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Smithsonian Museums

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Webpage presenting a brief history and historical photo of each of the Smithsonian museums.

Business Meeting - Black Museums

Anacostia Community Museums Collections and Research
[Begins at 00:40] Courtesy of the Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Anacostia Museum History Series, AV003068

Protecting our museums

National Museum of American History

Museums making headlines

National Museum of American History

Learning About Museums

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Lesson about museums uses discussion questions and activities in which students relate stories from prior museum visits or share ideas for a museum that they would like to create. Part of the online exhibit The Star Spangled Banner: The Flag that Inspired the National Anthem. Targets grades k-2.

Bergens Museums skrifter

Smithsonian Libraries
Each no. has also a distinctive title.

No. 1-6 issued without title.

Bergens Museums aarbog

Smithsonian Libraries
"Afhandlinger og aarsberetning."

Also available online.


Small House Museums

Smithsonian Magazine

Sir John Soane's Museum
is at 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, not far from the Holborn tube station. It is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Telephone: 011-44-20-7440 4240
Web site:

The candlelit nights are on the first Tuesday of the month from 6 to 9 p.m.; queues form early, so arrive as early as possible. Entrance is free, but groups of more than six people must book in advance. Commercial groups are requested to make a $97 donation. An excellent follow-up to Soane's is a visit to the Hunterian Museum across Lincoln's Inn Fields in the Royal College of Surgeons; its halls are filled with medical specimens, giant skeletons and vintage surgical instruments. London's other great 19th-century survivors are the Wallace Collection, housed in the Hertford House, and the palatial Royal Academy of Arts, where as Professor of Architecture from 1806 to 1837, Soane gave a series of famous lectures.

The Musée Jacquemart-André
is located at 158 Boulevard Haussmann, near Place Charles de Gaulle-Étoile and Metro stations: Saint-Augustin, Miromesnil, and Saint-Philippe du Roule. It is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The $15.50 admission fee includes a free English audioguide, which is surprisingly good. (It includes fun extras, such as chamber music to listen to in the Music Room).
Web site: (in French)

The Museo Sorolla
lies only a ten-minute taxi ride from the city center, in the Chamberí district, at Paseo del General Martínez Campos 37. It is open 9.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, and closed Mondays. Entrance fee: $3.70, $1.85 for seniors and students.
Telephone: 011-34-91-310-1584
Web site: (in Spanish)
Website: translated to English

The Black Madonna House: The Museum of Czech Cubism
is in the Old Town of Prague at Celetna Street, 34 and Ovocny 19. It is open daily except Mondays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Entrance fee: $6.25.
Telephone: 011-420-222-321-459
Web site:

The Grand Café Orient is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tel: 011-420-224-224-240. The museum store sells an excellent fold-out map that tracks other Cubist architecture in Prague. True enthusiasts should head to the Veletrzní Palace (Dukelskych hrdinu 47), a vast museum of 19th-, 20th- and 21st-century art that includes detailed surveys of Czech trends. The most striking literary counterpart is the long-term exhibit at the Franz Kafka Museum (Hergetova Cihelna, Cihelná 2b; open daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) This is less a traditional museum than a creative interpretation of Kafka's life and work, divided into two sections, "Existential Space" and "Imaginary Topography of Prague," that feature art installations, film, music and photography. History fans should also make time to visit the Cabinet of Curiosities at the Strahov Monastery, where glass-fronted cases display a fascinating array of sea creatures; the twin libraries in the same building are among Europe's most gorgeous.

Media in museums

National Museum of American History

Usually when I visit museums, I look at objects and read labels while skimming past interactives and video screens. This summer, however, as I did research for a film that will be a part of an upcoming exhibition, I began to pay more attention to museum media. I have since gone through each exhibition at the museum to watch videos of Julia Child cooking in her kitchen, use touch screens to run an agriculture business, and listen to audio recordings of the lived experiences of Americans.

The author, a young woman with red hair, stands behind a podium in front of footage from a presidential inauguration. She appears to be speaking midsentence.

