the World’s Only Museum Dedicated to Ventriloquism”. Jennifer Nalewicki, Smithsonian Magazine. May 2, 2019

“Lego celebrates fifty years of building” Leo Cendrowicz, TIME Magazine. January 28, 2008

“Funeral Museum Vienna”. Article, wien.info. Online

“After Conquering Earth, Instant Noodles Make Space Debut”. Yoshikazu Tsuno, Space Daily. July 27, 2005. Online

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