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15 Hilariously Terrible Reviews of Wonderful Museums

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It’s impossible to please everyone. Even the finest institutions struggle to make every guest happy—just look at the reviews complaining of long lines, large crowds, and curt security guards on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. But the toughest customers to leave reviews seem to have missed the point of the places they've visited entirely.

1. “i hate art, i hate tour guides, and i hate them for takin down the rocky statue.”

Dali. Degas. Manet. Monet. All of these artists are present at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. But the best piece of art at the museum, according to this Yelp reviewer, was the Rocky statue, which was moved from the top of the museum steps to the bottom in 2006. (Sic from here on out.) “i hate them for takin down the rocky statue,” she wrote. “I would reccommend the place if u like sober tour guides and borin naked art sculptures... trust me that all there is…”

2. “I expected sights from Night at the Museum.”

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City isn’t just an attraction—it’s also a scientific institution doing important research. Though the vast majority of its 33 million specimens aren't on display, visitors can still see dinosaur bones, rare gems, large meteors, and animals (that are indeed very real!) preserved just as they were in life, in dioramas that mimic the habitats where they lived.

But despite all that excellent and awe-inspiring stuff, this Yelp reviewer still came away disappointed. “I expected sights from Night at the Museum, but realized only the outside is the same,” she wrote in her one-star review, concluding that the museum was “not worth the money or time,” a statement many visitors to AMNH probably disagree with.

3. “It's 2015 GET SPLASH GUARDS!!!!!”

People go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City to see works by the likes of August Renoir and Mary Cassat, view actual Ancient Egyptian temples, and check out medieval armor—not to hang out in the bathroom. Still, the terrible men's room experience was what one Yelp reviewer took away from his time at the Met:

First of all most people don't even know that you can get in paying a penny and second off all.. No splash guards in the bathroom?? I rather pay full 25 dollars and get splash guards..Like really in a museum so big and so fancy you couldn't opt out for splash guards??

If the rest of his review is any indication, he wasn’t a fan of any exhibits at the museum, either. “Get the splash guards maybe go up to a 2 star review,” he wrote.

4. “The stuff here can probably be seen anywhere. Like any Ripley's Believe It Or Not worth its salt.”

Jimmy Emerson, DVM, Flickr // CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

The original collection that makes up Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum of Medical Oddities was donated by Thomas Dent Mutter, a surgeon who pioneered plastic surgery for burn victims, to the Philadelphia College of Physicians in 1858. In addition to a number of wax figures (many collected by Mutter himself), the museum includes the conjoined livers of Chang and Eng Bunker, pieces of Einstein’s brain, and the tallest skeleton on exhibit in North America. It was all very dull to this “super, super easy to please” Yelp reviewer, who wrote that “The stuff here can probably be seen anywhere. Like any Ripley's Believe It Or Not worth its salt.” (Probably not, actually.)

A reviewer on TripAdvisor was similarly underwhelmed, complaining that “This museum is basically two floors of skulls, more skulls, and fetuses in jars ... To appreciate the things this place offers, you need to have an interest in the medical field … I thought I was going to see cool things—like a fork stuck in an esophagus and things like that.” Yes, a woman whose body became encased in soap in its grave totally pales in comparison to a fork stuck in an esophagus.

5. “There is nothing particularly unique or fascinating and the rooms ... are largely unimpressive.”

There’s a lot you could say about Chateau Versailles, the palace away from palace of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. That its many opulent rooms are unimpressive probably isn’t one of them, but this TripAdvisor reviewer would beg to differ: “The building is impressive but inside less so,” the hall of mirrors being the one exception. Would I recommend this attraction. If you have never visited a royal residence with extensive grounds or are particularly interested in French royal history then yes. But if you have been to other sites such as those in Bavaria or Britain, then Versailles has nothing to add.”

6. “I feel like if I'm gonna pay $6 to subject myself to an extended Dr Pepper commercial, I should at least get a free Dr Pepper.”

