For every object there is a collector—and when those collections become too cumbersome (or too interesting to keep private), one solution is to open a proper museum. Scattered across the country in basements, strip malls, and historic homes are museums dedicated to almost anything you could think of (and likely some things you couldn't) including Bigfoot, bobbleheads, and thousands of broken elephant figurines.
The Troll Hole isn’t simply a place to display owner Sherry Groom’s collection of trolls and troll-related memorabilia (as of September, 2018, there were 8,130 unique trolls in her collection and she holds the Guinness World Record for “largest collection of trolls”). The Alliance, Ohio, museum is part traditional exhibition space and part art gallery. Several floors of history are packed into two adjoining buildings and The Grumpy Troll cafe, located in the back of the obligatory gift shop, serves coffee, teas, and waffles.
International Cryptozoology Museum
In 2009, Loren Coleman’s collection of native art, foot casts, hair samples, models, and other memorabilia opened to the public as the International Cryptozoology Museum (ICM)—the first of its kind in the world. ICM is located in a strip of shops and restaurants on Thompson’s Point along the banks of the Fore River in Portland, Maine, and includes several “Bigfoot Parking Only” signs, casts of the creature’s namesake big feet, and numerous dolls and other artwork devoted to Bigfoot and other cryptids.
Akin Free Library
In 1880, Albert J. Akin founded the The Akin Hall Association with other members of the Quaker Hill community in Pawling, New York, in the service of “charity, literature, science and mutual improvement in religion.” Housed in the library's basement is the Olive M. Gunnison Collection. Donated to the library in 1960, the collection fills four rooms and is split into two sections: natural history and a cabinet of curiosities. Comprising a wide range of specimens far too vast to list, notable items include a shrunken head from Ecuador, the footprints of a dinosaur captured in stone, uranium ore, shards from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and a mammoth tooth.
Mister Ed's Elephant Museum features elephant collectibles and a gift shop offering fresh roasted peanuts, retro candy, and gifts. Billed as the “Gettysburg area’s most unique attraction,” Mister Ed’s was opened by “Mister Ed” Gotwalt in 1975. He received his first elephant as a wedding gift and the collection grew as he started to receive elephants as gifts and donations. The museum part of the general store can be viewed free of charge and now contains more than 12,000 elephant figurines.
Cryptozoology & Paranormal Museum
Located in the private home of Stephen Barcelo, a former New York City journalist, one room of The Cryptozoology & Paranormal Museum is dedicated entirely to the paranormal. The collection includes several haunted dolls locked in cases, gravestone rubbings, an old wooden coffin, and shrunken heads. The museum also has several dozen casts of Bigfoot prints on display, a few of which have been made by Barcelo himself (others are gifts or copies); in the gift shop, “Bigfoot go bags” are for sale, containing everything one needs to gather proper evidence: a plaster of paris compound, knee pads, plastic bags, a Sharpie marker, a tape measure, lights, string, a whistle, and a bottle of water.
Taxidermy Hall of Fame of North Carolina and Creation Museum
The Taxidermy Hall of Fame and Creation Museum's founder and curator, Kent Kelly, was the pastor of Calvary Memorial Church and an administrator at the Calvary Christian School in Southern Pines for more than 30 years. In 1989, Kelly suffered a major stroke and was unable to continue preaching. He spent his time traveling around the Southeast, acquiring pieces to add to his taxidermy collection, which he displayed in his mother’s bookstore. He expanded his collection to include tools, barbed wire, license plates, golf balls, sports memorabilia, and other artifacts he felt reinforced his beliefs.
The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum
Now with more than 20,000 salt and pepper shakers and 1,500 pepper mills, Gatlinburg's Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum started as a private collection. The first museum opened in Cosby, Tennessee, and three years later, it was upgraded to a space in downtown Gatlinburg. The collection is arranged by theme, color, time, and place, and includes shakers shaped like fruits, vegetables, U.S. presidents, holidays, animals, and pop culture characters.
The Peoples Mortuary Museum is located in Marietta, Ohio, just a few blocks from the Ohio River and the Ohio-West Virginia border. Housed in the garage of the Cawley & Peoples funeral home, the collection belongs to William “Bill” Peoples, owner and funeral director. What started as a place to store and display his collection of antique cars—in particular, hearses—the museum has grown over the years to include clothing, caskets, and other grisly tools from the history of the funeral industry.
