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9 More Interesting Museums Preserving British Heritage

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My last post highlighted seven museums dedicated to preserving some very specific aspects of British culture, like lawnmowers, Victorian toys, and witchcraft. But there are oh so many more and here are a few:

1. The Teddy Bear Museum, Dorchester, Dorset

Teddy bears tend to top lists of most collected items and, as anything with eyes en masse is creepy, I find teddy bear collections creepy. And this might be creepy. The Teddy Bear Museum bills itself as an "unmissable family museum," where every teddy "from the earliest teddies to today's TV favourites [are] all waiting to meet you." Who knows what they're about, these teddies? What do they want from us?

It gets creepier from here: The Teddy Bear Museum (and shop, of course) is actually the home of Mr. Edward Bear and his family, a collection of "human size teddy bears" who live in a quaint home on Antelope Walk in quaint Dorchester. These "human size" bears appear to be teddy bear heads affixed to mannequin bodies, and they're posed throughout their home in various attitudes of repose, industry, and domestic work. It is, the Teddy Bear House claims, "where fantasy becomes reality."

2. The Salt Museum, Northwich

Believe it or not, there has been a salt museum at Northwich for more than 100 years. The brainchild of two local salt proprietors who felt that some sort of official edifice was needed to highlight Northwich's importance as the "salt capital of the world." The standing exhibits in the museum include "Salt of the Earth," a visual exploration of the area's past as a major producer of salt, and "Made From Salt," an illuminating look at the 14,000 uses for salt.

3. The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising

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It's absolutely astounding how influenced we all are by brands, how deeply packaging and advertising imagery has become embedded in our collective psyches. This particular museum explores that consumer culture through its collection of more than 12,000 original items of advertisement and packaging dating back to the Victorian era. The collection also includes other, often overlooked kinds of ephemera, such as penny toys, magazines, royal souvenirs, and comics.

4. The Cuckooland Museum, Cheshire

It's not exactly British history so much as Black Forest, German history, but the Cuckooland Museum in Cheshire is home to a large and highly regarded collection of rare and antique cuckoo clocks, as well as five fairground organs. This museum lives somewhere between very neat and intensely maddening "“ many of the clocks are in working order, which prompts the question, what is noon like around there?

5. The Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker, Hack Green, Cheshire

Strange secrets abound in sleepy villages in England "“ secrets like a vast underground complex built to house the government should World War III break out?

Originally used as a bombing decoy site, in 1941 Hack Green became an RAF station protecting the area between Birmingham and Liverpool from aerial attack using radar detection, a very new technology at the time. After World War II, it became part of the ROTOR program "“ Hack Green's radar defense system was re-outfitted with long-range radar technology in order to better deal with the threat of Soviet conventional and now, nuclear, attack. And then: The Cold War. Hack Green became a 35,000 square foot warren of blast-proof concrete government offices and food stores, prepared to become a center of regional government in the event of World War III.

Hack Green was declassified in 1993 and now it's open to the public (likely the non-claustrophobic public): Explore the labyrinthine passageways and corridors, visit the decontamination facilities, be a secret agent on the trail of a Soviet Spy, and finish up your visit with a trip to the Bunker Bistro for "survival rations."

6. Porthcurno Telegraph Museum

Another underground museum, the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum is dedicated to preserving, well, the history of the telegraph in England. Back in the day, the Porthcurno telegraph station was the world's most important telegraph station, connected to more than 100,000 miles of cable to other such stations around the globe. The museum reveals the actually fascinating history of the transoceanic cables, including the ships that not only laid the cables, but which also raised them back up off the sea floor when they required repair, as well as exactly how telegraphs worked.

The telegraph station was moved underground in 1941, to protect it against enemy attack during World War II.