I had never before appreciated how much I could learn about objects through media. Objects are more than their physical appearance—they are records of history and contain stories of human experiences. Media presentations bring sound and visuals to visitors to help them actively learn more about objects.

The film that I am working on is part of the exhibition Many Voices, One Nation, opening in the summer of 2017. The exhibition tells the story of how many distinct people and cultures met and interacted in the United States to create one nation. The film will be an animated map showing the movement of people into and through a changing United States from 1776 to 1900. The map will contextualize the stories of individuals who immigrated to the United States, migrated within the United States, were incorporated to become a part of the United States, or were forced to migrate to/within the United States.

The team working on this video researched population statistics, found graphics of historical events, and grappled with data visualization—how we would tell a story with animation but no spoken or written narrative. We thought about how long visitors might linger to watch. We looked to media presentations in the museum and beyond.

Step behind the scenes for a moment as I share three of our goals for the film as well as three media pieces in the museum that helped me think about how to accomplish our goals:

1. Present complicated ideas simply
The film will show the movement of millions of people as the borders of North American change—movement that no object or text could fully convey. We had many conversations about what information was crucial to sharing the story without overloading the presentation.

I looked to an animation in the American Enterprise exhibition that shows the global trade of several products. Without going into too much detail on the process of shipping or processing, gliding lines across the globe are able to clearly communicate the converging and diverging connections between countries in global trade as snippets of information and images appear to explain the processes.

A photograph of a circular interactive display showing the journey soybeans take around the world

2. Show the bigger picture 
We intend for the Many Voices, One Nation film to demonstrate that immigration and migration have happened contemporaneously in different parts of the United States. We hope that visitors might be interested to learn that many events were happening at the same time that we often think of as unrelated.

I looked to other media pieces that create context. Near Dorothy's red ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz is a touch screen on which visitors can scroll through a timeline of American history. The timeline contextualizes The Wizard of Oz, released in 1939, within the era of the Great Depression and World War II, rendering the movie's themes of escape from the present and hope for the future all the more significant.

A photograph or illustration of a Mission from California in the 1770s. There is a fenced-in yeard that is full of growing things. The Mission building is in the back with a long colonnade and arches.

3. Spark conversations between visitors
These stories of immigration and migration might represent or relate to the experience of a visitor's family member or friend. We hope that the film will be a starting point to begin sharing stories of how we came to be the United States.

Commercials and television shows are another form of media that sparks conversation between families. Coca-Cola's ad campaign "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" plays in American Enterprise. When I watched the recording with my mother, she told me about her experiences watching the commercial growing up and it began a conversation about our different perspectives on the song.

I had fun this summer as I learned from media across the museum. More importantly, I have come to appreciate the power of media pieces to tell stories and their important role in exhibitions to bring objects to life.

Anna Meyer is a curatorial intern in the Division of Home and Community Life. Despite being from Massachusetts, she cannot imitate JFK's Boston accent.

intern Anna Meyer
Posted Date: 
Monday, September 12, 2016 - 08:00
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Museums and Marketing

Smithsonian Magazine

The Smithsonian Institution has a number of advisory groups. These museum boards and commissions, which include scholars and other interested private citizens, offer advice on programs, and budget and planning, and play a role in the ongoing evaluation of directors.

One of the key advisory boards to the Regents and the Secretary is the Smithsonian Institution Council. It is made up principally of people from the academic world, including Nobelists, artists, critics, museum directors, distinguished professors, media experts, philosophers and writers. The Council was created to review and debate topics embracing the entire Institution, including all of its units and interrelationships. Since I became Secretary, I have asked for Council review of three issues affecting the whole Institution. This column concerns Council advice on corporate partnerships.

As many of you will recall, I indicated at the beginning of my term that resources are a central problem for the Smithsonian Institution in this era. I predicted limitations on the growth of federal funding for new programs and the consequent need to increase revenues from other sources, one important one being corporate support.

