10 Top-of-the-Line Brand Museums

The word “museum” has its origin with the ancient Greeks, for whom a mouseion was a place of contemplation and a seat of the Muses. It’s easy to see what the Muses of modern culture are—check out our list of the most interesting museums dedicated to brand-name products.

1. NATIONAL CORVETTE MUSEUM, BOWLING GREEN, KENTUCKY

According to General Motors, the Chevrolet Corvette is the world’s longest-running, continuously produced passenger car. Gawk at more than 80 sports cars (displayed in “periodic settings”) at this museum—some classics, some prototypes, and even the newest model. Just cross the street and you can tour the company’s 100-million-square-foot plant.

You may want to tread lightly—in 2014, a sinkhole opened up under the museum and damaged eight of the classic cars. According to FoxSports.com, after the disaster the museum saw their Facebook followers rise to 200,000 from 50,000 and experienced record attendance, with the posted photos of the damage becoming more popular than those of the restored Corvettes. Not one to miss out on opportunity, the museum began selling jars full of dirt and rocks from the sinkhole in their gift shop for $10 apiece, and they’ve sold thousands of the souvenirs. The infamous sinkhole has since been filled in, but you can still watch security-camera footage of the carnage on YouTube.

2. GUCCI MUSEO, FLORENCE, ITALY

The famous fashion house was founded in Florence in 1921. This three-level museum not only showcases artifacts and products from the company’s history and its legacy, but also displays contemporary modern art. You’ll see jet-set luxury luggage, floral designs inspired by Princess Grace of Monaco, and bamboo-adorned handbags. You’ll learn about the history of the company’s logo and see it gracing SCUBA flippers and even a customized 1970s Gucci Cadillac.

3. CATERPILLAR VISITORS CENTER, ILLINOIS

Don’t get too excited when you read about the “Cat Toys” exhibit on view through April—it’s not what you think. But this display of toy tractors and trucks still promises fun for kids and any fan of heavy machinery.

The museum offers the chance to design your own Cat vehicle and operate simulators that give you a sense of what it’s like to use the real things. Maybe the coolest features are the movie theater inside a replica of a two-story mining truck and the chance to design your own Cat machine.

4. GUINNESS STOREHOUSE, DUBLIN, IRELAND

This seven-floor attraction has the “world’s largest pint glass”—a glass atrium in the shape of a giant pint of Guinness, inside which you’ll see the infamous 9000-year lease that Arthur Guinness signed on the site. If it were filled, that giant glass would hold 14.3 million pints of the stout. 

Check out the exhibit on the brewery’s advertising, learn about Mr. Arthur Guinness himself, and view the brewing process. It may go without saying, but the location also features a bar—high up on the seventh floor and with a 360-degree panoramic view of Dublin. That’s where you can drink the pint included in your admission price and enjoy some traditional Irish fare.

5. THE HERSHEY STORY, HERSHEY, PENNSYLVANIA

The Museum on Chocolate Avenue” goes into detail about five separate stages of Milton Hershey’s life and how he became a chocolate king. One exhibit demonstrates the powerful promotional strategies of the company and how it became the country’s top chocolate brand. There is an interactive factory installation where you can receive job assignments and do your part to fill customer orders as it was done in the early 20th century. And yes, of course there is a café where you can indulge in chocolate desserts. 

6. WORLD OF COCA-COLA, ATLANTA, GEORGIA

Ryan Quick, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This vast museum celebrates the history and legacy of the world’s favorite soda pop. Check out memorabilia dating back to the 1800s, explore an interactive exhibit all about the “secret formula,” and watch a robotic bottling line producing eight-ounce souvenir bottles of Coke. The museum owns some pieces of art by major artists who illustrated the drink, such as Andy Warhol. If you get thirsty, help yourself to a sample of different Coca-Cola products from around the world. The museum holds in its collection a 1939 Chevrolet Coke delivery truck from Buenos Aires that is so large that the attraction had to be built around the truck.

7. DR PEPPER MUSEUM AND FREE ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE, WACO, TEXAS

Motto: “Belching is not encouraged.” Located in an 1880s building in Waco, this museum is a privately owned non-profit that aims to educate the public about the soft-drink industry as a whole. You can also learn about the pharmacist who invented Dr Pepper in 1885 in an attempt to recreate the smell of his drug store in drink form.

