Museums sometimes seem to fall into the same old categories and might not always be very enthralling, even if a particular museum has a good reputation. At the museums featured here, they don’t have such problems, because their collections are anything but ordinary — and they really can’t even be categorized, as far as museums go. How often do you come across a series of exhibits devoted solely to ghosts, dentistry, shoes, hair or funeral history? Not too often, which is what makes the following places unusual in all the best ways!
Ghost Museum of Prague
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is no stranger to your not-so-typical museums. The Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments should probably be avoided by the faint of heart, and the Museum of Communism, which in itself is not strange for its location, does make visitors to the city curious with its frightening posters scattered around town, featuring a fanged babushka doll. The Ghost Museum of Prague seems ironically less threatening, especially since it’s focused on getting acquainted with (rather than scared by) the characters in old legends surrounding the area. It is said that these stories are not simply made up but are based on actual happenings, and all of it is brought even more to life … or something like that … with an impressive model of the city hiding in the mysterious 14th-century basement of the building. The greatest part of visiting this museum is the chance you might have of encountering someone from another dimension.
National Museum of Dentistry
When you’re at the dentist, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is the history of those terrifying tools — where they came from, how they’re made and from what materials. You’re probably just hoping to get out of there as soon as possible, but the funny thing is that each and every one of those crazy instruments has a long and complex history, all of which is explained at the mystifying National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore. It may even help you appreciate modern technology a bit more, as the older the the gadgets are, the more horrifying they tend to look! The assorted toothbrushes, dentures and other teeth-related curiosities are also sure to perplex; plus, learn about keeping your mouth healthy along the way!
Avanos Hair Museum
The Avanos Hair Museum kind of catches you by surprise, as I suppose most of these more peculiar museums do. In a town known for its pottery, as Avanos is, you’d expect any number of pottery museums, but tucked off the main drag sits a place where hair from 16,000 women is enshrined — some of it, not surprisingly, inside pottery. The museum is also owned by a potter, who started it over 30 years ago with just a few locks left by friends. Now, the atmosphere has grown into a Halloweenish one, with thousands of pieces of hair (complete with ID tags) hanging like Spanish Moss from the ceiling of the low cave that they’re housed in. Seems like the perfect setting for a horror movie, no?
National Museum of Funeral History
Another museum with a spooktacularly spooky subject matter, yet highly fascinating all at once, is Houston’s National Museum of Funeral History. A worldwide approach gives a whole new meaning to funeral rituals and even to what dying means, since not only are unique, foreign customs showcased, but holidays like Day of the Dead — where the deceased return — are explained. Historical aspects of everything funeral-related, true to the museum’s name, are covered thoroughly; of equipment like hearses and caskets, and also of the ancient but evolved embalming process. Funeral formalities for presidents and popes are shared with visitors, and military practices are also highlighted. Don’t miss the display on Ghana’s colorful and elaborate “fantasy coffins,” which make traditional caskets look very boring and impersonal!
The Bata Shoe Museum
It’s every shoe-lovers dream — a whole museum dedicated to fancy footwear! And at Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum, fancy footwear means really fancy — bedazzled with everything from sequins to embroidery and odder elements like spikes, wheels and hooks. The best part of the museum is that it’s a great history lesson disguised as a really cool shopping expedition, as so many of the shoes are from a whole other era and impeccably preserved. The Art In Shoes ~ Shoes In Art section is also highly intriguing, not only because it features shoes mixed into artistic creations, but also because it shows how very important these sometimes-overlooked everyday objects really are to people the world over.