In the past three years, corporate funding has been an important source of additional revenues for our educational efforts in research, exhibitions and national outreach. We're grateful for that help. Unlike in the past, however, corporations now ask more from us than simple acknowledgment of support. For instance, in return for a sponsor's giving to the Smithsonian a percentage of its product sales, or funding an activity or exhibition, the sponsor may ask to use the Institution logo in corporate advertising, identifying the company as "a proud supporter of the Smithsonian." There are many other examples, not the least of which have been the corporate presentations that accompany the "America's Smithsonian" exhibition.

Two of our sponsors made it clear at the Council meeting that the value of the Smithsonian to corporations lies in pairing our identity (or "brand") with that of a corporation ("co-branding"). In corporate eyes, our well-known identity bespeaks "American," "integrity," "familiarity," "family," "history," "technology," "art" and similar concepts. Given the new emphasis on marketing in corporate support, I sought the Smithsonian Council's perspective on the consequences to the Institution that might result from sponsorship rather than philanthropy. The Council discussion emphasized prudence in choosing corporate partners. Corporate identity can negatively affect the Smithsonian, especially in connection with questionable products (tobacco and alcohol, for instance), practices (such as providing substandard wages and working conditions) and occurrences (such as deleterious environmental events). And we must be able to sever relations if catastrophe occurs.

It also became clear that corporations that sponsor particular programs or exhibits are interested in the subject matter, but do not seek to affect specific content both as a matter of principle and to avoid debasing the independent reputation of the Smithsonian Institution, which is also important to them. This means that the corporate sector can be approached broadly for general Institution-wide support and more narrowly for targeted programs and exhibits. A number of corporations are more interested in our musical presentations, for instance, than in exhibits of objects and texts because they believe that their prospective customers will relate more closely to music.

Adamant critics of corporate sponsorships on the Council fear that the specificity of corporate interest will narrow the range of planned exhibitions and lead to self-censorship because of concerns that the Smithsonian "brand" might be less valuable to our sponsors. Most on the Council, and the Smithsonian Institution leadership, recognize these as potential problems but believe that treating corporate sponsorship as only one of a number of sources of support lessens the perceived threats.

On the broader issue, the Smithsonian already copes with strenuous critics in Congress, or people who enlist congressional support, whenever controversial programs are presented. Any corporate opposition is minor in this context. Corporations should be willing to accept the Institution's policy of not avoiding controversy but seeking a balanced presentation of subjects and ideas.

In general, we welcome corporate sponsorship opportunities, but we must review them carefully and maintain sensible oversight once we enter into contracts. We are grateful that a highly talented group of people dedicated to the welfare of the Institution devoted a two-day meeting to this topic, which is important not only to the Smithsonian but to museums throughout the United States.

By Secretary I. Michael Heyman

Bergens Museums aarbok / Bergens Museum

Smithsonian Libraries
"Avhandlinger og aarsberetning."

Title from cover.

Also available online.


African Art Museums

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
List of museums in the United States with collections of African Art. Searchable by state.

Universal Design for Museums

Smithsonian American Art Museum
Valerie Fletcher, Executive Director of the Institute for Human Centered Design, and Scott Rosenfeld, lighting designer for the Smithsonian American Art Museum, present on how to make museum spaces more welcoming and inclusive in order to enhance the visitor experience. Presented by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion (DEAI) Task Force.

Bergens Museums aarsberetning for ..

Smithsonian Libraries
Description based on: 1885.

Also available online.


Five Funky Food Museums

Smithsonian Magazine

Nights at the Museums

Smithsonian Magazine

Bedding down beneath sharks doesn't sound like the smartest idea. But put a wall of thick plate glass between the creatures and yourself, and it suddenly sounds like a pretty cool way to spend the night.

That's just what the National Aquarium in Baltimore wants to provide in "Sleepover With the Sharks," one of two overnights the museum offers. For $79.95, guests can unfurl their sleeping bags on the carpeted floors of the underwater viewing area. There, after a dolphin show, a lasagna dinner and a behind-the-scenes tour of the aquarium, it's lights-out out at 11 p.m. sharp. An eerie green-gold glow emanates from the tanks, dappled by the shadows of sea creatures that glide silently through the water above.