National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum
Located just around the corner from the Harley-Davidson Museum, the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum features nearly 10,000 bobbleheads of everyone from sports heroes to Hollywood celebrities. While the museum itself has a rotating collection of bobbleheads on display, its Hall of Fame features only the “best of the best,” as decided each year by Bobblehead Museum members.
When owner—and Chief Mustard Officer—Barry Levenson’s collection of mustards and memorabilia outgrew its original home in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, he moved the museum to its current location in Middletown. The National Mustard Museum now has more than 6,000 pots, tins, and jars of mustard from all 50 states and at least 90 different countries.
The SPAM Museum, located in Austin, Minnesota, tells the history of Hormel Foods, the origin of SPAM products, and details the canned meat's peculiar place in pop culture. The 14,000-square-foot museum comprises nine galleries full of memorabilia, interactive videos, hands-on activities, and a gift shop offering hundreds of SPAM-branded items.
St. Louis’ City Museum might not be "hidden" but it's definitely a gem; the art and history museum is laid out as a surrealistic adult-friendly playground. One minute you're inside a gorgeous sculpture of a giant whale; the next you’re crawling through a cave. You can start off in a treehouse, hop down a slide, and wind up in a massive, adult-sized ball pit. Or you can be admiring a room full of priceless opera posters and accidentally wander into an aquarium.
The Historic Voodoo Museum is located on Dumaine Street in New Orleans' French Quarter. The museum is small, but packed and stacked with artifacts (some of questionable authenticity) relating to Louisiana voodoo.
The Oz Museum, built with a major grant from the State of Kansas and the generosity of community volunteers, houses more than just memorabilia from the famous 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland. With more than 2,000 artifacts spanning 100 years of Oz history, exhibits also highlight earlier adaptations of Frank L. Baum's popular story, including silent films and The Wiz, starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson.
Idaho Potato Museum & Gifts
The Idaho Potato Museum showcases the state's famous starchy tuber. Located in the old Oregon Short Line Railroad Depot are exhibits on everything from the first potato planted in Idaho to the largest potato crisp made by the Pringle’s Company in Jackson, Tennessee. Visitors can order a genuine Idaho baked potato from the museum's cafe, read up on nutrition facts and trivia, and watch a short video presentation on the history of the potato industry.
Located on Northeast Grand Avenue since the 1960s, the back of the retail store is home to the Stark Vacuum Museum. Its 25 vacuums on display range from 1800s-era carpet cleaners to machines from the 1970s. Since opening, Stark’s Vacuums has expanded to nine locations throughout the Northwest region; though some of the stores have a few vintage vacuums on display, the full vacuum museum can only be found at the original Portland location.
Stark's Vacuum Cleaner Sales & Service
A museum dedicated to bananas would be a strange sight in any setting. Where it sits now, though, the International Banana Museum really makes no sense at all. The museum is located on the northeastern shore of the Salton Sea, a toxic, 340-square-mile lake in the middle of the California desert. Once a bustling vacation destination, today, the area surrounding the sea is largely abandoned, and rotting fish lines its shores. The growing collection includes approximately 25,000 banana-related items, including banana phones, banana pens, banana-shaped bookends, stuffed bananas, banana clocks, banana napkin holders, palm trees with banana-eating monkeys hanging from them, and a banana jukebox.
Bearded Lady's Mystic Museum
The Bearded Lady's Mystic Museum, which is nestled between a wine bar and a pet spa on Magnolia Street, is a lot of things. It’s a place for palm readings, but it’s also a museum full of occult and macabre things, like ouija boards and ancient mummy skulls. It’s an oddities store, pop-up exhibit, art gallery, and home to the meetings of Club Coven, an association of non-denominational witches.
The Bunny Museum
Altadena’s Bunny Museum is full of floppy-eared art installations, sculptures made of cottontails, and thousands of bunnies. Museum co-founders Candace Frazee and Steve Lubanski began their collection when Lubanski gifted Frazee a stuffed bunny for Valentine’s Day. They continued to show their love through lagomorphs, giving each other rabbit-themed gifts and referring to one another as “honey bunny.” Over the years, the gifts multiplied like, well, rabbits, and the collection now includes 37,653 pieces and counting. Frazee hopes to educate visitors on the role the rabbit plays in popular culture, folklore, and superstitions. Rabbit fact cards located throughout the museum tell nearly every bunny tale imaginable.
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