7. Cars of the Stars Museum, Keswick, Cumbria

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Consider it a bit like the Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, but for cars. In 1989, car enthusiast, dentist, and artist Peter Nelson opened the Cars of the Stars Museum, a motorcar museum featuring only cars that have appeared in films and television shows. Each car is displayed in its own set, recreating the film or show that it appeared in "“ so, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (both the "hovercraft" version and the main road car) is presented against a painted backdrop of Bavarian mountains. The museum owns some serious cars from some seriously nostalgic movies and shows: several Batmobiles, including the original; the Munsters' Koach car from the television show; the Flintstones' car from the atrocious 1995 live-action film; a flux-capacitor equipped DeLorean that was used to promote the third Back to the Future movie; Mad Max's post-apocalyptic muscle car; Robocop's police car, the original used in all three movies; and even a Herbie the Lovebug.

8. The Bond Museum, Keswick, Cumbria

Britain takes Bond very seriously. As arguably the most macho and coolest export ever from a country often dogged by bumbling leading men (Hugh Grant, anyone?), James Bond is an international icon and a source of some major pride. So it makes absolute sense that there should be a museum dedicated to the man, the myth, the legend.

Peter Nelson, the same man behind the Cars of the Stars Museum, spent hundreds of thousands of pounds over 20 years to finally open the Bond Museum this April. The only one of its kind, the museum houses some of the most iconic pieces of Bond movie memorabilia: Starting with the cars, there's the Diamonds Are Forever Mustang, the Aston Martin V8 Volante used by Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights, and the Lotus Esprit S1 used in The Spy Who Loved Me "“ both the car and the submarine-car. Then there's the Russian T55 battle tank used in the St. Petersburg chase scene in GoldenEye, the Fairey Huntress boat used in From Russia With Love, the Bede Aerostar mini jet from Octopussy, the actual golden gun from The Man With the Golden Gun, and the actual Q Boat from The World is Not Enough.

And for visitors, the museum is open "007 days a week."

9. The Fan Museum, Greenwich, London

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Fan Museum is the only museum in the world dedicated to every aspect of fans and fan making. The museum, housed in two nearly 300-year-old historic homes in beautiful Greenwich, features more than 3500 fans, mostly antique, but spanning the centuries from the 11th century to present day. That a museum devoted to fans exists at all is to say that fans, of course, weren't just about keeping cool. Throughout the ages, fans have had ceremonial use, been part of the mythic landscape of gods and goddesses, and, as an art form, date back at least 3000 years. Victorian women used their fans to signal some un-Victorian sentiments; for example, a half-open fan pressed to the lips meant, "You may kiss me," while rapidly opening and closing a fan meant, "You're a jerk." Fans in the 18th century featured everything from instructions on how to play whist to details of Lord Nelson's victory on the Nile.

And these are all things I learned at the Fan Museum.

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13 Fantastic Museums You Can Visit for Free on Saturday
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On Saturday, September 23, museums and cultural institutions across the United States will open their doors to the public for free, as part of Smithsonian magazine’s annual Museum Day Live! event. Hundreds of museums are set to participate, ranging from world-famous institutions in major cities to tiny, local museums in small towns. While the full list of museums can be viewed, and tickets can be reserved, on the Smithsonian website, we’ve collected a small selection of the fantastic museums you can visit for free this Saturday.

1. NEWSEUM // WASHINGTON, D.C.

The Newseum in Washington, D.C. is an entire museum dedicated to the First Amendment. Celebrating freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition, the museum features exhibits on civil rights, the Berlin Wall, and the history of news media in America. Their latest special exhibitions take a look back at the event of September 11, 2001 and go inside the FBI's crime-fighting tactics.

2. INTREPID SEA, AIR & SPACE MUSEUM // NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK

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New York's Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum doesn’t just showcase America’s military and maritime history—it is a piece of that history. The museum itself is one of the Essex-class aircraft carriers built by the United States Navy during World War II. Visitors can explore its massive deck and interior, and view historic airplanes, a real World War II submarine, and a range of interactive exhibits. Normally, a ticket will set you back a whopping $33 (or $19 for New York City residents), but on Saturday, general admission is free with a Museum Day Live! ticket.

3. AUTRY MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN WEST // LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

Perfect for art lovers, history buffs, and cinephiles alike, the Autry Museum of the American West (named for legendary singing cowboy Gene Autry) offers up an eclectic mix of art, historical artifacts from the real American West, and Western film memorabilia and props.

