The Midwestern portion of the United States is more than just a bunch of plains and farmland. Somewhere in the heart of America lies some of the most unusual attractions and interesting sights including these handful of quirky US Midwest museums. Come along as I take on the road and discover a number of dying art forms that are slowly making a comeback and learn a thing or two about American history and culture too.
Quirky US Midwest Museums
Museum of Miniature Houses, Carmel, Indiana
The Museum of Miniature Houses is a little girl’s dream playhouse with hundreds of adorable dollhouses, model scales, and teeny replicas of random items available to view at this suburban Indianapolis town. Three local women artists who simply wanted to share their passion with others started creating these exquisite works of art. A few of the items on permanent display include a ½ scale of an authentic San Francisco Victorian home, model scale replica of an English manor style house with a tropical theme, and miniature versions of the Thorne Room (the original design is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago).
Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum, Gatlinburg, Tennessee
It’s more than just a novelty, at least according to the Ludden family, whose interest in collecting salt and pepper shakers grew into a passion that led them to relocate in 2001 to Gatlintown, Tennessee, a scenic town considered the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, and open the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum. The family’s collection (around 20,000) has grown so large that they even felt compelled to open a sister museum in Spain. In addition to around thousands of salt and shaker pairs you’ll get to see, you’ll also learn a little about cultural history and plenty of useful trivia associated with these kitchen accessories.
Leila’s Hair Museum, Independence, Missouri
Prepare to see wreaths of hair and lots of it at Leila’s Hair Museum, one of the quirky US Midwest museums, located in the city of Independence, Missouri. The museum was the creation of retired hairdresser Leila Cohoon, who wanted to highlight the artistry of hair and hair design. She opened the museum 30 years ago in a room within her cosmetology school. There are currently 600 hair wreaths and over 2,00 pieces of jewelry made from strands of human hair on display in the museum, all of which contains a highly personal story behind it. Some of the highlights include hair from celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson as well as intricate and beautifully crafted pieces from the Victorian era.
Matchstick Marvels Museum, Glabrook, Iowa
Do you remember, back in the day, when matches were still used to light candles and fires? It turns out that same item collectively glued together can create some pretty spectacular pieces of art. That’s exactly what native Iowan artist Patrick Acton has done when he decided to create scale-models of famous ships, airplanes, and both real life and fiction attractions. His hobby for gluing small pieces of wood together led him to open the Matchstick Marvels Museum, where visitors from around the world can view his works of art such as the model of the USS Constitution, the Wrights Brother’s Flyer, and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The oldest item on display was a simple scale-model of a church that Acton completed way back in 1977. Since then, his projects became more ambitious, as demonstrated by his recent projects that included a scaled down replica of the International Space Station, which is on display at NASA’s Space Center in Houston, Texas. Matchstick Marvels Museum continues to be one of Iowa’s most popular attractions.
National Mustard Museum, Middleton, Wisconsin
The culmination of this road trip to the quirky US Midwest museums takes us to a town in Wisconsin called Middleton, where fans of mustard will find themselves a very nice surprise. Enter the National Mustard Museum, (that’s right, a museum dedicated solely to mustards), where you’ll find over 5,000 different types, hailed from more than 70 countries. What’s even more interesting than the museum itself is its backstory? Founder and curator Barry Levenson came up with the idea after an excursion at the supermarket the night his beloved Boston Red Sox lost the World Series in 1986. He was perusing the mustard aisle when he heard a voice telling him to start a collection. Six years later, in 1992, he left full-time job and opened the museum.