Jimmy Emerson, DVM, Flickr // CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

It’s a bit of a stretch to call the Waco, Texas-based museum devoted to the history of Dr Pepper “an extended Dr Pepper commercial,” but this Yelp reviewer has a point about the free soda:

Just one can, that's all I'm asking.  Hell, when you get a free tour of the big breweries (Miller, Budweiser, etc.) you get several free beers (not to mention that those tours are also really interesting, which the Dr Pepper Museum is NOT).  I realize the Dr Pepper Museum isn't the same as a factory tour, and I wasn't really expecting it to be, but for $6 I expect more than a couple rooms full of old ads and bottles, you know?  To be precise, I expect a couple rooms full of old ads and bottles AND a free Dr Pepper.

7. “Would be great for a travelling roadshow exhibit.”

Reading just a few Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews about museums will yield plenty of “it’s no Smithsonian” comments—but not even the Smithsonian is immune to lackluster reviews. Take, for example, this two-star review of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. “Not much going on here,” the author wrote. “Could be much better utilized. It's cool inside, though! It would be great for a travelling roadshow exhibit.”

8. “FREE but not all that.”

Alex Priomos, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Meanwhile, this Yelp reviewer gave the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History three stars, writing it “was just ok. FREE but not all that,” before commenting on specific exhibits:

O. Orkin Insect Zoo - Not open, said a friend that works there. Bogus.

African Elephant - huge and just a big photo thing.

Dinosaur Hall - just ok

Hope Diamond - just ok.

OK! 

9. “Barely an equine portrait in sight.”

Visitors to London’s National Gallery can check out paintings from all the greats, including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Vermeer, and Cezanne, among many others. But this TripAdvisor reviewer and horse enthusiast still wasn’t satisfied. “Piff ! (Full of pictures of dead people),” the author wrote. “Oh how my heart sank upon entry, barely an equine portrait in sight, not even red rum and aldaniti escaped me completely.”

10. “needs real monkeys and less airplanes.”

Tim Evanson, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Animals went to the final frontier long before man did, which might be why this TripAdvisor reviewer expected to see monkeys at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, and went there instead of visiting a zoo. “I went to this expecting monkeys and I came short-handed,” he wrote. “There were only like one fake monkey. Unbelievable.”

11. “Unless you are a fan of Van Gogh give this a miss.”


Zutaten, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND-2.0

Visitors to Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum—which houses the largest collection of the painter's works—can see classics like Sunflowers and The Bedroom and explore exhibits where modern artists respond to the painter. But after waiting in line for half an hour to get into the museum, this TripAdvisor reviewer was unimpressed. “Unless you are a fan of Van Gogh give this a miss,” the author wrote. “Van Gogh is ok if you like art that could have been done by a child.” It’s not entirely clear why someone who isn’t a Van Gogh fan would go to a Van Gogh museum, and it’s pretty hard to imagine a kid painting The Potato Eaters, but hey, you can’t win 'em all.

12. “If you don't have kids, and don't particularly enjoy being jostled by hundreds of babies, toddlers, and kindergartners ... stay far away!”


Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism, Flickr // CC BY ND-2.0

Certainly, an overabundance of children has featured in many a Yelp or TripAdvisor complaint. But it’s a little odd to complain when the place being overrun with kids is … the Boston Children’s Museum. That didn’t stop this Yelp reviewer from bringing it up, though. “The place is teeming with cranky parents and whiny children and there seems to be no limit to the amount of people the museum will admit,” the author wrote. “Okay, I guess the exhibits are good, but I could not wait to get the hell out of that nightmare! Never again.”

13. “One of the worst collections of ‘art’ I have ever seen—could have done better myself.”

LWYang, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Paris’s Musee de l’Orangerie is home to some of Monet’s water lilies paintings (he painted as many as 250 canvases), which are beloved by most—but not this TripAdvisor reviewer, who found the paintings at l’Orangerie so unimpressive that she figured she could do a better job. “Not sure why the French rave about Monet's lilies (or most of the other paintings) and really didn't get why people were queueing to get in,” she wrote. “Would rather stick pins in my eyes than visit again.”

