“This would be so much better if there was a bar here.”
Museums are an important part of American culture. They unite us to our history and offer a serviceable way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Museums are mostly fine! Some are actually pretty cool! Museums, or institutions that conserve and collect objects of various historic, cultural, artistic, or scientific significance, have been around for thousands of years.
Literally every nation that isn’t ISIS has museums, because people want to feel connected to their past, present, and future, and looking at the leather jacket worn by the Fonz is a great way to help you do that.
Naturally, America does museums as well as anyone else. According to Trip Advisor, for example, 6 of the 25 best museums in the world are in the United States, including the #1 and #3 museums out there (the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Chicago Art Institute, respectively) which is frankly astonishing considering that we’re competing against countries such as England, Greece and France who have literally thousands of more years of cultural history than we possess. We’re kicking ass even when we’re competing with places like the Louvre and the Acropolis!
So yes, America knows how to do classy, important museums. But there is one category where no other nation is even close to catching up to us in. America is by far the master at museums that are utterly pointless to the point of hilarity. We have a museum for everything here. Everything. To prove our point, we’re here to present you with…
America’s Most Absurdly Pointless Museums
America is a big place, and a lot of small towns struggle to find a way to make themselves really stand out. That’s the reason why we get absurdly large roadside attractions. But some places don’t want to go through the effort of making a twenty-foot tall thimble, and instead just want to collect a bunch of shit and charge people to walk through a room and look at them. That mindset has brought us such wonderfully pointless museums as…
The Hammer Museum (Haines, Alaska)
The Hammer Museum, located in the northern part of the Alaska Panhandle in the town Haines, population 2,000, is exactly what you think it is. Since 2002 they have helped visitors go through the history of hammers, and how they’ve been used, from ancient times to now. Their website claims “the hammer tells the story of man’s progress and ingenuity” and, well, we suppose it does, but it seems like a bit of a limited item to devote an entire museum to.
But devote a museum they did, and they even gave it a nifty twenty foot hammer statue so you would be sure to know, “Oh that’s the hammer museum, either that or there’s a new sculptor in town and he’s probably going to murder us.”
But hey, if humanity’s progress as told through the evolution of hammers is your thing, you should go for it. But, beware, it’s only open seasonally, from May to September. Which is awful for anyone who happens to go through town in the winter.
Can you imagine how utterly depressed you would be if you trekked all the way up to Haines, Alaska, simply to go to a museum of hammers, and found it was closed? You would set off a goddamn fire, wouldn’t you? We know we would. Well, we wouldn’t make our travel arrangements based on going to a museum full of hammers, but you get the idea.
The hidden MVP of this museum is the “rave reviews” the website lists, which is kind of a Master’s thesis on sadness. “We came all the way from Australia just to see these hammers. This is our 3rd visit. We plan to come back.”
“My 4th visit- it just keeps getting better!” “This is the most exhilarating hammer experience we have ever come across. We will be dreaming of hammers for years to come…”
Now, normally, when we list off reviews like that, we throw in a clearly fake and over-the-top joke quotation as the third one, so you probably think we made up that “we will be dreaming of hammers” one. We did not. That comes from Fiona and Sam, who visited all the way from fucking London. What!? Who are these people?
The Chaffee Barbershop Museum (Fort Smith, Arkansas)
Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center was an Army National Guard instillation that served as a US Army base and training camp that closed in 1995. However, segments of it have since been redeveloped, including the 2008 establishment of the Chaffee Barbershop Museum.
Now, why is a barbershop of a decommissioned Army base museum-worthy? What if we were to tell you that this was the very museum that Elvis Pressley got his first G.I. haircut? What, that’s still not museum-worthy? Well fuck off, because that’s the reason why this museum exists.
It’s a museum for a fucking haircut. The Chaffee Crossing Historic District’s website celebrates this “museum”, pointing out, “A celebration of the 51st anniversary of Elvis’ haircut drew 250 guests from multiple states” which is the saddest thing we can think of.
We understand that there are people who are way into Elvis, but Jesus Christ, you guys. Is there some sort of “Elvis haircut” tour you go on, going to every single place Elvis ever cut his hair? h God, if that existed, those 250 people would totally be the kinds of people to go on it, wouldn’t they? Price wouldn’t even be an option. That’s the saddest thing. Let’s try to find something a bit happier.
The Kazoo Museum (Beaufort, South Carolina)
Haha, oh, that’s adorable, and completely unnecessary. Yes, if you’re in South Carolina and find yourself wondering what to do, come on down to the Kazoo museum, founded in 2007, the home of “nearly two-hundred unique kazoo-related items.” That seems like…not a lot of items in a museum, right? Like, there have to be kazoo collectors (there’s a collector for everything) who has way more kazoos in just his personal stash.