Aquariums, museums and zoos have held slumber parties since the 1970s. The idea may have come from E.L. Konigsburg's 1968 classic, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basel E. Frankweiler, about two children who stay the night at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Almost 40 years later, the concept gained new popularity thanks to the 2006 hit film Night at the Museum starring Ben Stiller as a new security guard who encounters mayhem after dark. The sequel, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, is scheduled for release in May.

What goes on behind those closed doors or gates at night depends on what's displayed inside. The American Museum of Natural History in New York capitalizes on the Night at the Museum movie by allowing guests to pretend they're Stiller patrolling the dark halls with a flashlight. Farther downtown, a professional mountaineer shows kids the ropes as he rappels down a rope suspended in the Rubin Museum of Art's 90-foot atrium; later that night, there's story-telling at base camp about the mysterious "yeti" that roam the Himalaya. In Hawaii, guests can wake up with wild animals at the Honolulu Zoos – from a safe distance.

"For the most part, you can make money off the overnights," said Michael Fritzen, director of family programs at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. "It's a great way to capture a crowd for a special exhibit...The people who come may potentially be the next preservers of museums, zoos and botanical gardens."

Fritzen used to plan overnights for the Huntington, another Los Angeles cultural institution. One of the many children who went on the sleepovers now works there, he said, in part because of the attachment she formed years ago.

"People will come back as teens or interns," said Annette Sawyer, the Museum of Science, Boston's director of education and enrichment programs. "It's become so personal."

Begun in 1985, the Boston museum's overnights attract annually an average of 19,500 people, most of whom are children in scout or school groups; the program generates about $100,000 in net profit.

"It started as an opportunity to use the museum in down time," she explained. "There's something about being there when you're not supposed to be there; it's awesome."

Alexis Pace and Szu Burgess described their overnight at the Baltimore aquarium in similar terms. "We had a blast," said Pace, an artist in New York. "We could look across and see silhouettes of sharks swimming by. In the morning, we got to look at the dolphins more closely and talk to the handlers."

And, she added, "It was absolutely cheaper than a hotel and they feed you. We factored that in."

At "Sleepover with the Sharks," guests can unfurl their sleeping bags on the carpeted floors of the underwater viewing area. (Courtesy of Flickr user Andrew Bossi)

Cultural institutions that offer overnights:

The Children's Museum
West Hartford, Conn.
For children in first through sixth grades
$30 per person
Activities are based on themes such as "Building Zone" and "Underwater Web." Take self-guided safari tours in the wildlife sanctuary, participate in two science workshops, use telescopes to view the stars (weather permitting) and see a planetarium show.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Pittsburgh, Pa.
For families and children's groups
A pizza party is followed by eight activities tied to themes such as "Nighttime on the Nile," "CSI & DNA" and "Dino-ROAR."

Sen. John Heinz History Center
Pittsburgh, Pa.
For children with adults
Starts this spring. Meet costumed re-enactors of George Washington and Meriwether Lewis, who embarked on his historic exploration of the West from Pittsburgh. See late-night moves and the stars from the fifth-floor deck.

COSI (Center of Science and Industry)
Columbus, Ohio
For children in third through sixth grades
$37 per person
After dinner, participate in workshops that connect to museum exhibits, see a film on the seven-story-tall movie screen, and participate in "Dance Mania."

Wisconsin Maritime Museum
Manitowoc, Wisc.
For groups of 20 people more than 6 years old
$39 per person
Sleep aboard a World War II submarine. Tour parts of the sub closed to normal tours and visit the museum.

Honolulu Zoo
Honolulu, Hawaii
For anyone at least 4 years old
$50 per person ($40 for members)
Eat a buffet dinner, and then take guided walking tours of the zoo at night. Have s'mores around a campfire before sleeping in tent or under the stars.