14. “A collection of crap ripped off by this rich woman as she scoured the world.”

jess_melanson, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

According to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum website, its namesake patron—who established the museum with a $1 million endowment upon her death in 1924—was a friend and supporter of artists, a fan of sports, and “the visionary creator of what remains one of the most remarkable and intimate collections of art in the world today.” But this Yelp reviewer doesn’t think so highly of Gardner’s collection or the Boston-based museum named for her (which was also the site of one of the greatest unsolved art heists of all time). “OMG. What is everyone so excited about?” he wrote, continuing,

I found the museum to be dark, hot, congested, oppressive, more like the inside of a tacky second hand store than a serious museum. Particularly on the first floor every available slice of wall space was covered, in no understandable order, with a collection of crap ripped off by this rich woman as she scoured the world.  

15. “A very sad little place.”

California Academy of Sciences, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND-2.0

The California Academy of Sciences, located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, has a four-story rainforest, an aquarium and planetarium, a gorgeous green roof, and an albino alligator named Claude—something to delight and amaze nearly everyone. Unless you’re this TripAdvisor reviewer, who called the museum (sic throughout) “a trap for tourists visiting to san francisco. The planitorium was just ok. The rainforstwas a joke. And the earthquake simulation was not good enough.” Only the aquarium was cool enough for this reviewer, who noted that paying $35 just for that was a waste of money. And it wasn't even that cool anyway! “Montrey has a much much better acquirium, the author wrote. San francisco has so much to offer, i would easliy skip this place and the rest of SF.”

All images courtesy of iStock unless otherwise noted.

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5 Killer Pieces of Rock History Up for Auction Now (Including Prince’s Guitar)
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Karrah Kobus/NPG Records via Getty Images

If you’ve ever wanted to own a piece of rock history, now is the time. A whole host of cool music memorabilia from the 20th century is going up for sale through Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles as part of its “Icons and Idols” sale. If you’ve got the dough, you can nab everything from leather chairs from Graceland to a shirt worn by Jimi Hendrix to never-before-available prints that Joni Mitchell signed and gave to her friends. Here are five highlights from the auction:

1. ELVIS’S NUNCHUCKS

Elvis’s nunchucks
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Elvis’s karate skills sometimes get a bad rap, but the King earned his first black belt in 1960, and went on to become a seventh-degree black belt before opening his own studio in 1974. You can cherish a piece of his martial arts legacy in the form of his nunchaku. One was broken during his training, but the other is still in ready-to-use shape. (But please don’t use it.) It seems Elvis wasn’t super convinced of his own karate skills, though, because he also supposedly carried a police baton (which you can also buy) for his personal protection.

2. PRINCE’S GUITAR

A blue guitar used by Prince
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

Prince’s blue Cloud guitar, estimated to be worth between $60,000 and $80,000, appeared on stage with him in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The custom guitar was made just for Prince by Cloud’s luthier (as in, guitar maker) Andy Beech. The artist first sold it at a 1994 auction to benefit relief efforts for the L.A. area’s devastating Northridge earthquake.

3. KURT COBAIN’S CHEERLEADER OUTFIT

Kurt Cobain wearing a cheerleader outfit in the pages of Rolling Stone
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

The Nirvana frontman wore the bright-yellow cheerleader’s uniform from his alma mater, J.M. Weatherwax High School in Aberdeen, Washington, during a photo shoot for a January 1994 issue of Rolling Stone, released just a few months before his death.

4. MICHAEL JACKSON’S WHITE GLOVE

A white glove covered in rhinestones
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

A young Michael Jackson wore this bejeweled right-hand glove on his 1981 Triumph Tour, one of the first of many single gloves he would don over the course of his career. Unlike later incarnations, this one isn’t a custom-made glove with hand-sewn crystals, but a regular glove topped with a layer of rhinestones cut into the shape of the glove and sewn on top.

