11 Unusual Museums

Embrace the peculiar at these 11 unusual museums around the world.
By: Jennifer Plum Auvil

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For some travelers, museums conjure up images of stuffy galleries with staid security guards on hand to quiet the crowds. Not so at these quirky museums that prove there’s something for everyone, with exhibits celebrating unusual subjects including sex, spies, UFOs and even toilets. Embrace the peculiar at these 11 unusual museums around the world.
The American Visionary Arts Museum celebrates artwork created by self-taught individuals in its spacious gallery with over 4,000 pieces in the permanent collection. The adjacent Jim Rouse Visionary Center houses the museum’s oversized sculptures, art cars and screen paintings, a Baltimore specialty.
If the truth is out there, the UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell has the goods to support the argument. Both believers and skeptics can enter the great debate at this museum, which contains memorabilia from the highly debated flying-saucer crash in Roswell in 1947 and the alleged government cover-up as well as information on related otherworldly phenomena.
While Amsterdam’s Sex Museum is suitable only for an adult audience, the exhibits at the oldest sex museum are more cultural than raunchy. In a city known for its booming Red Light district and live sex shows, this museum is filled with paintings, photos, sculptures and other memorabilia that celebrate the history of sex through the ages from the early days of Greek and Roman gods to historic figures like the notorious Italian lover Casanova and Russia’s Catherine the Great who was considered a nymphomaniac.
Located a few blocks from DC’s main museum corridor along the National Mall, the International Spy Museum is the only museum in the world devoted to espionage. Learn the tricks and trades of spies, both historic and fictitious, with plenty of hands-on and interactive exhibits that appeal to history buffs, gear fanatics and kids of all ages.
What started in the basement of a private home in Boston has grown to nearly 500 pieces of the best of the worst art around. This collection of art that is “too bad to be ignored” now has an online presence with a virtual gallery and 3 permanent locations at the Dedham Community Theater, Somerville Theatre and Brookline Access Television. Got some of your own bad art collecting dust in the attic? MOBA is happy to accept donations of painfully hideous art so long as it’s original and, well, downright bad.
You don’t need a sweet tooth to enjoy the quirky collection of vintage Pez dispensers at Burlingame’s Pez Museum just 10 miles south of San Francisco’s airport. Be sure to see how you measure up next to the World’s Largest Pez Dispenser, a behemoth snowman measuring in at 7 feet, 20 inches tall—over 20 times bigger than a typical Pez dispenser.
Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak offers a study of this essential, though rarely celebrated, subject at the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets in New Delhi. The exhibits review the historic evolution of the toilet and looks at how toilets vary around the world.
Once the site of the Ringling Bros. Circus winter quarters in Baraboo, WI, Circus World pays homage to the original Ringlingville and the art of the performance at Circus World. In addition to shows under the Big Top and a collection of historic circus wagons, the Circus Museum tells the story of the circus and its impact on American culture with exhibits of old circus advertisements, artifacts, sideshow banners and costumes.
Plenty of museums have replicas of dinosaurs, but the Garbage Museum’s Trash-o-saurus is an extra-special dinosaur made from a ton of trash—the estimated amount that the average person generates each year. Visitors can gain unique perspective on Connecticut’s garbage by walking through a giant compost pile and following the recycling process from start to finish.
The Hall of Flame in Phoenix, AZ, celebrates the noble history of firefighting in 6 galleries, featuring dozens of restored fire trucks dating back to the 1920s and the country’s only gallery dedicated to wilderness firefighting. Pay your respects in the National Hall of Heroes where the walls are lined with the names of thousands of American firefighters killed in the line of duty since 1981 with an additional 9/11 memorial remembering the fallen firefighters and police officers.
The Meguro Parasitological Museum appeals to a true niche audience—science fanatics looking to learn more about parasites. This research facility is the only one in the world that invites guests inside to explore exhibits on parasites and their life cycles with over 300 actual specimens on display.

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