bushie, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
bushie, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

15 Movie Museums Around the World

bushie, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
bushie, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Museums aren’t just for hanging art or displaying historical artifacts. All around the world, there are museums devoted to the art of cinema. Whether it’s a tiny tribute to a single movie or a massive institution dedicated to the evolution of filmmaking, here are 15 movie museums you can visit.

1. MAD MAX MUSEUM

First opening its doors in 2010, the Mad Max Museum in Silverton, New South Wales has been a popular tourist attraction for the sleepy town in the Australian Outback. Owner Adrian Bennett’s obsession led him to move his family from northern England to the town where director George Miller and star Mel Gibson filmed 1981’s Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. Over the years, Bennett has collected many important items from the franchise and has built a number of replicas of The Interceptor and other vehicles from the popular film franchise.   

2. THE HOLLYWOOD MUSEUM

Located in the heart of America’s movie capital, The Hollywood Museum is the home of the world’s most extensive collection of film props, sets, and costumes from the silent era through the Golden Age of Hollywood to the current slate of superhero movies and franchise blockbusters. Spread over four floors, the museum features more than 10,000 pieces of authentic movie memorabilia, including Marilyn Monroe’s million-dollar honeymoon dress, costumes and makeup from Planet of the Apes, Hannibal Lecter’s jail cell from The Silence of the Lambs, and Rocky’s boxing gloves.

3. MARIETTA GONE WITH THE WIND MUSEUM: SCARLETT ON THE SQUARE

In the historic Old Thomas Warehouse Building in Marietta, Georgia, you’ll find the Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum, which is dedicated to both the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and the Oscar-winning film. It’s home to a treasure trove of movie memorabilia, such as foreign posters, premiere programs, concept art, contracts, and the original Bengaline honeymoon gown Vivien Leigh wore in the movie.

While you’re in town, check out the Gone with the Wind Trail, a living tour of the sites and locations from the book and the movie, including the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta, where the author lived and wrote Gone with the Wind.

4. RANCHO OBI-WAN STAR WARS MUSEUM 

Former Wall Street Journal reporter (and longtime Lucasfilm employee) Steve Sansweet founded Rancho Obi-Wan in Petaluma, California in 1998. It’s a nonprofit museum that is the home of the world’s largest collection of privately-owned Star Wars memorabilia. The museum offers regular for Star Wars fans of all ages, plus free educational tours for nearby elementary schools. Currently, Rancho Obi-Wan contains more than 300,000 unique pieces of Star Wars memorabilia from 1977’s A New Hope to 2015’s The Force Awakens, making it the Guinness World Record holder for “Largest Collection of Star Wars Memorabilia.”

5. LA CINÉMATHÈQUE FRANÇAISE

Paris’ La Cinémathèque Française features one of the world’s largest and most expansive film archives. Established in 1936, co-founders Henri Langlois and Georges Franju acquired a large collection of films and documents, but had to smuggle a majority of them out of German-occupied France during World War II, when Nazi authorities were ordered to destroy all films made prior to the occupation. Today, La Cinémathèque Française offers daily screenings and retrospectives of films from all over the world, as it continues to serve as a library and museum of French and world cinema. 

6. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE MUSEUM

Built in the old Seneca Theater movie house in Seneca Falls, New York, the It’s a Wonderful Life Museum opened to the public in December 2010. Actress Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu Bailey, donated original photos and other memorabilia from her private collection, such as call sheets from production and the Academy Awards program.

The It’s a Wonderful Life Museum first opened to coincide with Seneca Falls’ annual “It’s a Wonderful Life” Festival weekend. Each December, the small town—a.k.a. “The Real Bedford Falls”—transforms itself into George Bailey’s fictional hometown, and programs events like Uncle Billy's “Wonderful” Scavenger Hunt, the "It's a Wonderful" Parade, and "Wonderful" 5K Walk/Run. All while the movie is projected on the big screen at Old Mynderse Academy throughout the weekend.    

7. THE LORD OF THE RINGS MUSEUM

While “The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy: The Exhibition” traveled to museums all over the world, there is now a permanent museum for all the props and costumes under construction in Wellington, New Zealand. The museum will feature movie artifacts from The Hobbit trilogy as well, while giving the island nation a continuing boost in tourism. The exhibition was housed at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, but now it will soon move into its new home in the city’s center.

In addition, The Weta Cave “mini-museum” in New Zealand offers guided tours of movie memorabilia from The Weta Workshop, such as Avatar and The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, along with The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.

