You’re more than familiar with the scene... Your feet hurt, the kids are emitting gargantuan yawns, and you could almost swear that the security guard in the corner is snoring beneath his peaked cap.
A day at the museum is not necessarily always the barrel of laughs that we would like it to be. Thankfully though, Massachusetts’ museums have a few tricks up their sleeves.
There is no denying that the Bay State is home to some of the world’s most respected and beloved art and science museums, but did you know that it also hosts a plethora of mesmerising museums that celebrate everything from the humble beer can to burnt food and ‘bad art’?
So, give that dozing security guard a shake. We’re going on a tour of Massachusetts’ wonderfully quirky museums...
So Bad It’s Good: Museum of Bad Art (MOBA)
By Kafka Liz, via Wikimedia Commons
In the basement of the Somerville Theatre and the lobby of Brookline Access Television, you can find pieces in the MOBA collection that range from the work of talented artists gone awry to the works of artists barely in control of the brush. This is the world’s only museum dedicated to the collection, preservation and exhibition of bad art in all of its ugly forms.
What’s That Smell?: The Burnt Food Museum
In the late 1980s, Deborah Henson-Conant heated and scalded hot apple cider. This monumental event was the inspiration for this Arlington museum’s opening, and Henson-Conant became its curator. While away the hours exploring exhibits like “Thrice Baked Potato” or “Why Sure, You Can Bake Quiche in the Microwave” – and rather than scolding yourself for burning your dinner, celebrate it as the museum does.
Celebrating Suds: The Beer Can Museum
In East Taunton, the Beer Can Museum houses a collection of more than 5,000 different beer cans, along with beer can folk art and crafts, beer can clothing, beer can telephones and literature. Some of the cans there date back to the mid-1930s, allowing visitors to watch the evolution of brews and their packaging.
Tiny Treasures: Middleborough Historical Museum
The Middleborough Historical Museum houses the world’s largest collection of belongings of “the world’s smallest man”. Inside are the tiny personal items of Charles Sherwood Stratton, the 19th-century general better known as Tom Thumb.
A Passion For Pipes: Plumbing Museum
Fittingly located in Watertown, the newly-restored Plumbing Museum attracts plumbers, tradesmen and curious visitors looking for something different. A unique, trade-specific take on American history juxtaposes early examples of plumbing equipment with modern fixtures and techniques.
Funny Stuff: The Fitchburg Museum Of Art
The Fitchburg Museum of Art (FAM) was built in 1925 and today it plays a vital role in the cultural life of the region. Wander through its the four buildings and you’ll stumble upon galleries of regional contemporary art, 19th century American art, American photography, African art, Greek and Roman art and Egyptian art.
No funny stuff there, you may be thinking. However, the current ‘Jeffu Warmouth: NO MORE FUNNY STUFF’ event is a mid-career retrospective featuring the puns, parody and absurdist humour of a beloved New England contemporary artist. Whether riffing on fast-food courts, Spaghetti Western cinema or concepts of monotony in our tech-savvy society, Warmouth's photographs, videos and installations wittily demonstrate the transformative nature of the mundane in our everyday lives.
Wicked Wheels: Larz Anderson Auto Museum
By Biruitorul, via Wikimedia Commons
This Brookline museum is home to America’s oldest car collection – a collection that originally spawned from a Sunday tradition started by wealthy socialites Larz and Isabel Anderson at their Massachusetts home. The Andersons opened their doors to their spectacular Carriage House on Sunday afternoons to share their collection of American and European vehicles with visitors.
The collection began with an 1899 Winton 4-hp Runabout, and continued to grow until 1948. The Andersons purchased an automobile nearly every year, acquiring a total of 32 brand new motorcars over the year – 14 of which remain in the museum’s collection, alongside horse-drawn carriages.