The auction house is also selling a pair of jeans the star wore to his 2003 birthday party, as well as other clothes he wore for music videos and performances.

5. WOOD FROM ABBEY ROAD STUDIOS

A piece of wood in a frame under a picture of The Beatles
Courtesy Julien's Auctions

You can’t walk the halls of Abbey Road Studios, but you can pretend. First sold in 1986, the piece of wood in this frame reportedly came from Studio Two, a recording space that hosted not only The Beatles (pictured), but Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, and others.

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5 Dubious Historical Antidotes for Poison (and What Actually Works)
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An artificial bezoar stone from Goa, India
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

When it comes to their health, humans will believe just about anything. In this extract from the new book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything, authors Lydia Kang, MD, and Nate Pedersen discuss some of the more questionable ways people once tried to protect themselves from poison—whether or not the methods actually worked.

Poison is everywhere. Naturally or unnaturally, it can be in the soil (arsenic), in the air (carbon monoxide), in your drinks (lead), and in your food (cyanide). With so much danger around, it’s no wonder humans have obsessed over finding a universal antidote—the one thing that could save us from all toxins. Imagine you’re a medieval prince about to inherit the throne. Chances are, there are a lot of power-hungry wannabes waiting in the wings. A little arsenic or hemlock might be your best friend or your worst nightmare. Just in case, best have an antidote on standby.

For millennia, a certain amount of magical thinking was employed when arming oneself against poison because science was inconveniently slow to catch up. So grab your handy unicorn horn and a bezoar, and let’s take a look.

1. BEZOARS

Bezoars have been used for centuries as antidotes to poisons. A bezoar is solid mass of undigested food, plant fibers, or hair found in the digestive tracts of animals, including deer, porcupines, fish, and, yes, humans. Anyone with a cat is familiar with the less-cool feline version: hairballs.

Bezoars and other stone-like items created by animals often had a good story behind them. Legends told of deer that would eat poisonous snakes and become immune or cry tears that solidified into poison-curing stones. First-century Arabic author al-Birumi claimed bezoars could protect against one poison called “the snot of Satan,” which we hope never ever to encounter. By the 12th century, when Europe became plagued with, uh, plagues, the bezoar crept into pharmacopeias as panaceas and alexipharmics (poison antidotes).

Bezoars were a seductive notion for the rich and royal, who were at risk of assassination. The stones were often enclosed in bejeweled gold for display or worn as amulets. Indian bezoars, in particular, were sought for life-threatening fevers, poisonous bites, bleeding, jaundice, and melancholy. Consumers were also known to scrape off a bit of bezoar and add it to their drinks for heart health and kidney stones. These tonics were sometimes adulterated with toxic mercury or antimony, which caused vomiting and diarrhea, making buyers think they were effective.

But were they? One team of researchers soaked bezoars in an arsenic-laced solution and found that the stones absorbed the arsenic or that the poison was neutralized. Hard to say if it worked well enough to cure a fatal dose. Ambroise Paré, one of the preeminent French physicians of the 16th century, was also a doubter. The king’s cook, who’d been stealing silver, was given the choice between hanging or being Paré’s lab rat. He chose the latter. After the cook consumed poison, Paré looked on as a bezoar was stuffed down his throat. Six hours later, he died wracked with pain. Perhaps he chose ... poorly?

2. MITHRIDATES

This antidote was named after Mithridates VI, the king of Pontus and Armenia Minor. Born in 134 BCE, he pretty much invented the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” by consuming poisons daily to prevent his own assassination. His royal home was stocked with stingray spines, toxic mushrooms, scorpions, mineral poisons, and a poisonous plant–filled garden. He was so unpoisonable that after his son took over his kingdom and he faced execution, he couldn’t even commit suicide by poison! He begged a guard to stab him to death. (It worked.)