Inside the building is also the W. W. Clements Free Enterprise Institute, which offers instruction on the American economic system as well as on the life philosophy and business ethics of Woodrow Wilson “Foots” Clements (who rose from delivery-truck driver to president and CEO of the Dr Pepper company). Don’t forget to pick up a classic “I’m a Pepper” T-shirt in the gift shop.

8. WALMART MUSEUM, BENTONVILLE, ARKANSAS

Shop in Walton’s 5 & 10—a working general store made from the original storefront, ceiling, and floor tiles that housed the humble dime store that started it all. View founder Sam Walton’s 1979 Ford pickup truck and original office. Stop for a scoop of trademark blue-and-yellow ice cream in the Spark Café Soda Fountain, a tribute to Walton’s love of the frozen treat. The quirkiest display in the museum may be the collection of items that were returned to the store, including the hand mixer that was brought back because the customer believed it to be possessed. Don’t delay your visit: On view through March 16 is a special collection of founder Sam Walton’s own baseball caps. 

9. CUPNOODLES MUSEUM, IKEDA, JAPAN

This is a whole museum devoted to the creative process of Momofuko Ando, the inventor of Chicken Ramen, the world’s first instant noodle dish. The legend goes that Momofuko worked tirelessly in a tiny shed for a whole year, sleeping only four hours a night and with no days off, to come up with the meal. About a decade later, he came up with Cup Noodles, the world’s first ramen served in a cup. In 2005 he invented Space Ramen, made to be eaten in a weightless environment. Exhibits in the museum include a collection of over 3000 product packages, a recreation of Momofuko’s work shed, and an interactive factory where you can make your own dried ramen to take home.

10. PEZ VISITOR CENTER, ORANGE, CONNECTICUT

This is the official PEZ museum and factory.  You can learn about the early history of the candy dispenser, which was initially for adults and designed to mimic cigarette lighters. Here you’ll find the World’s Largest PEZ Dispenser and a custom-made PEZ motorcycle. You can also see into the actual factory that manufactures 12 million tablets each day.

BONUS: MUSEUM OF BRANDS, PACKAGING AND ADVERTISING, LONDON

Whereas the other museums on this list are dedicated to individual brands, this one is devoted to branding in general. Founded in 1984 by consumer historian Robert Opie (also described as a “supermarket archeologist”), this collection showcases packaging and advertising for food products, cosmetics, toys, and more. There are more than 12,000 original examples, from the Victorian era up to present times. As well as offering educational talks, the museum also loans out “Creative Reminiscence Packs”—collections of vintage packages (such as the “Rationing pack” featuring items from 1940s wartime) that are meant to facilitate discussion and creativity with groups of senior citizens.

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7 of the Most Bizarre Ways to Die
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While most of us hope death comes with dignity and being surrounded by loved ones, there’s really no telling what fate may have in store. If you manage to avoid some of the most common causes of expiration—heart disease and cancer are statistically the most likely causes to interrupt your existence—there’s an endless series of lesser-known maladies and tragedies that could conceivably cause you to miss the upcoming final season of Game of Thrones.

1. DEATH BY NASAL IRRIGATION POT

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Neti pots, which are used to irrigate the sinuses of allergy sufferers, resemble teapots with a spout that allows water to be poured into one nostril and come out the other. Usually, the worst case scenario when using one is that you’ll make a huge mess and wind up with a sink full of snot-tinged water. But for two people in Louisiana in 2011, the pot facilitated the transmission of a brain-eating amoeba known as Naegleria fowleri. It’s believed the organism was transmitted by contaminated tap water contained in their residences, which they both used to fill their neti pots.

The amoeba, which is typically found in warm freshwater lakes, causes fatal brain swelling and carries a mortality rate of more than 97 percent—though infection is actually very rare. The fact that the deceased delivered it directly into their sinuses is what led to the fatal outcome. “Normally, it’s totally harmless, doing its own thing in the mud, eating whatever it finds there, going about its business, not bugging anybody,” Dan Riskin, biologist and expert on the Animal Planet series Monsters Inside Me, told Mental Floss last year. That changes when water harboring N. fowleri is violently shoved up someone's nose. That’s why you should never use anything but sterile water in your neti pots.

2. CHOKING IN A COCKROACH EATING CONTEST

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Endurance and eating contests bring their share of peril. There was the case of the woman who died from dangerously low sodium levels after drinking too much water and holding in her urine for a 2007 radio promotion. Gastronomic athletes have died in an attempt to break hot dog eating records. But nothing compares to choking to death on cockroaches. According to CNN, 32-year-old Edward Archbold entered a bug-eating competition in 2012 that was sponsored by a Florida reptile shop. Archbold wolfed down a series of cockroaches and worms, only to find his airway blocked by the influx of their masticated body parts. The medical examiner ruled he asphyxiated on the bugs.