Museum of Science, Boston
Boston, Mass.
Open to schools and organizations for children in first through sixth grades
$45 per person
Participate in workshops that explore science, see "Lightning!" in Theater of Electricity, and sleep beneath a dinosaur.

Buffalo Museum of Science
Buffalo, N.Y.
For children and adults
$50 for one adult and one child ($45 for members)
The program emulates "Night at the Museum" by letting guests help close up the museum through activities and scavenger hunt.

Skirball Cultural Center
Los Angeles, Calif.
For adults and children ages 7 and above
$65 ($45 for members)
Program debuts this spring with activities and events tied to "ZAP! POW! BAM!: The Superhero and the Golden Age of Comic Books, 1938-1950."

Smithsonian National Zoological Park
Washington, D.C.
For adults and children ages 6 and over
$65 (higher for certain zoo tours)
Held between June and September, Snore and Roar overnights include a zoo tour, snack, tent sleeping arrangements and breakfast.

National Aquarium, Baltimore
Baltimore, Md.
For children and adults
$79.95 per person ($69.95 members)
See the dolphin show, and then have dinner. Participate in workshops, tour aquarium exhibits, kitchens for animals and the feeding area. After breakfast, meet dolphin handlers.

Rubin Museum of Art
New York, N.Y.
For children 11 to 14 years old
$108 per person
Attempt an ascent of Mount Everest with professional mountaineers and sherpas. Explore Himalayan art and culture, eat dinner, snack and breakfast of traditional Tibetan food.

American Museum of Natural History
New York, N.Y.
For children between 8 and 12 years old
$129 per person ($119 members)
See an IMAX movie, live animal exhibits, and explore fossils by flashlight. Sleep beneath 94-foot-long blue whale, beside famous dioramas of North American mammals or at near geologic formations.

Our Partner Museums Rule!

Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service
Yale University’s Peabody Museum of Natural History opened the SITES exhibition Farmers, Builders, Warriors: The Hidden Life of Ants with gusto and creativity this fall. A family festival featured scavenger hunts, puppet shows, hat-making, ant-featured games, and snacks of ants and crickets, both raw and chocolate-coated. Visitors also played with a robotic ant that Yale engineering undergraduates created to help children learn how ants use chemical communication — and not eyesight — to navigate their environments. The museum has developed an hour-long program for local students to teach basic topics in evolutionary biology, such as adaptations and social behavior of...

Museums: Storehouses of DNA?

Smithsonian Libraries

Museum-history and museums of history / by G. Brown Goode

Smithsonian Libraries
Also available online.


The Many Museums of Memphis

Smithsonian Channel
From the Smithsonian's Rock and Soul Museum, to the Stax Museum of American Soul, to the National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis is a city rich in music, art, culture. From: AERIAL AMERICA: Tennessee

Museums With Their Own Niche

Smithsonian Magazine

I peered at the rows of lunchboxes and stopped with a smile in front of a gleaming Strawberry Shortcake, its pink and white figures recalling peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, piles of crayons and an overnight party where at least one lucky girl unrolled a Strawberry Shortcake sleeping bag. I wondered if one of these lunchboxes was still hidden in the dusty recesses of my house. In an instant, a tall man with hair like gray steel wool was at my side.

“Ah, you’re of the metal lunchbox era!” said Tim Seewer, artist, cook and partner in Etta’s Lunchbox Café and Museum in New Plymouth, Ohio. “The Florida Board of Education decided in 1985 to ban metal lunchboxes because they could be used as a weapon. All across the United States, lunchboxes started to go plastic. Ironically, the last metal lunchbox was Rambo.”

Etta’s is a thoroughly charming bit of Americana. Lodged in an old blue-tiled general store, this free museum displays owner LaDora Ousley’s collection of 850 lunchboxes as well as the tobacco and lard tins that were the precursors to the lunchbox. The collection offers a unique lens into the popular culture of the last century—especially when accompanied by commentary from Seewer and Ousley, who do double time in the kitchen making pizza, sandwiches and salads. A 1953 Roy Rogers and Dale Evans lunchbox, the first to have a four-color lithograph panel, is among the collection’s notable items. Also on display are lunchboxes featuring the many television icons that followed: Gunsmoke, Looney Tunes, a host of Disney characters, Popeye, Space Cadet, the Dukes of Hazzard, and more.

