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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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15 Things You Might Not Know About Chewbacca
ANTONIN THUILLIER, AFP/Getty Images
ANTONIN THUILLIER, AFP/Getty Images

Even if you don't know the name Peter Mayhew, you surely know about Chewbacca—the seven-foot tall Wookiee he has played onscreen for over three decades. In honor of Mayhew’s birthday, here are 15 things you might not know about Han Solo's BFF.

1. HE WAS INSPIRED BY GEORGE LUCAS'S DOG.

The character of Chewbacca was inspired by George Lucas’s big, hairy Alaskan malamute, Indiana. According to Lucas, the dog would always sit in the passenger seat of his car like a copilot, and people would confuse the dog for an actual person. And in case you're wondering: yes, that same dog was also the inspiration behind the name of one of Lucas’s other creations, Indiana Jones.

2. HIS NAME IS OF RUSSIAN ORIGIN.

The name “Chewbacca” was derived from the Russian word Sobaka (собака), meaning “dog.” The term “Wookiee” came from voice actor Terry McGovern; when he was doing voiceover tracks for Lucas's directorial debut, THX 1138, McGovern randomly improvised the line, “I think I just ran over a Wookiee” during one of the sessions.

3. HE'S REALLY, REALLY OLD.

In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Chewbacca is 200 years old.

4. PETER MAYHEW'S HEIGHT HELPED HIM LAND THE ROLE.

Peter Mayhew
Getty Images

Mayhew was chosen to play everyone’s favorite Wookiee primarily because of his tremendous height: He's 7 feet 3 inches tall.

5. HIS SUIT IS MADE FROM A MIX OF ANIMAL HAIRS, AND EVENTUALLY INCLUDED A COOLING SYSTEM.

For the original trilogy (and the infamous holiday special), the Chewbacca costume was made with a combination of real yak and rabbit hair knitted into a base of mohair. A slightly altered original Chewie costume was used in 1999's The Phantom Menace for the Wookiee senator character Yarua, and a new costume used during Episode III included a specially made water-cooling system so that Mayhew could wear the suit for long periods of time and not be overheated.

6. ONE OF STANLEY KUBRICK'S CLOSEST CREATORS DESIGNED THE COSTUME.

Chewbacca's costume
Getty Images

To create the original costume for Chewbacca, Lucas hired legendary makeup supervisor Stuart Freeborn, who was recruited because of his work on the apes in the “Dawn of Man” sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Freeborn had also previously worked with Kubrick on Dr. Strangelove to effectively disguise Peter Sellers in each of his three roles in that film.) Freeborn would go on to supervise the creation of Yoda in The Empire Strike Back and Jabba the Hutt and the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi.

Lucas originally wanted Freeborn’s costume for Chewie to be a combination of a monkey, a dog, and a cat. According to Freeborn, the biggest problem during production with the costume was with Mayhew’s eyes. The actor’s body heat in the mask caused his face to detach from the costume's eyes and made them look separate from the mask.

7. FINDING CHEWBACCA'S VOICE WAS BEN BURTT'S FIRST ASSIGNMENT.

The first sound effect that director George Lucas hired now-legendary sound designer Ben Burtt for on Star Wars was Chewbacca’s voice (this was all the way back during the script stage). During the year of preliminary sound recording, Burtt principally used the vocalization of a black bear named Tarik from Happy Hollow Zoo in San Jose, California for Chewbacca. He would eventually synchronize those sounds with further walrus, lion, and badger vocalizations for the complete voice. The name of the language Chewbacca speaks came to be known in the Star Wars universe as “Shyriiwook.”

8. ROGER EBERT WAS NOT A FAN.

Roger Ebert was not a fan of the big guy. In his 1997 review of the Special Edition of The Empire Strikes Back, Ebert basically called Chewbacca the worst character in the series. “This character was thrown into the first film as window dressing, was never thought through, and as a result has been saddled with one facial expression and one mournful yelp," the famed critic wrote. "Much more could have been done. How can you be a space pilot and not be able to communicate in any meaningful way? Does Han Solo really understand Chewie's monotonous noises? Do they have long chats sometimes? Never mind.”

9. HE WAS ORIGINALLY MUCH MORE SCANTILY CLAD.

In the summary for Lucas’s second draft (dated January 28, 1975, when the film was called “Adventures of the Starkiller, Episode I: The Star Wars”), Chewbacca is described as “an eight-foot tall, savage-looking creature resembling a huge gray bushbaby-monkey with fierce ‘baboon’-like fangs. His large yellow eyes dominate a fur-covered face … [and] over his matted, furry body he wears two chrome bandoliers, a flak jacket painted in a bizarre camouflage pattern, brown cloth shorts, and little else.”