8. MUSEUM OF THE MOVING IMAGE

Established in 1988, the Museum of the Moving Image is devoted to the understanding and enjoyment of the art and history of the technology of film and other media, such as television, video games, and the Internet. Located in Astoria, Queens, the museum offers rare exhibitions, educational programs, and special movie screenings for its members and patrons. You’ll find just about anything film-related, from props and costumes from the original Star Wars movie to the shot-by-shot storyboards from the iconic cropduster scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.

9. 007 MUSEUM 

In 2002, longtime James Bond fan Gunnar Schäfer opened the world’s first museum devoted to British superspy James Bond. Located in Nybro, Sweden, the 007 Museum features more than 60,000 original pieces from the entire film franchise, such as a snowmobile from Die Another Day, the BMW Z3 from Goldeneye, and first editions of all of Ian Fleming’s original James Bond novels.

There is also a permanent exhibit called “Bond in Motion” at the London Film Museum. It features costumes and vehicles from the franchise, including the Bell Rocket Belt “jet pack” from Thunderball and an Aston Martin DB10 from Spectre.

10. DARIO ARGENTO MUSEUM OF HORROR

Horror director Dario Argento owns a small shop that caters to fans of gory cinema called Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) in Rome. The shop is named after his 1975 giallo film of the same name. For about three euros, you can take a guided tour of its basement, where you’ll find Argento’s personal museum of props, costumes, and memorabilia from his own movies.

11. AUSTRALIAN CENTRE FOR THE MOVING IMAGE

Starting life as the State Film Centre of Victoria in 1946, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image opened in 2002, when it grew from a local collection of Australian movie memorabilia and history to an international and state-of-the-art facility for immersive exhibitions of film, television, and digital culture. Over the years, the ACMI has featured permanent and traveling exhibits, such as "Australian Culture Now," "Pixar: 20 Years of Animation," and "Stanley Kubrick, Inside the Mind of a Visionary Filmmaker."

12. OZ MUSEUM 

Founded in 2004, the Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas is dedicated to The Wizard of Oz, from L. Frank Baum's classic 1900 book to MGM’s iconic 1939 film. It even features memorabilia from the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical The Wiz and Motown’s film adaptation starring Diana Ross as Dorothy and Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow. Every October, the small Kansas town transforms for its annual “OZtoberFest” weekend with hot air balloon rides and Yellow Brick Road bike tours.

13. A CHRISTMAS STORY HOUSE

In 2004, owner Brian Jones bought and restored the house at 3159 West 11th Street in Cleveland, OH, which served as Ralphie’s home in A Christmas Story. While the exterior of the house was featured in A Christmas Story, its interior had to be completely restored to match how it appeared in the film because much of the movie was shot on a sound stage in California. Directly across the street from the house is the museum, which features actual props and costumes used during production. The house and the museum operate all year round and tours are open to the public. Although it’s not the same one seen in the movie, there’s even a Chinese restaurant nearby that welcomes museum guests.

14. THE CINEMA MUSEUM

Located in the Lambeth Workhouse, where Charlie Chaplin lived as a child, London’s Cinema Museum features artifacts and memorabilia dating back to the early days of movie theaters all the way through today’s modern multiplexes. In addition to every type of professional and amateur film projector in existence, there are various popcorn machines and cartons, Art Deco cinema chairs, and even old ashtrays.

15. GHIBLI MUSEUM

A very large Totoro welcomes all guests who visit the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Japan, just outside of Tokyo. The museum opened in 2001 and is dedicated to the animation of Studio Ghibli and the films of director Hayao Miyazaki, who also designed the museum. The museum features exhibits for some of the studio's most popular films, such as Spirited Away and Castle In The Sky. It also features The Saturn Theater, which screens exclusive short films from the Japanese animation studio. With the slogan "Let's Get Lost Together," the museum encourages its guests to explore and immerse themselves in the art and imagination of the studio’s films and the building’s architecture.

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Zach Hyman, HBO
10 Bizarre Sesame Street Fan Theories
Zach Hyman, HBO
Zach Hyman, HBO

Sesame Street has been on the air for almost 50 years, but there’s still so much we don’t know about this beloved children’s show. What kind of bird is Big Bird? What’s the deal with Mr. Noodle? And how do you actually get to Sesame Street? Fans have filled in these gaps with frequently amusing—and sometimes bizarre—theories about how the cheerful neighborhood ticks. Read them at your own risk, because they’ll probably ruin the Count for you.

