Did you know that there is a Moist Towel Museum in Michigan? Or an attraction devoted to toilet seats in Texas? If you’re interested in quirky places you can visit on holiday then you’ll want to buy Geoff Tibballs’ book – The World’s 100 Weirdest Museums.
The Nottingham-based author has travelled or telephoned the enthusiasts (or obsessives) behind some of the strangest collections on earth. And finding places to write about hasn’t been as difficult as you might think. “Particularly in America, virtually every town seems to have an eccentric museum so it was a battle to whittle things down,” says Geoff.
If the public can visit, then it’s a museum for the purposes of Geoff’s book. And that includes one of Britain’s most unusual attractions in Port Talbot. Captain Beany is the world’s number one baked bean enthusiast. “His flat is now the Baked Bean Museum of Excellence. You don’t have to pay, you just give him a call beforehand and he will let you in,” says Geoff, who has witnessed the curious sight for himself. “He has a baked bean costume that he wears when he does charity work as well as tins of beans, HP mugs and Heinz material.”
Clearly some of these museum operators are devoted to their subject! Geoff goes on to tell me about a section of the book about a Malvern pensioner’s museum. “There’s a guy call Steve Wheeler who has 20,000 milk bottles. The collection is worth around a hundred thousand pounds,” he says. “They’re just delighted that you’re interested in what fascinates them.”
Geoff once went on a river cruise up the Danube to Budapest and says he was very disappointed to learn that he had missed the Marzipan Museum in the town of Szentendre. “If I had ventured inside I would have seen a life-sized model of Michael Jackson made from marzipan,” he says. He’s also seen a picture of the marzipan Princess Diana. “That’s not very good,” he adds. Tokyo has a Parasite Museum, which includes a 20-foot long tapeworm! This grotesque sight is, unusually, meant to be popular amongst courting couples for some reason.
Nearly every mundane, everyday item seems to be celebrated somewhere. “The Kansas Barbed Wire Museum features over 2,400 types,” says Geoff. I asked him if you need a tetanus jab before you go in? “I suspect everything is behind glass,” he replied.
There’s a French Fry Museum in Bruges, Belgium. That made no sense to me at all. “It’s because there’s a big argument over who invented them. The French lay claim,” says Geoff, “but the Belgians dispute that.”
“Belgium is a hotbed of strange museums,” he adds. “There’s a Carrot Museum in the country. It’s basically a glass case with a moving display of carrots behind. The village even has a carrot society.”
Geoff reckons the oddest venue is in Zagreb in Croatia. “The Museum of Broken Relationships contains standard things you’d expect, like love letters and gifts not returned. But it also contains an axe! The woman used it to hack her lover’s furniture into small pieces after she found he was messing around. There’s also a garden gnome, which was hurled by a Slovenian woman into her husband’s car windscreen when she discovered his infidelity. I like it. There are not just objects, but a back story supplied to each exhibit by the person who donated it.”
Geoff Tibballs’ book, The World’s 100 Weirdest Museums is available from bookshops or Amazon.