3. GRAPPLING WITH A VENDING MACHINE

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Weighing anywhere from 500 to nearly 900 pounds when empty, and even more when fully stocked, vending machines are the closest thing we have to the falling anvils of the cartoon world. When a machine eats bills or fails to dispense Doritos, some people can become agitated enough to think that rocking the unit is a good idea. It isn’t. An estimated 1700 injuries occur each year as a result of tussling with these monuments to snack storage, with roughly four deaths attributable to the duels.

4. POOPING TOO HARD

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A fiber-rich diet and sensible cheese consumption should keep most people from enduring a most ignoble end. Straining to pass hard stool can result in something called defecation syncope, or poop-fainting. By holding your breath while bearing down to expel waste, the body’s blood flow is reduced. If you already have compromised arterial blood flow, the low blood pressure can trigger fainting or a heart attack. The University of Miami described two such cases in a 2017 paper. In postoperative hospital care, two patients experienced fatal cardiac events following excessive toilet straining.

5. DEATH BY LAUGHTER

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Some of us truly can suffer consequences during Home Improvement marathons, though not in the way you’d expect. A 2013 paper published in the British Medical Journal offered a litany of possible consequences from laughing, from the minor (fainting) to cardiac events as a result of preexisting conditions. Infamously, a bricklayer named Alex Mitchell died in 1975 after getting the giggles while watching a BBC sketch show titled The Goodies. Mitchell had Long QT syndrome, a heart rhythm disorder that can be worsened by the exertion of laughing. He went into cardiac arrest and died. His wife, Nessie, wrote the show's producers, thanking them for making her husband’s final moments happy ones.

6. KILLED BY A ROBOT

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As technology improves, it seems inevitable that a robot will eventually stand trial for murder just as Isaac Asimov predicted. When that day comes, we may look upon late Kawasaki factory worker Kenji Urada as an early casualty. In 1981, Urada attempted to repair a robot at one of the company’s plants in Akashi, Japan. Urada failed to heed protocol, jumping over a fence rather than opening it—which would have triggered the machine to shut down. Instead, one of its massive arms pinned Urada to a nearby machine that cut up engine gears. Workers tried to intervene, but Urada was killed. A similar incident occurred in 2015, when a robot at a Volkswagen plant in Germany grabbed an employee instead of a vehicle part and crushed him to death.

7. FELLED BY AN ATOMIC WEDGIE

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For anyone who has never attended public school, a “wedgie” is committed when an assailant takes a fistful of a victim’s underwear and yanks, causing the garment to become lodged in the buttocks. While uncomfortable, it rarely proves fatal. An exception came in 2013, when a McLoud, Oklahoma man named Brad Lee Davis had a physical confrontation with his stepfather, Denver Lee St. Clair. After a struggle, Davis took St. Clair’s underwear and pulled it up and over his head, causing the elastic waistband to stretch tightly around his neck. The constriction caused his airway to become blocked, and he expired. Davis accepted a plea deal in 2015. “I did a horrible thing when I gave him that wedgie,” he lamented to authorities. Davis received a 30-year sentence.

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When the FBI Investigated the 'Murder' of Nine Inch Nails's Trent Reznor
Karl Walter, Getty Images
Karl Walter, Getty Images

The two people standing over the body, Michigan State Police detective Paul Wood told the Hard Copy cameras, “had a distinctive-type uniform on. As I recall: black pants, some type of leather jacket with a design on it, and one was wearing combat boots. The other was wearing what looked like patent leather shoes. So if it was a homicide, I was thinking it was possibly a gang-type homicide.”

Wood was describing a puzzling case local police, state police, and eventually the FBI had worked hard to solve for over a year. The mystery began in 1989, when farmer Robert Reed spotted a circular group of objects floating over his farm just outside of rural Burr Oak, Michigan; it turned out to be a cluster of weather balloons attached to a Super 8 camera.

When the camera landed on his property, the surprised farmer didn't develop the footage—he turned it over to the police. Some local farmers had recently gotten into trouble for letting wild marijuana grow on the edges of their properties, and Reed thought the balloons and camera were a possible surveillance technique. But no state or local jurisdictions used such rudimentary methods, so the state police in East Lansing decided to develop the film. What they saw shocked them.