1. THE THEME SONG CONTAINS SECRET INSTRUCTIONS.

According to a Reddit theory, the Sesame Street theme song isn’t just catchy—it’s code. The lyrics spell out how to get to Sesame Street quite literally, giving listeners clues on how to access this fantasy land. It must be a sunny day (as the repeated line goes), you must bring a broom (“sweeping the clouds away”), and you have to give Oscar the Grouch the password (“everything’s a-ok”) to gain entrance. Make sure to memorize all the steps before you attempt.

2. SESAME STREET IS A REHAB CENTER FOR MONSTERS.

Sesame Street is populated with the stuff of nightmares. There’s a gigantic bird, a mean green guy who hides in the trash, and an actual vampire. These things should be scary, and some fans contend that they used to be. But then the creatures moved to Sesame Street, a rehabilitation area for formerly frightening monsters. In this community, monsters can’t roam outside the perimeters (“neighborhood”) as they recover. They must learn to educate children instead of eating them—and find a more harmless snack to fuel their hunger. Hence Cookie Monster’s fixation with baked goods.

3. BIG BIRD IS AN EXTINCT MOA.

Big Bird is a rare breed. He’s eight feet tall and while he can’t really fly, he can rollerskate. So what kind of bird is he? Big Bird’s species has been a matter of contention since Sesame Street began: Big Bird insists he’s a lark, while Oscar thinks he’s more of a homing pigeon. But there’s convincing evidence that Big Bird is an extinct moa. The moa were 10 species of flightless birds who lived in New Zealand. They had long necks and stout torsos, and reached up to 12 feet in height. Scientists claim they died off hundreds of years ago, but could one be living on Sesame Street? It makes sense, especially considering his best friend looks a lot like a woolly mammoth.

4. OSCAR’S TRASH CAN IS A TARDIS.

Oscar’s home doesn’t seem very big. But as The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland revealed, his trash can holds much more than moldy banana peels. The Grouch has chandeliers and even an interdimensional portal down there! There’s only one logical explanation for this outrageously spacious trash can: It’s a Doctor Who-style TARDIS.

5. IT’S ALL A RIFF ON PLATO.

Dust off your copy of The Republic, because this is about to get philosophical. Plato has a famous allegory about a cave, one that explains enlightenment through actual sunlight. He describes a prisoner who steps out of the cave and into the sun, realizing his entire understanding of the world is wrong. When he returns to the cave to educate his fellow prisoners, they don’t believe him, because the information is too overwhelming and contradictory to what they know. The lesson is that education is a gradual learning process, one where pupils must move through the cave themselves, putting pieces together along the way. And what better guide is there than a merry kids’ show?

According to one Reddit theory, Sesame Street builds on Plato’s teachings by presenting a utopia where all kinds of creatures live together in harmony. There’s no racism or suffocating gender roles, just another sunny (see what they did there?) day in the neighborhood. Sesame Street shows the audience what an enlightened society looks like through simple songs and silly jokes, spoon-feeding Plato’s “cave dwellers” knowledge at an early age.

6. MR. NOODLE IS IN HELL.

Can a grown man really enjoy taking orders from a squeaky red puppet? And why does Mr. Noodle live outside a window in Elmo’s house anyway? According to this hilariously bleak theory, no, Mr. Noodle does not like dancing for Elmo, but he has to, because he’s in hell. Think about it: He’s seemingly trapped in a surreal place where he can’t talk, but he has to do whatever a fuzzy monster named Elmo says. Definitely sounds like hell.

7. ELMO IS ANIMAL’S SON.

Okay, so remember when Animal chases a shrieking woman out of the college auditorium in The Muppets Take Manhattan? (If you don't, see above.) One fan thinks Animal had a fling with this lady, which produced Elmo. While the two might have similar coloring, this theory completely ignores Elmo’s dad Louie, who appears in many Sesame Street episodes. But maybe Animal is a distant cousin.

8. COOKIE MONSTER HAS AN EATING DISORDER.

Cookie Monster loves to cram chocolate chip treats into his mouth. But as eagle-eyed viewers have observed, he doesn’t really eat the cookies so much as chew them into messy crumbs that fly in every direction. This could indicate Cookie Monster has a chewing and spitting eating disorder, meaning he doesn’t actually consume food—he just chews and spits it out. There’s a more detailed (and dark) diagnosis of Cookie Monster’s symptoms here.