10. HIS DESIGN WAS BASED ON RALPH MCQUARRIE'S CONCEPT ART.

Chewbacca’s character design was based on concept art drawn by Ralph McQuarrie. Lucas had originally given McQuarrie a photo of a lemur for inspiration, and McQuarrie proceeded to draw the character as a female—but Chewbacca was soon changed to a male. McQuarrie based his furry design on an illustration by artist John Schoenherr, which was commissioned for Game of Thrones scribe George R.R. Martin’s short story “And Seven Times Never Kill a Man.” Sharp-eyed Chewbacca fans will recognize that Schoenherr’s drawing even includes what resembles the Wookiee’s signature weapon, the Bowcaster.

11. HE WON A LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD.

Fans were angry for decades that Chewie didn’t receive a medal of valor like Luke and Han did at the end of A New Hope, so MTV gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1997 MTV Movie Awards. The medal was given to Mayhew—decked out in full costume—by Princess Leia herself, actress Carrie Fisher. His acceptance speech, made entirely in Wookiee grunts, lasted 16 seconds. When asked why Chewbacca didn’t receive a medal at the end of the first film, Lucas explained, “Medals really don’t mean much to Wookiees. They don’t really put too much credence in them. They have different kinds of ceremonies.”

12. HE HAS A FAMILY BACK HOME.

According to the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, Chewbacca had a wife named Mallatobuck, a son named Lumpawaroo (a.k.a. “Lumpy”), and a father named Attichitcuk (aka “Itchy”). In the special, Chewie and Han visit the Wookiee home planet of Kashyyyk to celebrate “Life Day,” a celebration of the Wookiee home planet’s diverse ecosystem. The special featured appearances and musical numbers by Jefferson Starship, Diahann Carroll, Art Carney, Harvey Korman, and Bea Arthur, and marked the first appearance of Boba Fett. Lucas hated the special so much that he limited its availability following its original airdate on November 17, 1978.

13. MAYHEW'S BIG FEET ARE WHAT KICKSTARTED HIS CAREER.

Mayhew’s path to playing Chewbacca began with a string of lucky breaks—and his big feet. A local London reporter was doing a story on people with big feet and happened to profile Mayhew. A movie producer saw the article and cast him—in an uncredited role—as Minoton the minotaur in the film Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. One of the makeup men on Sinbad was also working on the Wookiee costume with Stuart Freeborn for Star Wars and suggested to the producers that they screen test Mayhew. The rest is Wookiee history.

14. MAYHEW KEPT HIS DAY JOB WHILE SHOOTING STAR WARS.

Peter Mayhew
Getty Images

During the shooting of Star Wars, Mayhew kept working his day job as a deputy head porter in a London hospital. Though he was let go because of his sudden varying shooting schedule at Elstree Studios, he was eventually hired back after production wrapped.

15. DARTH VADER COULD HAVE BEEN CHEWBACCA.

Darth Vader
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David Prowse, the 6’5” actor who ended up portraying Darth Vader—in costume only—originally turned down the role of Chewbacca.  When given the choice between portraying the two characters, Prowse said, “I turned down the role of Chewbacca at once. I know that people remember villains longer than heroes. At the time I didn’t know I’d be wearing a mask, and throughout production I thought Vader’s voice would be mine.”

Additional Sources: Star Wars DVD special features
The Making of Star Wars: The definitive Story Behind the Original Film, J.W. Rinzler

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
6 Priceless Treasures Lost in Shipwrecks
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In the lore around treasures lost at sea, most of the excitement goes to pirate’s gold and the sunken luxuries of the Titanic. But in the centuries of human seafaring, many lesser-known priceless objects, from literary manuscripts to scientific research, have been claimed by the depths. Here are some tales of those losses, from a lifetime of work by a 19th-century woman who was an expert in cephalopods, to a rare book by Dickens that went down with the Lusitania.

1. LOUIS DE JAUCOURT'S ANATOMICAL LEXICON

Always, always, always back up your work. Of course, that's easier now than it was in the 18th century, when French scholar Louis de Jaucourt dispatched his six-volume Lexicon medicum universale to his Amsterdam publisher, a move intended to evade French censorship. The medical dictionary, on which he'd spent 20 years, was completely lost when the ship it was on sank off Holland's coast. Luckily, Jaucourt rebounded when Denis Diderot asked him to contribute to the Encyclopédie, now considered one of the greatest works of Enlightenment thought, for which he used his notes from the lost manuscript. Jaucourt became the publication's most prolific author, penning 40,000 articles—so many he was nicknamed l'esclave de l’Encyclopédie, or the "slave of the Encyclopedia."

