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8 Oddly Specific Museums Preserving Our History

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1. The Barbed Wire Museum

The Barbed Wire Museum in McLean, Texas, comes complete with a reading list for those who want to know more about the history of this apparently fascinating fencing. Also known as the "Devil's Rope," it came into being by way of a mutated coffee bean grinder (which made the barbs) and a hand-cranked grindstone device (that twisted the wires together) ... just like Mama used to make, right?

2. The Frank and Jane Cement Brick Museum

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The Frank and Jane Cement Brick Museum in New York holds archives of, well, a sundry of bricks, photos of which are available online. There appears to be a great deal of interesting history involved with brick collecting. For instance, as the site tells us, "Perhaps the most famous of the [message] bricks are the "DON'T SPIT ON THE SIDEWALK" warnings emblazoned on bricks produced in Kansas as part of Dr. Samuel J. Crumbine's early 20th Century campaign to limit the spread of tuberculosis."

3. The Washington Banana Museum

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The Washington Banana Museum is full of fun banana factoids about our potassium-filled pals such as, "an average American eats 26 pounds of bananas every year - that's about 150 bananas!" Also, bananas were introduced to the American public at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, the same expo that introduced the telephone. Bananas are still used to impersonate telephones in certain brands of comedy, so perhaps this connection is not so arbitrary ...

4. The Fan Museum

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As a Southerner, I can appreciate the purpose and artistry of the personal fan, a help from the heat I still use on occasion. From Greenwich, London, the Fan Museum highlights some of the fan's most beautiful designs, and proves they can be used as more than a sweat swatter. Though as my fourth-grade teacher Mrs. McCutcheon always used to remind us, "Horses sweat, gentlemen perspire, and ladies merely feel the heat."

5. Museum of Questionable Medical Devices

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My favorite, the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices from St. Paul, Minnesota, makes me shiver. You can find many (in)famous bloodletting devices, violet ray generators, the truly creepy Battle Creek Vibratory Chair used the early 1900s, and the Foot Operated Breast Enlarger (pictured above).

6. The Museum of Bad Art

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Founded in 1993, The Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) in Boston is "a community-based, private institution dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all its forms and in all its glory." The art featured on the site is not of the middle-school drivel variety; rather, the pieces seem to be the product of people such as myself who think that if they light candles and play Mozart loudly, the talent will come. It doesn't, but the results are fun.

7. Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast and Museum

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For those intrigued by the macabre children's rhyme "Lizzie Borden took an axe/Gave her mother 40 whacks/ When she saw what she had done/ Gave her father 41," a visitation to the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast and Museum in Fall River, Massachusetts, may be in order. Here on display at the scene of the crime are the skulls of her parents, as well as the rusted murder weapon (used in evidence for the Victorian trial at which Lizzie was ultimately acquitted). On a personal note, I would not recommend anyone buy the Hatchet Earrings on sale in the gift shop for Mother's Day. Just saying.

8. Burlingame Museum of PEZ Memorabilia

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On the West Coast lies the Burlingame Museum of PEZ Memorabilia, home of the World's Largest PEZ dispenser and a whole bunch more. Most everyone is familiar with PEZ, a pretty ubiquitous pop culture touchstone, but did you know that PEZ was originally marketed as an adult mint for people trying to quit smoking? If you can't get enough PEZ, you can sign up for the site's monthly newsletter.

What are some odd museums you've been to or stumbled upon online?

Allison Keene is our newest intern. (Well, she's tied.) You can read more about her right here.

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla Ice Cream?
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While you’re browsing the ice cream aisle, you may find yourself wondering, “What’s so French about French vanilla?” The name may sound a little fancier than just plain ol’ “vanilla,” but it has nothing to do with the origin of the vanilla itself. (Vanilla is a tropical plant that grows near the equator.)

The difference comes down to eggs, as The Kitchn explains. You may have already noticed that French vanilla ice cream tends to have a slightly yellow coloring, while plain vanilla ice cream is more white. That’s because the base of French vanilla ice cream has egg yolks added to it.

The eggs give French vanilla ice cream both a smoother consistency and that subtle yellow color. The taste is a little richer and a little more complex than a regular vanilla, which is made with just milk and cream and is sometimes called “Philadelphia-style vanilla” ice cream.

In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered in 2010—when Baskin-Robbins decided to eliminate French Vanilla from its ice cream lineup—ice cream industry consultant Bruce Tharp noted that French vanilla ice cream may date back to at least colonial times, when Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both used ice cream recipes that included egg yolks.

Jefferson likely acquired his taste for ice cream during the time he spent in France, and served it to his White House guests several times. His family’s ice cream recipe—which calls for six egg yolks per quart of cream—seems to have originated with his French butler.

But everyone already knew to trust the French with their dairy products, right?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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science
Belly Flop Physics 101: The Science Behind the Sting
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Belly flops are the least-dignified—yet most painful—way of making a serious splash at the pool. Rarely do they result in serious physical injury, but if you’re wondering why an elegant swan dive feels better for your body than falling stomach-first into the water, you can learn the laws of physics that turn your soft torso a tender pink by watching the SciShow’s video below.

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