9. THE COUNT EATS CHILDREN.

Can a vampire really get his kicks from counting to five? One of the craziest Sesame Street fan theories posits that the Count lures kids to their death with his number games. That’s why the cast of children on Sesame Street changes so frequently—the Count eats them all after teaching them to add. The adult cast, meanwhile, stays pretty much the same, implying the grown-ups are either under a vampiric spell or looking the other way as the Count does his thing.

10. THE COUNT IS ALSO A PIMP.

Alright, this is just a Dave Chappelle joke. But the Count does have a cape.

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iStock
17 Things to Know About René Descartes
iStock
iStock

The French polymath René Descartes (1596-1650) lived after the Renaissance, but he personified that age's interest in mathematics, philosophy, art, and the nature of humanity. He made numerous discoveries and argued for ideas that people continue to grapple with. (His dualist distinction between mind and the brain, for example, continues to be debated by psychologists.) Get to know him better!

1. NOBODY CALLED HIM RENÉ.

Descartes went by a nickname and often introduced himself as “Poitevin” and signed letters as “du Perron.” Sometimes, he went so far to call himself the “Lord of Perron.” That’s because he had inherited a farm from his mother’s family in Poitou, in western France.

2. SCHOOL MADE HIM FEEL DUMBER.

From the age of 11 to 18, Descartes attended one of the best schools in Europe, the Jesuit College of Henry IV in La Flèche, France. In his later work Discourse on the Method, Descartes wrote that, upon leaving school, “I found myself involved in so many doubts and errors, that I was convinced I had advanced no farther in all my attempts at learning, than the discovery at every turn of my own ignorance."

3. HIS DAD WANTED HIM TO BE A LAWYER.

Descartes’s family was chock-full of lawyers, and the budding intellectual was expected to join them. He studied law at the University of Poitiers and even came home with a law degree in 1616. But he never entered the practice. In 1618, a 22-year-old Descartes enlisted as a mercenary in the Dutch States Army instead. There, he would study military engineering and become fascinated with math and physics.

4. HE CHANGED CAREER PATHS THANKS TO A SERIES OF DREAMS.

In 1618, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Ferdinand II, attempted to impose Catholicism on anybody living within his domain. The result of this policy would be the Thirty Years' War. It would also prompt Descartes, a Catholic, to switch allegiances to a Bavarian army fighting for the Catholic side. But on his travels, he stopped in the town of Ulm. There, on the night of November 10, he had three dreams that convinced him to change his life’s path. “Descartes took from them the message that he should set out to reform all knowledge,” philosopher Gary Hatfield writes in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

5. HE COULD BE EASILY DISTRACTED BY BRIGHT AND SHINY OBJECTS.

In 1628, Descartes moved to the Netherlands and spent nine months doggedly working on a theory of metaphysics. Then he got distracted. In 1629, a number of false suns—called parhelia, or “sun dogs”—were seen near Rome. Descartes put his beloved metaphysics treatise on the back burner and devoted his time to explaining the phenomenon. It was a lucky distraction: It led to his work The World, or Treatise on Light.

6. HE LAID THE GROUNDWORK FOR ANALYTIC GEOMETRY ...

In 1637, Descartes published his groundbreaking Discourse on the Method, where he took the revolutionary step of describing lines through mathematical equations. According to Hatfield, “[Descartes] considered his algebraic techniques to provide a powerful alternative to actual compass-and-ruler constructions when the latter became too intricate.” You might have encountered his system in high school algebra: They’re called Cartesian coordinates.

7. ... AND THE REST OF WESTERN PHILOSOPHY.

Everybody knows Descartes for his phrase Cogito, ergo sum (which originally appeared in French as "Je pense, donc je suis"), or "I think, therefore I am." The concept appeared in many of his texts. To understand what it means, some context is helpful: At the time, many philosophers claimed that truth was acquired through sense impressions. Descartes disagreed. He argued that our senses are unreliable. An ill person can hallucinate. An amputee can feel phantom limb pain. People are regularly deceived by their own eyes, dreams, and imaginations. Descartes, however, realized that his argument opened a door for "radical doubt": That is, what was stopping people from doubting the existence of, well, everything? The cogito argument is his remedy: Even if you doubt the existence of everything, you cannot doubt the existence of your own mind—because doubting indicates thinking, and thinking indicates existing. Descartes argued that self-evident truths like this—and not the senses—must be the foundation of philosophical investigations.