The collection both chronicles the stories and characters that shaped many a childhood and offers a perspective on larger social trends in America. As an example, Ousley points to her tobacco tins, which were produced beginning in 1860 with sentimental domestic scenes on them. “It was a clever cross-marketing ploy,” Ousley explains. “Women weren’t allowed to buy tobacco, but it was a sign of status to own one of these tins. It showed you knew a man wealthy enough to buy one and that you were special enough to receive it as a gift.”

Museums with a singular focus—whether on an object or a theme—offer visitors an intimate educational experience, often enhanced by the presence of an owner or curator with an unmatched passion for the subject. Here are seven more narrowly focused museums from around the country, some tiny and precariously funded, others more firmly established.

Image by Courtesy of Etta's Lunchbox Cafe & Lunchbox Museum. Located in New Plymouth, Ohio, Etta's Lunchbox Café and Museum displays owner LaDora Ousley's collection of 850 lunchboxes. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Etta's Lunchbox Cafe & Lunchbox Museum. A 1953 Roy Rogers and Dale Evans lunchbox, the first to have a four-color lithograph panel, is among the collection's notable items. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Etta's Lunchbox Cafe & Lunchbox Museum. In 1985, the Florida Board of Education banned metal lunchboxes because they could be used as a weapon. Rambo was the last metal lunchbox made. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Etta's Lunchbox Cafe & Lunchbox Museum. Lunchboxes on display at Etta's Lunchbox Café and Museum include television icons such as Looney Tunes, Disney characters, Popeye and the Dukes of Hazzard. (original image)

Image by Richard Clement / Reuters / Corbis. At last count, Velveteria, the Museum of Velvet Paintings has nearly 2,500 velvet paintings. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the National Museum of Roller Skating. The National Museum of Roller Skating boasts 2,000 square feet of memorabilia from roller derby, roller speed and figure skating, and roller hockey. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the National Museum of Roller Skating. The National Museum of Roller Skating contains the largest collection of historical roller skates in the world. Some of their skates date back to 1819. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Roadchix. The Hobo Museum is located in the hobo capital of the world, Britt, Iowa. Every year the museum and Britt host a hobo convention that attracts up to 20,000 ramblers from all parts of the country. (original image)

Image by Newscom. The Bigfoot Discovery Museum was inspired by owner Michael Rugg's encounter with a Sasquatch-like creature when he was a child. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Vent Haven Museum. Located in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky is the world's only public collection of materials related to ventriloquism. The Vent Haven Museum features 700 ventriloquist dummies arranged in three buildings, some sitting in rows as if waiting for a class to begin. (original image)

Velveteria, the Museum of Velvet Paintings in Portland, Oregon, has nearly 2,500 velvet paintings at last count. Eleven years ago, Caren Anderson and Carl Baldwin were shopping in a thrift store, spied a black velvet painting of a naked woman emerging from a flower and had to have it. That impulse buy ultimately led to a vast collection, much of which is now displayed in an 1,800-square-foot museum. Co-authors of Black Velvet Masterpieces: Highlights from the Collection of the Velveteria Museum, Anderson and Baldwin have a connoisseur’s eye for this neglected art form and an appreciation for its history. The paint-on-velvet form had its origins in ancient China and Japan, enjoyed some popularity in Victorian England, then had its modern heyday when American servicemen like Edgar Leeteg expressed the beauty they saw in the South Seas islands on black velvet. You can tour the museum for $5.00, but watch out for unexpected emotion. “A young couple got engaged in our black light room the other day,” says Anderson.

