Do you look for the weird when you travel? Gabriela Garcia uncovered some of the world’s most unusual museums.

Don’t get me wrong–I love the Louvre in Paris and the Museum of Natural History in New York as much as the next person. But there’s a certain exhilaration that comes with hiking up a mountain and discovering a palace full of local antiquities, or traversing a much beloved city and stumbling across an experimental art collection I never knew existed. The world is full of oddities, avant-garde art work, mesmerizing scientific occurrences, and forgotten histories just waiting to be found. If you’re interested in some mental exploration beyond the usual, these ten museums will lead you in the right direction.

 
Wunderkammer3.JPG1. Wunderkammer, Melbourne, Australia

Wunderkammers, German for wonder chambers, were nature collections that formed the first “museums” long before the sterile, glass-enclosed institutions of today. In this museum-shop hybrid (pictured, above), the scientifically nostalgic are invited to gape at specimens in bell jars, mounted butterflies, animal fossils, and vintage medical instruments that sit on shelves straight out of a 19th century storybook (or the lair of a mad scientist).

 
2. Iga Ryu Ninja Museum, Mie Prefecture, Japan
 
Located near one of the top schools of 14th-century ninjutsu, the Iga Ryu Ninja Museum honors this “art of stealth.” As spectators make their way through the ninja residence’s trapdoors, secret passages, and revolving walls, a guide dressed in full ninja garb explains the tools, tricks, and secret ink messages that allowed ninjas to perform such feats as walking on water and stopping a sword with bare hands. Museum-goers are invited to try out some tricks themselves, after watching wild demonstrations that put any video game to shame.

room 1 - top floor.jpg3. The Manhyia Palace Museum, Kumasi, Ghana
 
Housed in the former residence of two kings of the Asante nation, the largest and most powerful tribe of Ghana, the collection at the Manhyia Palace Museum (right) includes war drums, royal stools, and other historical artifacts that tell the history of the once powerful empire and honor the legacy of Yaa Asantewaa, a queen mother who led a revolt against the British and died in exile.

4. PS 1, Queens, New York
 
Art lovers who want to feast their eyes on highbrow world masterpieces find a home on Manhattan’s 5th Avenue “Museum Mile.” But for those who saw, conquered, and are seeking a little more adventure and chaos, like say a police car flipped upside down hanging from the ceiling with the lights functioning as a disco ball, PS 1 is a rousing retreat. This former schoolhouse turned museum is the rebellious sibling of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and is devoted solely to “displaying the most experimental art in the world.”

 
5. Museo Alcázar de Colón (Museum of the Fortress of Columbus), Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
 
Santo Domingo is home to the New World’s oldest church, university, and cobblestone street. The Alcázar de Colón, situated between the Ozama River and a romantic plaza, is the former palace of Diego Columbus, the son of Christopher Columbus. It was once the main point from which exploration and conquest of Latin America and the Caribbean took place.

Now an UNESCO World Heritage site, its restored rooms and courtyards are lined with colonial art and artifacts that transport the visitor to a time of aristocracy, bravado, and bloodshed.

 
6. Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, United Kingdom
 
Sir John Soane is the 18th-century equivalent of a crazy aunt who furnishes her house in floor-to-ceiling knickknacks, except that he was a famous architect and built up a highly valuable collection. Packed in among a peculiar architectural layout of secret passageways, unusual lighting, and mirror mazes is an extensive and eccentric collection of paintings, sculptures, and antiquities that feature such marvels as an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus and a lock of Napoleon’s hair.

 
7. Mayong Central Museum, Assam, India
 
Tucked into the verdant plains of north east India, in a village once known as the Land of Black Magic, sits the tiny Mayong Central Museum. Dedicated to the rustic origins of dark magic and tantra, it houses local artifacts like ancient witchcraft manuscripts and huge swords that were possibly used for human sacrifices. Lucky visitors are treated to a magic show, where ancient rituals for casting healing spells show a side of magic far beyond bunny rabbits appearing out of top hats.