4. MUSEUM OF ARTS AND SCIENCES // DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

A massive art, science, and history museum located on a 90-acre nature preserve, the Museum of Arts and Sciences features the largest collection of Florida art anywhere in the world, as well as the largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia in all of Florida. Its diverse exhibits are alternately awe-inspiring, informative, and quirky, ranging from an exploration of 2000 years of sculpture art to an exhibition of 19th and 20th century advertising posters.

5. INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE HORSE AT THE KENTUCKY HORSE PARK // LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY

The International Museum of the Horse explores the history of—you guessed it!—the horse. That might sound like a narrow scope, but the museum doesn’t just display horse racing artifacts or teach you about modern horse breeds. Instead, it endeavors to tackle the 50-million-year evolution of the horse and its relationship with humans from ancient times to modern times.

6. THE PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM // CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

Pete LaMotte, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The 160-year-old Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is pulling out all the stops for this year’s Museum Day Live! In addition to their vast exhibits of animal specimens and cultural artifacts, the museum will be hosting a live animal feeding and a butterfly release throughout the day.

7. OGDEN MUSEUM OF SOUTHERN ART // NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art aims to teach visitors about the rich culture and diverse visual arts of the American South. Right now, visitors can view a collection of William Eggleston's photographs and check out the museum's 10th annual invitational exhibition of ceramic teacups and teapots.

8. BALTIMORE MUSEUM OF INDUSTRY // BALTIMORE, MARYLAND

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Located in a 19th century oyster cannery on the Baltimore waterfront, the Baltimore Museum of Industry tells the story of American manufacturing from garment making to video game design. Visitors this weekend can meet video game designers and create custom games at the museum’s interactive “Video Game Wizards” exhibit.

9. SYLVAN HEIGHTS BIRD PARK // SCOTLAND NECK, NORTH CAROLINA

You can meet 2000 birds from around the world this weekend at the 18-acre Sylvan Heights Bird Park. Visitors to the massive garden can walk through aviaries displaying birds from every continent except Antarctica, including ducks, geese, swans, and exotic birds from all over the world.

10. DELTA BLUES MUSEUM // CLARKSDALE, MISSISSIPPI

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Visitors to the Delta Blues Museum can learn about the unique American musical art form in “the land where blues began,” with audiovisual exhibits centered on blues and rock legend Don Nix, as well as Paramount Records illustrator Anthony Mostrom.

11. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NUCLEAR SCIENCE & HISTORY // ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO

America’s only congressionally chartered museum dedicated to the story of the Atomic Age, the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History features exhibits on everything from nuclear medicine to representations of atomic power in pop culture. Adult visitors to the museum will delight in its impressively nuanced take on nuclear technology, while kids will love the museum’s outdoor airplane exhibit and hands-on science activities at Little Albert’s Lab.

12. MUSEUM OF THE MOUNTAIN MAN // PINEDALE, WYOMING

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Dedicated to the mountain men who explored and settled Wyoming in the 19th century, the Museum of the Mountain Man brings American folklore and legends to life. The museum features exhibits on the Rocky Mountain fur trade and tells the story of American folk legend and famed mountain man Hugh Glass (the man Leonardo DiCaprio won an Oscar playing in 2015's The Revenant).

13. BESH BA GOWAH ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK AND MUSEUM // GLOBE, ARIZONA

Arizona’s Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum lets visitors connect with history firsthand. The museum is home to the ruins and artifacts of the Salado Indians who inhabited Arizona from the 13th century through the 15th century, and even lets visitors wander through an 800-year-old Salado pueblo.

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12 Secrets of Sephora Employees
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With more than 2000 stores in 33 countries, Sephora has arguably become the ultimate destination for all things beauty-related. Founded in France in 1970, the cosmetics giant sells a variety of makeup, nail polish, perfume, and skincare products, but it’s not your average beauty store. The shops offer customers an interactive experience, with beauty advice and free samples galore. We got the skinny on what it’s like to work there—from the special vocabulary they use to why they’re always happy to give out samples.