2. THE FIELDWORK OF ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE

Portrait of Alfred Russel Wallace, Welsh naturalist and explorer
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1852, following four years of research in the Amazon, the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace was ready to return to England. He loaded his copious notes, animal and plant specimens, and drawings onto the brig Helen. Just 26 days into the voyage, the vessel caught fire. Wallace only had time to hastily fill a tin box with a few drawings of fish and palms and some scientific notes before joining the crew in the lifeboat. After 10 days marooned at sea, they were rescued by the brig Jordeson—but most of Wallace's work was gone forever. As he lamented in an October 19, 1852 letter, "The only things which I saved were my watch, my drawings of fishes, and a portion of my notes and journals. Most of my journals, notes on the habits of animals, and drawings of the transformations of insects, were lost.” While he continued as a leading naturalist—albeit one overshadowed in his evolution research by Charles Darwin—Wallace was never able to reconstruct those years of fieldwork.

3. THE CEPHALOPOD RESEARCH OF JEANNE VILLEPREUX-POWER

Before Jeanne Villepreux-Power’s 19th-century research, most scientists thought the Argonauta argo, or paper nautilus, scavenged its shell from other animals. But by inventing the modern aquarium, Villepreux-Power could study the species first-hand, and witness how it grows and repairs its own shell. The breakthrough was one of many discoveries made by the pioneer in cephalopod research, one of the few women to achieve prominence in Victorian science. She might be better known today if it weren't for the fact that when she and her husband decided to move from Sicily to London, the vessel on which they’d shipped their possessions—including the majority of her drawings, notes, and equipment—foundered off the coast of France in 1843. After the devastating loss, she never published again.

4. A COPY OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL OWNED BY CHARLES DICKENS

Sinking of the Lusitania
Three Lions/Getty Images

When Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat realized the RMS Lusitania was doomed that fateful day in 1915, he dashed to his cabin, using the light from a few matches to try to find the literary treasures he’d brought aboard. These included original drawings by Vanity Fair author William Makepeace Thackeray, as well as an edition of A Christmas Carol owned by Charles Dickens himself. The edition was irreplaceable, since it included Dickens’s notes related to his 1844 copyright suit against the illicit republishing of his story. In the book Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, Erik Larson vividly describes Lauriat’s harrowing experience when the ocean liner was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland: Lauriat grabbed the leather briefcase containing the Dickens, but left the Thackeray sketches behind. Rushing out to the deck, he saw a lifeboat packed with women and children that was being dragged down by the sinking ship. He jumped in with the briefcase, yet was unable to free the lifeboat, and in the escape into the water he lost the precious cargo. Out in the waves, he managed to evade entanglement with an antenna, swim to a collapsible lifeboat, and survive. One of the few items he managed to save were photographs of his baby, which he told his wife were his "mascot."

5. WRITINGS OF JOSÉ ASUNCIÓN SILVA

Portrait of José Asunción Silva

Many Colombians can recite the first lines from the influential Modernist poet José Asunción Silva's "Nocturne III"—"A night / A night full of hushings, of the curled wool of perfume / And incanting wing"—and it’s even printed in microtext on the 5000 Colombian peso bill. The poem, written in 1892, is believed to be a tribute to Silva’s half-sister. Silva suffered another blow in 1895, when many of his manuscripts, including a draft of a novel, were lost in a shipwreck. He left his diplomatic post in Venezuela, and dedicated all his time to reconstructing the drowned novel. But his melancholy continued: After visiting a doctor to ask the exact position of his heart, he shot himself in 1896. His rewritten novel—After-Dinner Conversation (De sobremesa) —wasn’t published until 1925.

6. THE ART OF GIOVANNI BATTISTA LUSIERI

The South-east Corner of the Parthenon, Athens by Giovanni Battista Lusieri
Giovanni Battista Lusieri, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Giovanni Battista Lusieri was a meticulous painter of the Italian landscape, particularly its classical ruins. In large panoramas and more compact watercolors, he depicted the Acropolis, views of Rome and Naples, and, his favorite, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Some of his most striking works captured the volcano at night, illuminating the darkness with its orange glow. Lord Byron called him "an Italian painter of the first eminence." Yet his name is now obscure. This is partly due to the years he stopped painting to help Lord Elgin remove and ship the Parthenon Marbles to London. But when Lusieri's artwork was being sent home from Greece after his death in 1821, a shipwreck destroyed nearly half of it (including a spectacular 25-foot-long panorama of Athens), helping to ensure his fall from fame.

BONUS: PEKING MAN

A replica of the Peking Man Skull
A replica of the Peking Man Skull

When paleontologists discovered the bones of "Peking man" in a dig near Beijing in the 1920s, they were the oldest hominid fossils ever found. However, scientists can now only study the bones—thought to be about half a million years old—from casts. The Peking Man fossils were last seen in December 1941, but vanished during the Japanese occupation of China while they were being sent to the United States for safekeeping. There are many conjectures on their fate, from being secretly stored away in Japan, to being under a parking lot in China. Yet one enduring theory is that they were lost at sea on the Japanese freighter Awa Maru: In 1945, the ship was torpedoed in the Taiwan Strait by the USS Queenfish despite being guaranteed safe passage by the United States, leading to the loss of more than 2000 lives—and, it's said, the priceless Peking fossils [PDF].

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