Honestly, we could see this being a passably good time if they let you actually use kazoos in there. Like, a room for you to just pick some kazoos and kazoo to your heart’s content. Now, of course they don’t do that, because disinfecting the kazoos would be a nightmare, and now that we say it out loud “a public setting where people can pick up strange kazoos and put their mouths on it” does sound a bit terrifying.
But still, playing kazoos is fun. Listening to kazoos? Kind of insufferable. And staring at kazoos through display glass? Boring. “Hey, want to go to this room in South Carolina and look at 200 kazoos” sounds less like an engrossing museum experience and more like something a man in an unmarked van would say to you when you’re walking home from elementary school.
The Trash Museum (Hartford, Connecticut)
It takes a certain amount of “we don’t care if you make fun of our city” to set up a museum with something called a Temple of Trash, but goddamn it Hartford knows what you’re going to say about it and it is too self-assured in its own identity to be bothered by that.
The Trash Museum is 6,500 square feet (Jesus, that’s a lot of space to devote to trash) that tells you the history of trash removal, focuses on conservation and recycling practices, and also, apparently, makes a bunch of artwork and sculptures out of trash for you to look at.
So, the Trash Museum isn’t quite the same as a New York City sidewalk. Instead, it tries to find “fun” ways to show the effect garbage can have on our world, which would be fine or whatever save for our site’s devotion to the “Fuck Nature” credo.
Still, we’re kind of disappointed at this sterile take on trash on society. We should open up a competing trash museum and just go full on dark with it, we’re talking Batman v Superman dark. Rotting roadkill. Used needles. Soiled diapers. Adult diapers. A room that’s just empty whiskey bottles that have been drunk by our staff. Just have people walk through rotting piles, wondering why the fuck they paid money to go in there. Come to think of it, we might not be the best people to try to run a museum.
Vent Haven Museum (Fort Mitchell, Kentucky)
Vent Haven Museum is, as far as we can tell, a museum solely dedicated to celebrating the nightmares that haunt us all *intern rushes over and whispers in our ear* wait really? It’s a ventriloquism museum? Jesus Christ, why would someone do that?
Oh God, look at them. They’re going to come to life and kill us all. This is horrific, we’ve never been in more fear for our lives than we are at this moment. Opening in 1973 to showcase the collection of William Shakespeare Berger, it now houses over 800 figures, thousands of photographs, and an extensive library of “Vent-related books.” Apparently ventriloquists call themselves “vents” for short, because that is easier to say than “40% probable child molester.”
So if you want to really learn the ins and outs of ventriloquists, and are absolutely certain that it will not result in a reenactment of Child’s Play (and are you sure? Are you sure you’re sure?) then you can go down to the Vent Haven, and if you’re really into the scene, you can go to convention (yes, they spell it conVENTion, sigh) in July of each year. You know, if you’re the kind of person who wants to fly in to Kentucky with a ventriloquist doll and just, get weird with it.
So yeah. These are museums that exist. Take that, Europe? We guess?
”aturally, America does museums as well as anyone else. According to Trip Advisor, for example, 6 of the 25 best museums in the world are in the United States, including the #1 and #3 museums out there (the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Chicago Art Institute, respectively) which is frankly astonishing considering that we’re competing against countries such as England, Greece and France who have literally thousands of more years of cultural history than we possess.”
Hey now hey now, our cultural history didn’t start when Europeans started exploring the place.
Honestly, we get where you’re coming from, and you’re not totally wrong. But native history in America is relatively limited in terms of lasting culture- largely because when Europeans went to America and were like “we’re American now” it was pretty much after North American’s Great Plague had turned the cultural landscape of the Americas from “vibrant and rivaling Europe” to “post-apocalyptic Cormac McCarthy novel”. And of the top 25 museums in the world, the American ones have a largely USA-and/or-Europe slant anyway.
tl;dr: Philosophically you’re right, real-world-logic, you’re wrong, and we’re right. you owe us a whiskey now.
Even today the Navajo reservation is larger than 10 of the 50 states…while I wouldn’t describe it’s current state as vibrant and rivaling Europe, it definitely has a “lasting culture” in the same sense as the Euro cultures you’ve cited…but like most other living native cultures/histories, it’s bizarrely ignored when it comes to discussing “American History.” It may not feel real since it’s not often marked on maps but I assure you, it’s real. Anyhow, love the site and I’m not trying to troll here or anything like that, quite the opposite…just saying we have more cultural history than you alluded to.
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