1. THEY HAVE THEIR OWN LINGO.

Sephora employees use a variety of terms to refer to themselves, their wardrobe, and where they work. Employees who interact with customers on the sales floor (a.k.a. the stage) are dubbed cast members, and managers are called directors. Continuing the theatrical theme, Sephora employees refer to their uniforms as costumes and call the back area of the store the backstage. There's also a particular term they use to describe all the free loot they get—gratis.

2. WEARING MAKEUP IS A JOB REQUIREMENT.

A Sephora employee in uniform applies eyeshadow to another woman seated in a chair
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

Sephora employees sometimes jokingly refer to their costumes’ futuristic style—black dresses with red stripes or black separates with red accents—as Star Trek attire. But besides donning Trek-y garb, Sephora employees must also wear fragrance and a full face of makeup. “We had a minimum amount that we had to wear every day, and we got written up if we didn’t wear it,” writes Garnetstar28, a former color and fragrance expert at Sephora, on Reddit. “In the beginning it was fun, but when I started working the opening shift I really started to hate having to put that much makeup on at 6 in the morning."

While most employees must wear eyeliner, eye shadow, mascara, foundation, blush, and lipstick, some of them can get away with wearing less makeup, depending on their area of specialty and the location of the store. And although they don’t necessarily need to wear products sold at Sephora, management often encourages employees to do so because many customers ask cast members about the products they personally use.

3. THEY MIGHT NEVER HAVE TO BUY THEIR OWN MAKEUP …

Reps from various beauty brands regularly visit Sephora stores to educate employees about their new products and how to use them. In these trainings, which typically occur a few times a week, Sephora workers may receive free products (in full, half, or sample sizes) to try. That can add up quickly, with some employees estimating that they’ve accumulated thousands of dollars worth of products. “I will most likely never have to buy mascara ever again,” writes Kaitierehh, a Sephora Color Lead (the manager of a store’s color cosmetics section), on Reddit.

4. … BUT IF THEY DO, THEY GET HEFTY DISCOUNTS.

A line of women pour over a new Sephora display of makeup in Australia
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If Sephora employees want a specific product that’s missing from their gratis goodies, they can always purchase it from their employer—at a steep discount. Store policies vary, but most employees enjoy a 20 percent discount for in-store and online products. During the winter holidays, this discount increases to 30 percent, and products from Sephora’s own collection are always available for a 40 percent discount. Additionally, Sephora employees who work at stores inside J.C. Penney (Sephora has a partnership with the department store chain) enjoy a 20 to 30 percent discount on J.C. Penney products. Not a bad deal.

5. THEY CAN WORK THEIR WAY UP FROM CASHIER TO SKINCARE PHD.

At Sephora, most new hires—who don’t need to have any makeup application experience—start at the bottom, working as cashiers or stocking the shelves overnight. But opportunities for growth abound. “Once you feel comfortable you can let your managers know you want ‘to go through build’ where you will learn about all the different ‘worlds’ the store has to offer,” a Sephora employee going by littleboots writes on Reddit. “Eventually you will be tested, and if you pass, you will have your very own brush belt.”

Sephora employees go through plenty of training, from the Science of Sephora (a curriculum covering makeup application and customer service) to hands-on learning from brand reps. “Sephora is amazing about education,” says Kim Carpluk, a Senior Artist and Class Facilitator at one of the company's New York City locations. “I’ve grown so much as an artist in just three years with the company,” she tells Mental Floss.

Cast members who complete additional training (beyond Science of Sephora) are eligible to earn a Skincare PhD, a senior title bestowed upon employees who have comprehensive knowledge and serve as personal beauty advisors to customers. Additionally, a select few become part of the Sephora Pro team, traveling the country to demonstrate makeup application techniques and represent the company on the brand’s social media channels.

6. THEY WISH MORE PEOPLE WOULD PRACTICE GOOD HYGIENE.

A display of Mar Jacobs makeup a a Sephora store in Australia
Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

The various testers around the store let customers dab on concealer, experiment with a new shade of gloss, or test a bold eye shadow. Although Sephora employees work hard to monitor and sanitize the testing stations, they can’t completely control what customers do. “I’ve seen people with cold sores, people with really nasty chapped lips, and people who were visibly sick using lipsticks and glosses on their mouths,” Garnetstar28 says. Besides the gross factor, contaminated makeup brushes, applicators, and wands can harbor bacteria (including E. coli) and spread infections. To minimize the risk, Sephora employees use alcohol-based sanitizers and encourage customers to use disposable applicators.

