http://www.nzherald.co.nzWeird and wonderful American museums – Travel – NZ Herald News
By Donna Gordon
Seen all the standard US sights? Add one of these weird and wonderful attractions to your itinerary.
1 MOIST TOWELETTE MUSEUM, EAST LANSING, MICHIGAN
This free attraction next to the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University contains one of the odder collections open to the public.
On two big bookcases in John French’s office are more than 1000, mostly unused, wet wipes from around the world.
French, who is also the planetarium’s production co-ordinator, says the collection includes wipes from a sumo wrestling event in Japan and from the former Trump’s Castle in Atlantic City, New Jersey, as well as a “celebrity wing”.
Why moist towelettes? “I think everybody just has an urge to collect something,” French says. The collection’s oldest item is a box of Wash Up! towelettes from 1963.
2 NATIONAL CRYPTOLOGIC MUSEUM, NSA HEADQUARTERS, ANNAPOLIS JUNCTION, MARYLAND
The National Cryptologic Museum, about 40km north of Washington D.C., offers a glimpse into the history of American spying, from code books used during the Revolutionary War to signal flags from the Civil War and decoding machines from World War II.
An 18th century cipher device, acquired from a West Virginia antique dealer who found it near Monticello, is a highlight. The curators believe it is the oldest true cipher device in the world.
3 NATIONAL MUSEUM OF FUNERAL HISTORY, HOUSTON
This serious cultural and history museum also has a sense of fun, illustrated by its trademark – “Any day above ground is a good one” – and its annual haunted house.
Exhibits include artefacts from presidential and celebrity funerals, historical hearses and a full-scale replica of an embalming station from a Civil War battlefield. Other replicas in the 1860sq m exhibit space include a typical Victorian living room to illustrate at-home funeral practices, and a recreation of a casket factory from the 1900s.
4 VENT HAVEN VENTRILOQUIST MUSEUM, FORT MITCHELL, KENTUCKY
The Vent Haven Museum houses more than 800 ventriloquist dummies, thousands of photographs of famous performers and a library full of ventriloquism books. It also hosts an annual convention of practitioners. Figures on display include a replica of Charlie McCarthy, who was Edgar Bergen’s sidekick. The museum has one puppet on which visitors can try out their ventriloquism skills.