Mysteries at the museum

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Updated: June 14, 2015 12:34:26 AM

From a museum devoted to the history of potatoes and the production of fries to one celebrating the history of fans and the art of fan-making, we take a look at some of the world’s most quirky museums

A MUSEUM is traditionally an institution that conserves and exhibits artefacts and other objects of artistic, cultural, historical or scientific importance. However, there are some museums that are famous for their ‘quirky’ contents. Take, for example, Mutter Museum. Located in Philadelphia, US, it showcases a collection of medical oddities, anatomical and pathological specimens, wax models and antique medical equipment. The Neon Museum in Las Vegas, on the other hand, exhibits the city’s classic neon signs collected over three decades. Here’s taking a look at some of the most quirky museums in the world.

Fries Museum, Belgium

After Belgian chocolate, it’s the Belgian potato fry, which is most characteristic of the country’s culinary expertise. And this love affair is on full display at Fries Museum in Bruges. With a seven-euro ticket, you are led through the history of the fry, right from the time potatoes were first cultivated in South America and their introduction in Europe to the day the fry was actually invented. The museum is housed in the Saaihalle—one of the most beautiful buildings in Bruges—which was built in the 14th century. Of course, after knowing everything there is to know about fries, you would want a taste of it, right? Luckily, the folks at the museum thought about that and have built a small fry cafe as well. Needless to say, there’s also a chocolate museum in the vicinity.

Mutter Museum, Philadelphia

Mutter Museum can qualify as one of the most unique and bizarre museums in the US, as it features collections of medical oddities, wax models, antique medical equipment, pathological specimens and more. It’s housed in a two-tiered gallery, showcasing deformed bones, diseased organ specimens and instructional wax models of various pathologies. Sample this: on display is the conjoined liver of Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker, and slides of Albert Einstein’s brain. The museum, run by The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, has a tagline as well: ‘Are you ready to be disturbingly informed?’ Entry costs $15.

Neon Museum, Las Vegas

Vegas is famous as the place where you can have uninhibited fun. But it’s also famous for something else: its neon signs. So it’s only fitting that the city has a two-acre museum dedicated only to these signs. Neon Museum was established in 1996 as a non-profit organisation to collect and exhibit neon signs, the classic Las Vegas art form. It holds over 100 donated and rescued signs, created right from the 1930s through the early 1990s, representing motels, local businesses and celebrated casino resorts. The museum campus includes an outdoor exhibition space, a visitor centre and another gallery housing rescued signs, which is used for weddings, special events and photo shoots. Hour-long guided tours are available for $18.

Fan Museum, London

If you’re a fan of fans, this is the place for you. Fan Museum in Greenwich is the only collection of its kind in the world and features over 4,000 hand fans, some of which are more than 1,000 years old. At £4, you can learn about the history of fans from around the world. Some of the earliest fans here date from around 3000 BC (there is evidence that Greeks, Etruscans and Romans all used fans as cooling and ceremonial devices. Chinese literary sources though associate the fan with ancient mythical and historical characters). Once the knowledge-gathering is done, you can sit down for afternoon tea, Brit-style, in the ‘garden room’ along with a selection
of cakes.

Police Museum, Paris

Tucked away on the third floor of an actual police station, this one is a century-old museum run by the police, tracing their history. Two thousand ‘unique’ objects are on display, evoking the history of Paris—actual murder weapons in glass casings with suspicious stains, a gruesome archive of police photography and even skeletal remains. It’s an ideal place for those who like vintage with a morbid twist. Significant exhibits include a guillotine, uniforms, the pistol used for the assassination of former president Paul Doumer and relics from World War II, including German machine guns and insignias worn by Jews. The entry is free. So next time you go to Paris, don’t forget to visit the cops.

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