7. THEY AREN’T PRESSURED TO MAKE COMMISSIONS.

Unlike salespeople at other beauty retailers, Sephora employees don’t work off commission—so they feel free to give customers their unbiased opinions about products. “We just really care. The reason a lot of us work for Sephora is because we don’t have to work off commission,” Carpluk says. “We’re there to support each other and make our clients feel beautiful and happy, and suggest what’s right for them based on their particular concerns.”

To encourage cast members to be positive and friendly (without the motivation of commissions), Sephora offers customers online surveys that allow them to rate their experience at a store. Managers may also reward cast members who meet hourly sales goals (selling more than $100 worth of products in the next hour, for example) with free beauty products. “If we do extra well a manager might randomly let you choose extra gratis,” littleboots reveals.

8. THEY'RE NOT ALL WOMEN.

5 Sephora employees, 2 of them male, pose in front of a display in a Santa Monica store
Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images

While many of Sephora’s employees (and customers) are women, you can still find plenty of men in the store. “I have three beautiful amazing super talented drag queens on my artistry team," Kaitierehh says. “At one of my previous stores, I even had two straight boys on my cast.” At Carpluk’s store in New York City, the employee ratio is almost 50/50 males to females. “We have a lot of men that work with us,” she says. “We even have a lot of male clients come in. I recently did a small makeover for an actor—I walked him through how to use foundation and concealer.”

9. THEY’RE HAPPY TO GIVE YOU FREE SAMPLES …

Sephora is generous when it comes to free samples, and employees fully embrace the store’s bighearted policy. “I love to give out samples,” Carpluk says. “We’re there to help and to give out as many [samples] as possible. If you’re having trouble choosing between two foundations, we want you to take them home and try it out.” Typically, employees stick to giving three samples to each customer, but some are happy to give even more. “Anything we can squeeze into a container is the easiest—think foundation, primer, skin care,” littleboots says. “We can make a sad attempt to scrape out lip gloss or cut off a piece of lipstick too, it’s just not as effective.”

10. … BUT THE STORE’S GENEROUS RETURN POLICY CAN IRRITATE THEM.

A selection of makeup on display at a Sephora store in Beverly Hills, California
Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

Sephora’s return policy lets customers return anything (even "gently used" products) up to 60 days after buying it for a full refund, and customers who return items without a receipt get full store credit. While customers love the flexibility of trying products and returning them, some Sephora employees get frustrated when customers abuse the return policy. “I’ve seen entire articles written about how to take advantage of Sephora’s generous return policy by returning half used products and shades when the trends change and you get tired of them,” writes Ivy Boyd, who worked her way up at Sephora from a Product Consultant to Senior Education Consultant. “It infuriates me, to be honest, and is a very entitled attitude. When items are returned used, they are damaged out. They are destroyed. They go to complete waste.”

11. THEY MIGHT NOT WEAR MAKEUP WHEN THEY’RE OFF THE CLOCK.

Sephora employees are passionate about makeup, but many of them choose to go barefaced on their days off. Besides saving time by skipping makeup, they can give their skin and pores much needed time to “breathe” without being smothered in products. Not all employees forego makeup on their days off, though. “Every single day of my entire existence I wear makeup,” Carpluk admits.

12. THEY LOVE MAKING PEOPLE FEEL CONFIDENT.

A male Sephora employee applies powder to a seated woman holding a mirror and smiling at her reflection
Steve Jennings/Getty Images

Besides scoring free products and getting paid to work with makeup, Sephora employees love making people feel confident and beautiful. Whether they help a customer with acne find a good concealer or boost the self-confidence of someone with the right mascara, Sephora employees know the importance of self-image and the power of makeup to transform. “That’s actually why I feel happy going to work ever day,” Carpluk says. “A lot of women haven’t heard how beautiful their skin is, or how sparkly their eyes are, or that their lips are their best feature. I try to compliment my clients as much as possible throughout the service to let them know how gorgeous they are.”

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