Curiouser and Curiouser

March 28, 2011

Travel, Croatia, England, Germany, Iceland, Japan, USA

This week the PhD Community at the University of Leicester’s School of Museum Studies is running their Symposium Curiouser and Curiouser, which seeks “to challenge notions of normality and eccentricity in museums, galleries and heritage institutions. I’m genuinely sad that I cannot go, and not just because they have goodie bags and a cute bunny mascot – the programme looks fantastic (I’m hoping some of the presentations will be available online afterwards?!).

So, in honour of my new friend @MuseoBunny, I’ve put together a small list of some of the more curious museums and collections I’ve come across:

Curios Collection #10: Bonsai

“They took all the trees, put ‘em in a tree museum
And they charged the people a dollar and a half just to see ‘em”
(Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi)

OK, so the trees in the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum at the United States National Arboretum weren’t taken away to make way for a parking lot, and entry to the Arboretum is free, but it still reminds me of Joni Mitchell’s song every time. I’ll dig up my photographs and do a picture gallery blogpost some time soon.

Curious Collection #9: Currywurst

I’ve never visited (yet), but yes, there is a museum in Berlin dedicated entirely to that great national delicacy, the Currywurst (‘curried sausage’). Of course, choosing this for my curious countdown isn’t going to do anything towards dispelling the notion that all we Germans eat is sausages^^

Curious Collection #8: Fictional Characters

You might wonder what is so curious about Sherlock Holmes. But not only does he have several biographies written about him, he also has his own museum (at 221b Baker Street in London, of course). People do realise he’s not real, right?

Curious Collection #7: Imaginary Animals

From literary characters to imaginary animals, in Portland, Maine, there’s a Cryptozoology Museum. To be fair, cryptozoology is the study of animals whose existence has not been proven, such as Bigfoot, the Yeti or the Loch Ness Monster, so the verdict is still out on whether they are imaginary or not. It’s curious none the less.

Curious Collection #6: Squished Pennies

I posted about this last week. As if the hobby of collecting squished pennies wasn’t curious enough, there used to be a museum for them too. Shame I’ll never get to see it now that it’s closed down.

Curious Collection #5: World’s Largest Things

Or, to give it its full name, The World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things. You know, like the world’s largest ball of rubber bands, or the world’s largest shoe. Seems like squished pennies aren’t the only curious pastime in the US.

Curious Collection #3: Broken Relationships

The Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb “grew from a travelling exhibition revolving around the concept of failed relationships and their ruins”. I’m hoping to visit later this year, when I need to go to a conference in Zagreb, not because of a broken relationship (I’m happily married, thank you), but because it sounds curious.

Curious Collection #2: Parasites

The Meguro Parasitological Museum in Tokyo is home to one of the most distinguished collections of parasite related materials and specimens in the world, including a 30 foot tapeworm which seems to be a popular backdrop for souvenir photos. The museum is apparently also a popular destination for a date, which in itself is quite curious.

Curious Collection #1: Phalluses

It was a toss up between the parasites and the phalluses for first place, but in the end the Icelandic Phallological Museum remains the most curious collection I have every come across so far. But, as the curator Sigurður Hjartarson said, “What’s a retired teacher to do but open a museum about phalluses?” Quite.

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What’s that you say? Number #4 is missing from the list? Curious, isn’t it^^ BTW, did you know that in Chinese, Korean and Japanese cultures the number four is considered unlucky.

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