Though the king’s actual recipe for the antidote is nowhere to be found, versions began to circulate after his death, and they became synonymous with the king himself. Compounds with lengthy and expensive ingredient lists prevailed, including iris, cardamom, anise, frankincense, myrrh, ginger, and saffron. In the first century, Pliny the Elder snarkily remarked, “The Mithridatic antidote is composed of fifty-four ingredients ... Which of the gods, in the name of Truth, fixed these absurd proportions? ... It is plainly a showy parade of the art, and a colossal boast of science.”

Showy or not, people would take the extensive mix of herbs, pound them together with honey, and eat a nut-sized portion to cure themselves. At least it endowed them with expensive-smelling breath.

3. HORNS

An apothecary shop sign in the shape of a unicorn
An ivory pharmacy sign in the shape of a unicorn's head
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Unicorn horns have been considered a part of antidote legend since the mythical beast galloped into literature around 300 BCE. For centuries afterward, real earthly beasts would sacrifice their lives and their horns to slake our thirst for the miraculous, nonexistent animal, including rhinoceroses, narwhals, and oryx. Even fossilized ammonites were used. It was believed that drinking vessels made of such horns might neutralize poisons, and wounds could be cured by holding them close by. In the 16th century, Mary, Queen of Scots reportedly used a unicorn horn to protect her from poisoning. Too bad it didn’t prevent her beheading.

4. PEARLS

Pearls have long been thought to be powerful antidotes. A beautiful, rare gem created by the homely oyster, a pearl is born out of annoyance (the mollusk secretes iridescent nacre to cover an irritant, like a parasite or grain of sand). Pretty as they are, they’re about as useful as the chalky antacid tablets on your bedside table; both are chiefly made of calcium carbonate. Good for a stomachache after some spicy food, but not exactly miraculous.

Pearl powder has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of diseases, and Ayurvedic physicians used it as an antidote in the Middle Ages. It was also reported to make people immortal. An old Taoist recipe recommended taking a long pearl and soaking it in malt, “serpent’s gall,” honeycomb, and pumice stone. When softened, it would be pulled like taffy and cut into bite-sized pieces to eat, and voilà! You would suddenly no longer need food to stay alive. Cleopatra famously drank down a large and costly pearl dissolved in wine vinegar, though in that case she wasn’t avoiding poison. She didn’t want to lose a bet with Antony—which might have fatally injured her pride.

5. THERIAC

Albarello vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
A vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Theriac was an herbal concoction created in the first century by Emperor Nero’s physician, Andromachus, who was reported to have Mithridates’s secret notes. It was a mashed formula of about 70 ingredients, including cinnamon, opium, rose, iris, lavender, and acacia in a honey base. In the 12th century, theriac made in Venice was branded as particularly special, and Venetian treacle (derived from a Middle English translation of theriac) became a hot commodity. Its public, dramatic production often attracted curious crowds.

By the 18th century, cheaper golden syrup was substituted for honey. As treacle began to lose its luster as a treatment, its definition as an herbal remedy disappeared from common vernacular. But the sweet syrup remained. Which is why when we think of treacle, we think of treacle tarts, not a fancy means of saving ourselves from a deathly poisoning.

BONUS: WHAT ACTUALLY WORKS

Thankfully, science has brought us a wide range of antidotes for many items we shouldn’t be exposed to in dangerous quantities, if at all. N-acetylcysteine, fondly referred to as NAC by doctors, saves us from acetaminophen overdoses. Ethanol can treat antifreeze poisoning. Atropine, ironically one of the main components of plants in the toxic nightshade family (such as mandrake), can treat poisoning from some dangerous fertilizers and chemical nerve agents used as weapons. For years, poisonings were treated with emetics, though it turns out that plain old carbon—in the form of activated charcoal—can adsorb poisons (the poisons stick to the surface of the charcoal) in the digestive system before they’re dissolved and digested by the body.

As long as the natural world and its humans keep making things to kill us off, we’ll keep developing methods to not die untimely deaths.

We’ll just leave the fancy hairballs off the list.

The cover of the book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything
Workman Publishing

Excerpt from Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang, MD and Nate Pedersen/Workman Publishing. Used with permission.

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