A museum doesn’t need to be grand to be worth visiting. Sometimes, smaller, even stranger ones prove to be more interesting. That is certainly the case with this short list of quirky US East Coast museums worth visiting. In this three-part article series, let me take you on a road trip across America to see the fascinatingly bizarre.
Quirky US East Coast Museums
Museum of Bad Art, Somerville, Massachusetts
Let’s begin our quirky US East Coast museums tour in the northeast, near Boston, in the town of Somerville, Massachusetts. Most people go to art museums to view exceptionally good works of art so it may come as a surprise that there’s also a place for the rejects of the art world at the Museum of Bad Art. The collection stands at around 500 pieces but the curator of this unusual museum continues to solicit for more. In some cases, the museum will even bid for it, though aspiring artists, shouldn’t expect see Christie’s catalog prices. The only criterion to get your piece displayed is that it needs to be art “too bad to be ignored.”
The Museum of Sex, New York, New York
Next, head a couple of hours south and stay in New York City where you can explore the cultural aspects of sex at the Museum of Sex. There’s plenty to see here from historical accounts of some of the most notoriously sexual men and women in history to learning about the topics of desire that will make even fans of Fifty Shades of Grey raise an eyebrow. The exhibits include all sorts of art ranging from photos to sculptures, with some galleries even displaying S&M paraphernalia. Understandably, only adults, 18 years or older are allowed inside and only those 21 and over to sample the cocktails available at its own drinking establishment, the Play Bar.
Mutter Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The third destination on this list of quirky US East Coast museums sits right in the heart of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, though one can argue that it’s more creepy than quirky. The Mütter Museum is definitely not for the faint of heart or anyone squeamish about seeing abnormal anatomical parts. The museum got its name from Dr. Thomas Mütter, whose donations became the first artifacts displayed. Some of its most popular items include slides of Albert Einstein’s brain, the wall of craniums, and wet specimens that include cysts and tumors.
International Spy Museum, Washington, D.C.
Continue towards the nation’s capital where you’ll find the International Spy Museum. No other city in the world, with the exception of London or perhaps Berlin, is it better to learn about spies than in Washington, D.C. because it is rumored to have the largest concentration in one city. Visitors will get to see the largest collection of declassified espionage memorabilia, including those used in the Cold War, and hear first hand accounts of operations from retired FBI, CIA, and KGB operatives themselves. You can also participate in your own simulated mission where you can practice your tradecraft skills while perusing the galleries. Fans of James Bond films will also enjoy the exhibit on Bond villains, curated to commemorate the 50-year anniversary release of the first Bond movie.
National Museum of Health and Medicine, Silver Springs, Maryland
Just to the north of Washington, D.C., lies another medical museum called the National Museum of Health and Medicine. The U.S. Army founded the museum during the Civil War primarily as a medical museum but it has slowly expanded into to a full-blown research facility as well, with its collection of books, photographs, and artifacts forming the basis of the National Library of Medicine. Some of the notable items on display include objects taken from wounded soldiers during wars, healthy and abnormal human brains, and fragments of Abraham Lincoln’s skull.