 
Schoko240207_255.jpg8. Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum (Chocolate Museum), Cologne, Germany
 
There are many museums around the world dedicated to this much beloved indulgent confection, but the Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum stands out in the breadth of its coverage. Visitors learn of chocolate’s origins in the culture of the Aztecs, Olmecs, and Maya, view a cacao tree in a simulated tropical environment, appreciate vintage wrappers, and observe a production line at Lindt & Sprüngli. At the end of the tour, everyone is treated to a chocolate sample which is devoured, naturally, with expert appreciation.

9. Museo de las Momias (Museum of the Mummies), Guanajuato, Mexico
     
Don’t expect zombie-looking figures wrapped in white gauze at this Museum of the Mummies. Here, visitors come face-to-face with dried human cadavers whose skin and clothes clings to them like papier mâché, with nails and hair that continued to grow past death. Thanks to unexplained circumstances, probably having to do with soil conditions and climate, these unfortunate souls who were exhumed between 1865 and 1958 became the “accidental mummies” on display at the museum. It’s a morbid but fascinating glimpse into the past. 

 
10.  Museum on the Seam, Jerusalem, Israel
 
Bookended by an ultra Orthodox Jewish neighborhood on the west and an Arab neighborhood on the east, the aptly named Museum on the Seam occupies the crumbling interior of a former military outpost that stood between Israel and Jordan. Visitors are treated to contemporary sociopolitical art that explores the complexities of coexistence, tolerance, and the violence that results from “us and them” dichotomies. Brutally painful at times and deliberately confrontational, the museum offers art for a world at war, a social dialogue that pushes past the canvas. 

Photos: Above, courtesy of the Wunderkammer; Right, The Manhyia Palace Museum; Bottom, The Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum 

Comments

  1. Nancy
    May 12, 2010, 1:02 pm

    I love Sir John Soane’s Museum in London. Another even more off-the-beaten-path museum in London is the Horniman Museum in south London. The over-stuffed walrus alone is worth a visit!
    http://www.visitingeu.com/

  2. discount vouchers
    May 13, 2010, 9:03 am

    if possible i want to visit all the ten museums. But i think the Mayong Central Museum in India is a bit scary since it is mentioned their that the place is the center of the Black Magic or witchcraft in the country.

  3. Sam
    May 14, 2010, 9:02 am

    “Lucky visitors are treated to a magic show, where ancient rituals for casting healing spells show a side of magic far beyond bunny rabbits appearing out of top hats.”
    That sounds brilliant! In fact they all look great, sign me up!
    Sam

  4. Kevin Evans
    May 14, 2010, 11:37 am

    Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum because is jam packed with all manner of anatomical specimens and medical oddities such as a nine foot long human colon which had contained over 40 pounds of human waste, the rather gruesome body of the Soap Lady, whose corpse turned into a waxy fat used in soap, or how about the malignant tumor taken from President Grover Cleveland’s mouth or even the joined liver of the Siamese twins Chang and Eng.
    Loads more info here! http://www.thetraveleditor.com/article/3528/Things_to_do_Museums_Medicine_Weird_Philly_The_Mutter_Museum.html

  5. Maria
    May 20, 2010, 3:36 pm

    Fascinating, and very well written! Reading about these museums makes me want to book my next flight! The Museo de las Momias is definitely a treat, and an odditiy.

  6. Hudson Valley Real Estate
    June 18, 2010, 12:59 pm

    Hey amazing collection. Came to your blog accidentally while finding places to visit and I am glad I came got great ideas :)
    Thanks!

  7. utari
    July 9, 2010, 10:23 am

    thanks for the information. It’s the most unique museum in the world.

  8. china trade
    November 4, 2010, 4:30 am

    I also visited a museum like that.. They also have collections of different kinds of rocks..

  9. Buy Organic Acai
    November 9, 2010, 11:14 pm

    seeing the collections of different kinds of butterflies.

  10. Eddie Petosa
    January 28, 2011, 5:37 am

    There are some famous museum that everyone longs to be able to visit some day. The Louvre is certainly one of them. Still, there are so few people that can still appreciate the value of such a museum. Nowadays we rather see something weird and exciting rather than show our kids how our ancestors lived and what tools they used. Throughout the world we have beer museums, train museums, car museums and, for the Manga fans, Anime swords museums. I wonder if my own children will soon ask me to take them to see medieval swords and shields rather than see old computers and the technological evolution for instance.

  11. media jobs Sydney
    February 10, 2011, 6:55 pm

    Great post