The National Museum of Roller Skating in Lincoln, Nebraska, boasts 2,000 square feet of memorabilia from roller derby, roller speed and figure skating, and roller hockey. Included are a pair of the first skates ever made, which resemble modern inline skates, patent models from the history of roller skate design, costumes, trophies, photos and magazines on skating. Oddest items: a pair of skates powered by an engine worn on the back and a pair of skates made for a horse—with a photograph of the horse wearing them. This is the world’s only museum devoted to roller skating; admission is free.

The Hobo Museum is located in the hobo capital of the world, Britt, Iowa. According to curator Linda Hughes, the town fathers of Britt tossed out a welcome mat for hoboes in 1899 after hearing that Chicago rolled up theirs when Tourist Union 63—the hobo union—wanted to come to town. A famous hobo named Onion Cotton came to Britt in 1900, and hoboes have been gathering there ever since. The museum is currently housed in an old movie theater, but has so much material it plans to expand into a larger space. The collection includes contents of famous hobo satchels, a hat adorned with clothespins and feathers from Pennsylvania Kid, tramp art, hobo walking sticks, and an exhibit of the character language hoboes use to leave each other messages. Every year, Britt and the museum host a hobo convention that attracts up to 20,000 ramblers from all parts of the country. “It’s like a big family reunion,” Hughes says.

The Museum of Mountain Bike Art and Technology Museum is located above a bike store in Statesville, North Carolina, with a 5,000 square-foot showroom displaying the evolution of mountain bikes. The collection includes “boneshakers”—bikes from 1869 with wooden spoke wheels—as well as bikes with interchangeable parts from the turn of the century. Among this free museum’s 250 bikes are several from the mountain bike boom beginning in the 1970s, when the energy crisis pushed people to make tougher bikes. Many of these are highly designed with great craftsmanship. “Even if you have no interest in bikes, you’d hang one on the wall because they’re so pretty,” says owner Jeff Archer. The museum holds an annual mountain-bike festival that attracts many of the sport’s pioneers.

The Bigfoot Discovery Museum in Felton, California, was inspired by owner Michael Rugg’s encounter with a Sasquatch-like creature when he was a child. The museum offers local history tied to Bigfoot; plaster casts of foot and hand prints; hair, scat and tooth samples; displays that discuss hypotheses to explain Bigfoot sightings and Bigfoot in popular culture; and a research library. In the audio-visual section, the controversial Patterson-Gimlin film purporting to show a Bigfoot spied in the wild runs on a continuous loop. “I’ve got everything I’ve found dealing with Bigfoot or mystery primates here,” Hughes says.

Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, is the world’s only public collection of materials related to ventriloquism. A Cincinnati businessman named William Shakespeare Berger and later president of the International Brotherhood of Ventriloquists began the collection in the early 1900s; ventriloquists—“vents”—still donate materials. There are 700 ventriloquist dummies arranged in three buildings, some sitting in rows as if waiting for a class to begin. Unusual creations include a head carved by a German prisoner in a Soviet POW camp from World War II—the vent performed for fellow prisoners as well as for the cook to get extra food—and a family of figures used by a blind Vaudeville-era vent. Photographs and drawings of vents abound, including one from the late 1700s, when ventriloquism was more often a trick to con people out of money instead of a form of entertainment. The museum also has a library with 1,000 volumes and voluminous correspondence for scholars. Admission is by appointment only, and curator Jennifer Dawson leads hour-and-a-half tours for $5.00. A yearly convention is held nearby.

The Robert C. Williams Paper Museum in Atlanta originated with a collection by Dard Hunter, an artist from America’s Arts and Crafts Movement who traveled the world to record the ways that people made paper and collect artifacts. In the museum, visitors can examine precursors to modern paper, including many tapa cloths made from pounded bark in Sumatra and Tunisia with inscriptions from special occasions; a vat used by Chinese papermakers in 200 B.C.; and one of the one million prayers printed on paper and enshrined in wooden pagodas that were commissioned by the Empress Shotuku after Japan’s smallpox epidemic of 735. In all, there are over 100,000 watermarks, papers, tools, machines and manuscripts. Admission for individuals is free; guided tours are $5 per person or $8.50 for a tour and paper-making exercise.

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