A city street at night; a lifeless male body with a mysterious substance strewn across his face; two black-clad men standing over the body as the camera swirled away up into the sky, with a third individual seen at the edge of the frame running away, seemingly as fast as possible. Michigan police immediately began analyzing the footage for clues, and noticed the lights of Chicago’s elevated train system, which was over 100 miles away.

It was the first clue in what would become a year-long investigation into what they believed was either a cult killing or gang murder. When they solved the “crime” of what they believed was a real-life snuff film, they were more shocked than when the investigation began: The footage was from the music video for “Down In It,” the debut single from industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, and the supposed dead body was the group's very-much-alive lead singer, Trent Reznor.

 
 

In 1989, Nine Inch Nails was about to release their debut album, Pretty Hate Machine, which would go on to be certified triple platinum in the United States. The record would define the emerging industrial rock sound that Reznor and his rotating cast of bandmates would experiment with throughout the 1990s and even today on albums like The Downward Spiral and The Slip.

The band chose the song “Down In It”—a track with piercing vocals, pulsing electronic drums, sampled sound effects, and twisted nursery rhyme-inspired lyrics—as Pretty Hate Machine's first single. They began working with H-Gun, a Chicago-based multimedia team led by filmmakers Eric Zimmerman and Benjamin Stokes (who had created videos for such bands as Ministry and Revolting Cocks), and sketched out a rough idea for the music video.

Filmed on location among warehouses and parking garages in Chicago, the video was supposed to culminate in a shot with a leather-jacketed Reznor running to the top of a building, while two then-members of the band followed him wearing studded jumpsuits; the video would fade out with an epic floating zoom shot to imply that Reznor's cornstarch-for-blood-covered character had fallen off the building and died in the street. Because the cash-strapped upstarts didn’t have enough money for a fancy crane to achieve the shot for their video, they opted to tie weather balloons to the camera and let it float up from Reznor, who was lying in the street surrounded by his bandmates. They eventually hoped to play the footage backward to get the shot in the final video.

Instead, the Windy City lived up to its name and quickly whisked the balloons and camera away. With Reznor playing dead and his bandmates looking down at him, only one of the filmmakers noticed. He tried to chase down the runaway camera—which captured his pursuit—but it was lost, forcing them to finish shooting the rest of the video and release it without the planned shot from the missing footage in September of 1989.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the band, a drama involving their lost camera was unfolding in southwest Michigan. Police there eventually involved the Chicago police, whose detectives determined that the footage had been filmed in an alley in the city's Fulton River District. After Chicago authorities found no homicide reports matching the footage for the neighborhood and that particular time frame, they handed the video over to the FBI, whose pathologists reportedly said that, based on the substance on the individual, the body in the video was rotting.

 
 

The "substance" in question was actually the result of the low-quality film and the color of the cornstarch on the singer’s face, which had also been incorporated into the press photos for Pretty Hate Machine. It was a nod to the band's early live shows, in which Reznor would spew cornstarch and chocolate syrup on his band members and the audience. “It looks really great under the lights, grungey, a sort of anti-Bon Jovi and the whole glamour thing,” Reznor said in a 1991 interview.

With no other easy options, and in order to generate any leads that might help them identify the victim seen in the video, the authorities distributed flyers to Chicago schools asking if anyone knew any details behind the strange “killing.”

The tactic worked. A local art student was watching MTV in 1991 and saw the distinctive video for “Down In It,” which reminded him of one of the flyers he had seen at school. He contacted the Chicago police to tip them off to who their supposed "murder victim" really was. Nine Inch Nails’s manager was notified, and he told Reznor and the filmmakers what had really happened to their lost footage.

“It’s interesting that our top federal agency, the Federal Bureau of [Investigation], couldn’t crack the Super 8 code,” co-director Zimmerman said in an interview. As for Wood and any embarrassment law enforcement had after the investigation: “I thought it was our duty, one way or the other, to determine what was on that film,” he said.

“My initial reaction was that it was really funny that something could be that blown out of proportion with this many people worked up about it,” Reznor said, and later told an interviewer, “There was talk that I would have to appear and talk to prove that I was alive.” Even though—in the eyes of state, local, and federal authorities—he was reportedly dead for over a year, Reznor didn’t seem to be bothered by it: “Somebody at the FBI had been watching too much Hitchcock or David Lynch or something,” he reasoned.

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