worst museum


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One of my favorite bits on Shake and Blake is when Ian talks about Museums. I wanted to ask him (as well as eveyrone else who reads this) what is either the strangest Museum they visited or the museum that has made them the most angry.

For me both questions could be answered with the Albert Einstein Museum in Princeton New Jersey. The reason why it was strange was because while most museums are galleries with a gift shop, this was a gift shop with a gallery, or depending on its size display would be more apporopriate. The reason why it made me angry was because I felt like rather than celebrating the life of a brilliant scientist it was a easy way to get people in, never mind that neighboring shopkeepers claimed to not know anything about it.

I felt that there was a lot of missed potential. Even though the items on display could be counted with one hand there was an item that gave me a new respect for him. That was a letter from Einstein to then President Truman explaing that he was flattered at the offer to become the first president of Israel but he knew that his talent lay in physics and not politics. In other words I gained a new admiration for the man because he knew his weakness and did not think of himself as a super-genius.

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Right, let's do this.

Worst museum

I tend to encompass heritage sites and visitor attractions into my "museum" definition usually, so let's break those down.

Visitor attraction: The aforementioned Dickens World. £13 to venture into an indoor Dickensian environment, with 4 themed rides, oddly-timed shows and no educational value whatsoever. Across the Medway is Chatham Historic Dockyard (visited pre-Official Tour), which offers 10x the amount to see & do for the exact same price.

Heritage site: Tintagel Castle. English Heritage are actually pretty lazy in how they interpret some of their sites. For a site with strong links to Arthurian legend, there's one short film before two fucking steep climbs on some very uneven paths. At the top of each climb, there are huts offering up English Heritage membership, taking away from the ruins themselves and the sight of the Cornish coast.

Museum: The Sherlock Holmes Museum: Quite simply, it's a tourist trap. On my visit, I was let into the building (not 221b as that's part of a nearby bank - further down Baker Street) and as soon as I got up the stairs, I was faced with a doddery old man in a bowler hat proclaiming himself to be Dr Watson. Walk past it if you must, but there's nothing in there worth seeing, particularly as there's no actual personal effects of Conan Doyle himself (his estate have disavowed any link with the site).

Dishonourable mentions to Sir John Soane's Museum, because it's all about architecture, which I find supremely boring; Merchant Adventurer's Hall, because the name disguises how little adventure the visitor has in store; and Durham Castle, mainly because it is now little more than a Halls of Residence for Durham University.

Most bizarre museum

The one that leaps to mind is my trip last year to The British Lawnmower Museum. The story: I was visiting a friend of mine who lives in Lancashire and he asked me where we should go for the day. I googled "museum" on Google Maps within driving distance of his flat and as soon as I found out that The British Lawnmower Museum was something which actually existed, the two of us travelled to Southport, a seaside town on the Lancashire/Merseyside border. Said Museum was essentially the floor above a DIY store, filled with thematic groupings of lawnmowers. there was even a celebrity mower room, featuring the lawnmower gifted to Prince Charles & Princess Diana for their wedding, as well as lawnmowers donated by the likes of Danny Wallace, Richard & Judy and Paul O'Grady. Celebrities indeed. All in all, an embracingly surreal experience!

Honourable mentions to The Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, Cornwall; The City of Caves, in which visitors can enter a genuine complex of caves via a shopping centre in Nottingham; The Richard III Museum, where a jobbing actor has set out several displays within the city walls of York with the intent of restoring the reputation of an English king that Shakespeare villified; and The Tar Tunnel, the part of Ironbridge Gorge where visitors can walk through a tunnel where tar has previously oozed through the walls.

I'm logging my journeys as I go, partially through the medium of Google Maps:


So there we go - I am very cultured! :teatime:

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House on the Rock is hands down, the oddest museum I've ever seen, but it's not bad at all, I'd highly recommend it.

When I have asked professors most have answered with House on the Rock. It is one of the top aspirations on my bucket list. I think the fact that Neil Gaiman showcased it in the novel "American Gods" should be reason alone.

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  • 2 years later...

I find that to be engaging though. By rights, all things Egyptian are out of place in America to begin with, be it Indianapolis or any other part of the States, I have yet to a themed museum car park on my travels, but I applaud it!

Since we're bumping an old thread, I have an update of two museums I've been to since my last post which qualifies under "Bizarre museums" - I'm not sure I've been to a legitimately shoddy one in the last couple of years....

Museum of Carpet: Yes. A museum devoted to the former carpet industry of Kidderminster. Yes.

Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum: The upper floor of a converted church in a town in Northumberland, it's decked out with a heck of a lot of bagpipes. Bonus points for NOT playing a multitude of bagpipe ditties.

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So I just now noticed this thread and the mention of the Sherlock Holmes Museum. As it happens, one of my former teachers has a bizarre story involving that place.

As the story goes, my English Lit teacher (a short little woman in her late fifties), went on vacation with her husband to London and visited the Sherlock Holmes museum. They absolutely loved getting to meet the two actors there playing Holmes and Watson, formed a loose friendship with them, and ended up exchanging contact information in case the acting duo was ever in the Dallas, Texas area. So, lo and behold, not too long afterward, my teacher got a call from Watson and Holmes and arranged to pick them up from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. When the duo arrived, it then became apparent that the actors were under the impression that "give us a call if you're in the area, we'd love to get together," somehow translated to "give us a call if you're in the area, we'd love to have you stay at our home."

They would say things like, "oh, and thank you so much for inviting us to stay at your home, I hope it's not too much trouble." Or, "Oh, you're so generous, taking us out to dinner like this. You truly are wonderful people." Apparently they had no money on them, so at no point did they ever pay for anything. They bought their own plane tickets, but otherwise they just used my teacher and her husband as a way to get a free vacation to Texas. So basically those people are dicks.

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I find that to be engaging though. By rights, all things Egyptian are out of place in America to begin with, be it Indianapolis or any other part of the States, I have yet to a themed museum car park on my travels, but I applaud it!

You know what, Ian. You are completely right. I go to TCM of Indy at least twice a month and I never get tired of seeing Anubis in the lot. Plus the visitors never seemed terrified but filled with wonder. I should not have put this post in a thread labeled "worst museum." The post of the creation museum is a much more appropriate for this thread. As someone who believes in evolution and a divine creator I expect (but do not anticipate) to be insulted if I ever go there.

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