8. HE'S THE REASON YOUR MATH TEACHER MAKES YOU CHECK YOUR WORK.

Descartes was obsessed with certainty. In his book Rules for the Direction of the Mind, “he sought to generalize the methods of mathematics so as to provide a route to clear knowledge of everything that human beings can know,” Hatfield writes. His advice included this classic chestnut: To solve a big problem, break it up into small, easy-to-understand parts—and check each step often.

9. HE LIKED TO HIDE.

Descartes had a motto, which he took from Ovid: “Who lives well hidden, lives well.” When he moved to the Netherlands, he regularly changed apartments and deliberately kept his address a secret. Some say it's because he simply desired privacy for his philosophical work, or that he was avoiding his disapproving family. In his book titled Descartes, philosopher A. C. Grayling makes another suggestion: "Descartes was a spy."

10. HE WASN'T AFRAID OF CRITICS. IN FACT, HE RE-PUBLISHED THEM.

When Descartes was revising his Meditations on First Philosophy [PDF], he planned to send the manuscript to “the 20 or 30 most learned theologians” for criticism—a sort of proto-peer review. He collected seven objections and published them in the work. (Descartes, of course, had the last word: He responded to each criticism.)

11. HE COULD THROW SHADE WITH THE BEST OF THEM.

In the 1640s, Descartes’s pupil and friend Henricus Regius published a broadsheet that distorted Descartes’s theory of the mind. (Which, put briefly, posits that the material body and immaterial mind are separate and distinct.) The two men had a falling out, and Descartes wrote a rebuttal with a barbed title that refused to even acknowledge Regius’s manifesto by name: It was simply called “Comments on a Certain Broadsheet.”

12. HE NEVER BELIEVED MONKEYS COULD TALK.

There’s a “fun fact” parading around that suggests Descartes believed monkeys and apes could talk. He believed no such thing. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Descartes denied that animals were even conscious, let alone capable of speech. The factoid comes from a misreading of a letter Descartes had written in 1646, in which he attributed the belief to “savages.”

13. HE TOTALLY HAD THE HOTS FOR CROSS-EYED WOMEN.

In a letter to Queen Christina of Sweden, Descartes explained that he had a cross-eyed playmate as a child. “I loved a girl of my own age ... who was slightly cross-eyed; by which means, the impression made in my brain when I looked at her wandering eyes was joined so much to that which also occurred when the passion of love moved me, that for a long time afterward, in seeing cross-eyed women, I felt more inclined to love them than others.”

14. WHEN HE MET BLAISE PASCAL, THEY GOT INTO AN ARGUMENT ... ABOUT VACUUMS.

In 1647, a 51-year-old Descartes visited the 24-year-old prodigy and physicist Blaise Pascal. Their meeting quickly devolved into a heated argument over the concept of a vacuum—that is, the idea that air pressure could ever be reduced to zero. (Descartes said it was impossible; Pascal disagreed.) Later, Descartes wrote a letter that, depending on your translation, said that Pascal had “too much vacuum in his head.”

15. HIS WORK WAS BANNED BY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.

Back in the late 1630s, the theologian Gisbert Voetius had convinced the academic senate of the University of Utrecht to condemn the philosopher’s work. (Descartes was Catholic, but his suggestion that the universe began as a “chaotic soup of particles in motion,” in Hatfield's words, was contrary to orthodox theology.) In the 1660s, his works were placed on the church’s Index of Prohibited Books.

16. HE REGULARLY SLEPT UNTIL NOON (AND TRYING TO BREAK THE HABIT MIGHT HAVE KILLED HIM).

Descartes was not a morning person. He often snoozed 12 hours a night, from midnight until lunchtime. In fact, he worked in bed. (Sleep, he wisely wrote, was a time of “nourishment for the brain.”) But according to the Journal of Historical Neuroscience, he may have had a sleep disorder that helped end his life. A year before his death, Descartes had moved to Stockholm to take a job tutoring Queen Christina, a devoted early-riser who forced Descartes to change his sleep schedule. Some believe the resulting sleep deprivation weakened his immune system and eventually killed him.

17. HIS SKELETON HAS TRAVELED FAR AND WIDE.

Descartes died in Stockholm in 1650 and was buried outside the city. Sixteen years later, his corpse was exhumed and taken to Paris. During the French Revolution, his bones were moved to an Egyptian sarcophagus at the Museum of French Monuments. Decades later, when plans were made to rebury Descartes in an abbey, officials discovered that most of his bones—including his skull—were missing. Shortly after, a Swedish scientist discovered a newspaper advertisement attempting to sell the polymath’s noggin [PDF]. Today, his head is in a collection at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris.

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