When traveling, a visit to a museum is always a great way to get to know more about a new city and new culture. In the United States, there is no shortage of museums, including countless institutions dedicated to the odd, unusual and unexpected.
From sites dedicated to specific foods to ones that house the strange and morbid, there is a museum for every interest, hobby and passion across America.
Here are 10 of the most unusual museums to visit in the US.
1. Spam Museum – Austin, Minnesota
Spam is a notorious brand in the US for its precooked meat products. In the Spam Museum, you can learn about the history of the Hormel company, the creators of Spam.
The museum chronicles the history of the canned meat from its origins in 1937, to its use in World War Two, and even in Monty Python’s Spamalot. It answers the simple question, what even is Spam? The museum has free entry with interactive exhibits and an on-site café where enthusiasts can sample Spam.
2. Idaho Potato Museum – Blackfoot, Idaho
Most simply, the Idaho Potato Museum is a museum dedicated entirely to spuds. Since 1988, it has traced the history of potato farming in Idaho, from early years to irrigation and development, sharing Idaho’s potato culture with local and visitors alike.
For anyone who has ever wanted to know how many potatoes the average American consumes in a year or why Idaho is an ideal location for growing potatoes, this is the museum to visit.
3. Vent Haven Museum – Fort Mitchell, Kentucky
The Vent Haven Museum is the only museum in the world dedicated to ventriloquism. It was founded by William Shakespeare Berger, who never worked as a professional ventriloquist but discovered his passion for collecting dummies in 1910. He amassed his collection over 40 years and even had to build additions to his home to hold all of his collection.
The Vent Haven Museum was opened for public viewing in 1973. It houses more than 1,000 dummies from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries and over 20 countries.
4. National Mustard Museum – Middleton, Wisconsin
The National Mustard Museum, like other museums on this list, comes from a passion for collecting very specific objects. In 1986, Barry Levenson began collecting mustards and by 1992 had amassed a collection large enough to share with the public. This museum houses over 6,000 mustards variations from across the globe, and you can even choose from over 500 variations in the museum shop.
The Worldwide Mustard Competition is hosted by the museum. It is a giant tasting event aimed at discovering the best mustard in the world, bringing together chefs, food writers, and mustard aficionados from across the world to determine the best new flavours in mustard.
5. Mütter Museum – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Mütter Museum houses anatomical models, instruments, osteological specimens, and other medical fascinations. Founded in 1858, the museum is named after Thomas Dent Mütter who bequeathed his entire teaching collection to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and was originally intended to educate future physicians.
Today, the museum is a popular and strange site for Philadelphians and tourists. However, this collection of 25,000 objects is not for the squeamish, as it holds some strange items including a collection of swallowed objects discovered by X-rays and a wall of skulls.
6. International Cryptozoology Museum – Portland, Maine
Cryptozoology is the study of unknown, legendary, or extinct animals whose present existence is disputed. The International Cryptozoology Museum exhibits rare zoological specimens and pays homage to popular culture and folk traditions.
Founded in 2003, the museum focuses on the study of unknown creatures, including Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. They boast hair samples of Abominable Snowmen, a footprint from a Thylacine encounter, and other species, replicas and evidence.
7. International UFO Museum – Roswell, New Mexico
In July 1947, an unidentified object allegedly crashed on a ranch, now Area 51, in Roswell, New Mexico. This became known as ‘The Roswell Incident’ and was the start of the International UFO Museum.
The locals wanted to preserve evidence from this event, and the museum has now explained to house documents ad research about other UFO sightings and unexplainable phenomena, including audio, video, and written materials. The museum is dedicated to UFO research but includes a bit of silliness as well, like a recreated alien autopsy.
8. Leila’s Hair Museum – Independence, Missouri
Leila’s hair museum is not a museum about the history of hair but rather it houses antique hair art. It first opened in 1986, with hair art from 1800-1900, including Victorian hair jewellery worn by those in mourning.
This collection has over 2,000 pieces of art made from hair, like hair wreaths woven out of the hair of all members of a family conceptualised like a family tree.
9. Neon Museum – Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas is known for many things, including its bright neon signs. The Neon Museum dedicates itself to rescuing old signs from across the city and displaying them to share a part of the city’s history. It has saved pieces from motels, hotels, restaurants and bars, restoring them for view in the museum’s outdoor ‘boneyard’.
Founded in 1996, the site collects, preserves, and studies the signs of Las Vegas, dating back to the 1930s. It is a museum best seen at night, as the boneyard is lit up for visitors to enjoy.
10. Museum of Death – New Orleans, Louisiana
The Museum of Death originally opened in 1995 in Los Angeles with a second location opening in New Orleans in 2014. Currently, the New Orleans site is the only one open. Inside the museum, visitors discover morbid exhibits that explore death, including body bags, a collection of skulls, and artefacts relating to serial killers.
This museum is not for the faint of heart, though its purpose is to make people appreciate being alive. But as the museum says, ‘death affects us all’, and though this museum covers a grim topic, its collection of over 12,000 objects interests visitors from around the world.