10 Museums Devoted to Household Items
If you like something enough, why not establish a museum for it? That philosophy likely gave birth to the ten institutions below, all very real museums from around the world that focus on one household item. From folding fans to typewriters and every flavor of mustard, these are brick-and-mortar homages to the products and devices we use every day.
1. WEIN MUSEUM UHRENMUSEUM (THE CLOCK MUSEUM) // VIENNA, AUSTRIA
The three floors of the Uhrenmuseum in Germany hold 3000 clocks, many of which set off an echoing chorus of chimes with every passing hour. Founded in 1917, the museum has a piece that is smaller than a thimble, and another that once kept time in a church steeple. According to Atlas Obscura, there is a 230-year-old astronomical clock with golden gears at the museum calibrated to keep time until the year 9999.
2. THE FAN MUSEUM // GREENWICH, LONDON
The Fan Museum opened in 1991 in southeast London and has an extensive collection of around 5000 fans and fan-related items that date back to the 11th century. The museum features permanent displays that chronicle the history of the devices, and temporary exhibits that focus on fans from specific regions, eras, and themes.
3. THE HAMMER MUSEUM // HAINES, ALASKA
Located in the small town of Haines (the “Adventure Capital of Alaska”), The Hammer Museum, with its 19-foot-tall sculpture out front, opened its door to the public in 2002. It's run entirely by unpaid volunteers. “From ancient times to the industrial age, the hammer tells the story of man’s progress and ingenuity,” reads the museum’s website. Visitors have a relatively narrow window to see the 1500 hammers on display, because the seasonal attraction is only open from May to September.
4. THE LONDON SEWING MACHINE MUSEUM // LONDON, ENGLAND
The London Sewing Machine Museum is only open on the first Saturday of each month, so seeing the first Singer or the machine that belonged to Queen Victoria’s daughter will take thorough planning or a bit of luck. Although the place doesn't have many online reviews, those who've been there in the past couple of years seem to love it. A woman named Jane praised the museum’s collection of over 600 machines from 1850 to 1950 as being “unexpected treasures” that are “beautifully curated and displayed,” while another reviewer referred to the vintage machines as “fine examples of mechanical majesty.”
5. THE VACUUM CLEANER MUSEUM // SAINT JAMES, MISSOURI
This tribute to dirt suckers was founded in 2009 by a vacuum specialist named Tom Gasko, who has reportedly been obsessed with the machines since he was a boy. Having dedicated his life to selling vacuums, Gasko was also a collector, and it was with his personal collection that he was able to create the display of over 600 working models at the Vacuum Cleaner Museum. The collection reaches back to the early 1900s, and the museum’s website promises a look at vacuums once owned by celebrities.
6. THE SALT AND PEPPER SHAKER MUSEUM // GATLINBURG, TENNESSEE
Started by a family of collectors, the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum features around 20,000 pairs of shakers in various shapes and sizes, some of which are around 500 years old. From pop culture and fast food-themed shakers, to very ornate shakers and others shaped like cats, the collection at this museum is one that visitors tend to describe as “strange” or “awesome” or somewhere in the middle.
7. THE DINNERWARE MUSEUM // ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN
This non-profit in Ann Arbor, Michigan is dedicated to the undisputed heroes of every kitchen: the dinnerware. With exhibitions that focus on things like cake and “the art of high chair dining,” The Dinnerware Museum has just about every aspect of table culture covered. There is a cake stand from 2015, a 54-piece set from 1968, and a pearlware bowl from the 1800s, among other rare and interesting objects. If you’re into setting the table, this is the place for you.
8. THE TYPEWRITER MUSEUM // ITALY
There is an entire generation of people on this planet who have no idea what a typewriter is, which is why the Peter Mitterhofer Typewriter Museum (named after the inventor) is necessary. Founded in 1998 in the Bolzano region of Italy, the museum is based primarily around the collection of a man named Kurt Ryba, but also has models acquired through donations. There are over 2000 of the relics in the collection, which spans about 150 years, with notable pieces including Thomas Edison’s typewriter and one of the first commercially sold typewriters.
9. THE LUNCHBOX MUSEUM // COLUMBUS, GEORGIA
A utilitarian way to show off one’s nerdom to other students, lunchboxes were the cool way to take lunch to school from the 1950s through the 1980s. Television shows, movies, and just about every other marketable property had its own metal or plastic lunchbox, and Allen Woodall Jr. spent years collecting over 2000 of them (including related items such as thermoses). Now, they are proudly displayed at his The Lunchbox Museum. From Scooby Doo and Rambo to Mork and Mindy and Double Bubble, the museum is chock full of nostalgia that you can access for just $5 and a trip to Georgia. Check out the video above to get the guided tour from the curator.
10. THE NATIONAL MUSTARD MUSEUM // MIDDLETON, WISCONSIN
National Mustard Museum founder Barry Levenson says that the idea to devote an entire museum to the condiment came while walking around a supermarket just after watching his favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, lose the World Series in 1986. Today, the museum has over 5676 mustards in its collection, featuring jars from every state and over 70 countries. It is free to visit, and there is also a store that sells some of the hardest-to-find mustards in the world.