Unusual museums start from private collections

Many collections originate from personal passions. But what happens when they outgrow those simple beginnings?  Some morph into public museums that continue to reflect the owner’s love for specific, often quirky, items.

Wizard of Oz

On entering the Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas, you’re transported to Gale farm, greeted by life-size figures of Oz characters, and immersed in Oz memorabilia, including a first-edition book of Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and an original flying monkey from the movie.  Opened in 2003, the museum houses more than 2,000 items related to the worldwide appeal of this classic story, thanks to local collector Tod Machin.

Tinkertown Museum

Tinkertown photo courtesy http://tinkertown.com

I did all this while you were watching TV” boasts a sign near the entrance of Ross Ward’s collection of hand-carved figures in a small, quirky museum in Sandia Park, New Mexico. Thousands of carvings form an expansive miniature Western town and animated miniature circus, anchors for 40 years of displayed tinkering.  Unusual displays include old-fashioned arcade machines, a 40-foot wooden sailboat that was sailed around the world, and a wall made of recycled glass bottles.  Ward died in 2002, but his work and memory are honored at the museum, which was named  one of the top 10 small museums in America in 2010 by Fox News and Trip Advisor.

"Hollywood Lips" photo courtesy www.museumofbadart.org

Museum of Bad Art

When art and antiques dealer Scott Wilson found a particularly bad painting in the trash, he thought only the frame was salvageable. Instead, “Lucy in the Field of Flowers” launched a museum for unrecognized artists to display their work.  The world’s first permanent gallery dedicated to “Art Too Bad to Be Ignored” is housed in the dimly lit basement of a theater in Dedham, Massachusettes. Opened in 1995, exhibits rotate from the permanent collection of 250 pieces with names like “Hollywood Lips” and “Two Trees in Love.”

National Mustard Museum

Starting with a few jars of mustard Barry Levenson purchased to lift his spirits after his beloved Red Sox lost the World Series in 1986, the National Mustard Museum (formerly Mount Horeb Mustard Museum) has grown into the world’s largest collection of prepared mustards–more than 4,500 jars, bottles, and tubes from all 50 states and 60 countries–and hundreds of items of mustard memorabilia. Home to Poupon U, America’s Mustard College, the museum moved into a new facility in in Middleton, Wisconsin in 2000.

Musee Mecanique

Edward Zelinsky first began collecting and trading at age 11 and now shares more than 200 mechanically operated musical instruments and antique arcade machines—all operable and in original condition.  Located on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco since 2002, the collection runs the gamut from coin-operated pianos and games to small hand cranked music boxes–a look at how people entertained themselves before television and video games.

Patent Model Museum

Ancient paper cutting maching. Photo courtesy www.patentmodel.org

Alan Rothschild is passionate about patent models, the miniature scale pieces that were once a requirement for any inventor seeking a patent.  His love for these historically significant relics is so strong that he now houses permanents exhibits at Cazenovia, New York.  His collection includes models for every industry and subject imaginable and in every region of the U.S.  Many resemble collectible miniatures, and all are one of a kind. Traveling exhibits will appear in various cities and college campuses through 2014.

Read more travel stories by Beverly at Going on Adventures and Austin Adventure Travel

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