CLOSE

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.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Scott Barbour/Getty Images
arrow
History
7 of History’s Most Unusual Riots
Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Some sociologists theorize that most rioters only join a crowd because the crowd is big enough to justify joining. But there’s always that one person who sparks the violence, and sometimes the reason for doing so can seem pretty baffling. Maybe a work of art scandalizes its audience, like the famous premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Or maybe it’s simply a notable act of disrespect, like history’s first recorded mooning (in Jerusalem in the first century CE). From balloonists to brown dogs to daylight saving time, here are seven weird reasons things just got out of hand.

1. THE MELBOURNE DART RIOT

The Darts Invitational Challenge, an international tournament held in Melbourne, attracted international gawking in January 2015 during the finals match between Michael "Mighty Mike" van Gerwen and Simon "The Wizard" Whitlock. The dart players weren’t making a scene, though: Rather, hundreds of spectators, many of them drunk and in costume, began throwing plastic chairs as they watched (pictured above). The reasons for the fight remain unclear; footage and photos show police trying to control adults dressed as Oompa-Loompas, numerous superheroes, and, in one instance, in a ghillie suit (heavy camouflage meant to resemble foliage).

2. THE LEICESTER BALLOON RIOT

In 1864, balloonists were the great daredevils of their time, and a major draw for eager audiences. That summer, Henry Coxwell, a famous professional aeronaut, was set to make an appearance for 50,000 paying ticketholders in Leicester, England. Unfortunately, a rumor spread that he hadn’t brought his biggest and best balloon to the event. After heckling from the crowd, Coxwell deflated his balloon, and attendees rushed it, ripping it to shreds, setting it on fire, and threatening to visit the same fate on Coxwell. Rioters even paraded the remains of the balloon through the streets of town, which briefly brought residents a new nickname: Balloonatics.

3. THE TORONTO CLOWN AND FIREFIGHTER RIOT

Toronto was still a pretty rough place in the 1850s, but not so rough that the circus wouldn’t come to town. As it turns out, circus entertainers were also a tough lot back then, so when a group of off-duty clowns spent an evening at a brothel popular with the city’s firefighters on July 12, 1855, tensions came to a head. Accounts differ as to who started the fight, but after one firefighter knocked the hat off a clown things escalated into a full-on rabble intent on chasing the circus out of town. Only the mayor calling in the militia put an end to the uproar, an incident Torontonians credit with kicking off much-needed local police reforms.

4. THE BELGIAN NIGHT AT THE OPERA RIOT

A painting by Charles Soubre of the Belgian Revolution
Charles Soubre, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Not many nations can claim their independence started with an aria, but for 19th-century Belgians sick of living under Dutch rule, an opera was just the right fuse for a revolution. To honor the birthday of King William I of the Netherlands, a theater in Brussels put on La Muette de Portici, about an uprising in Naples against Spanish rule. One song, "Amour Sacre de la Patrie" ("Sacred Love of the Fatherland"), aroused nationalistic passions so much that after the opera ended, the crowd began destroying factories and occupying government buildings. That was August 25, 1830; Belgium declared independence on October 4.

5. THE NEW YORK DOCTORS' RIOT

Hamilton fans, take note: Everyone’s favorite Founding Father once tried to quiet a mob bent on burning corpses. For centuries, anatomists and medical students relied on gruesome means to learn about the human body. Cadavers for dissection class often came from grave robbers, since the corpses of executed criminals were the only legal source—and they were in limited supply. In New York in 1788, rumors abounded that medical students were digging up paupers’ graves and black cemeteries. When one mob came after the doctors responsible, Alexander Hamilton tried, and failed, to restore the peace. The crowd swelled to about 5000 before militiamen intervened, leading to up to about 20 deaths.

6. THE BROWN DOG RIOTS

Photo of an anti-vivisection demonstration in Trafalgar Square, London, to protest the removal from Battersea Park of the Brown Dog statue
The Anti-Vivisection Review, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Riots against the dissection of dead human bodies were not rare in the United States at one time. But on December 10, 1907, a thousand Britons marched in support of vivisection, or surgery on live animals. At the center of the controversy was a small terrier allegedly vivisected without anesthetic in 1903 during a class at London’s University College. Animal rights activists erected a statue to the dog in 1906, which enraged area medical students, and protesters tried to destroy the statue using crowbars and hammers. For the 1907 march, 400 mounted police were deployed to contain marchers. The statue became such a flashpoint (and an expense to local authorities) that in 1910, it was removed and melted down.

7. THE EEL-PULLING RIOT

Palingtrekken (eel-pulling) was once a popular contest in Amsterdam, in which a writhing eel was suspended over a canal and hopefuls on boats would leap to snatch it as they passed beneath (usually landing in the water instead). However, “eel-pulling” was also illegal—the government deemed it a “cruel popular entertainment”—and in July 1886, police intervened at a particularly large gathering in the city’s Jordaan district. Civilians threw stones and bricks at police, and when some nearby socialist protestors joined them, a riot broke out that lasted for several days. The army finally intervened and opened fire on the protestors. All in all, 26 people died and 136 were wounded, but somehow, the eel itself at the center of the riots was allegedly saved and auctioned off in 1913.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain
arrow
Weird
9 False Rumors With Real-Life Consequences
King Louis XV of France
King Louis XV of France
Library and Archives Canada, Wikimedia // Public Domain

Don’t believe everything you read—or everything you hear. Unverified but plausible-sounding rumors have been the basis for violent death and destruction throughout history, whether or not the stories had anything to do with the truth.

In their book A Colorful History of Popular Delusions, Robert Bartholomew and Peter Hassall describe rumors as “stories of perceived importance that lack substantiating evidence.” They also note that the sociologist Tamotsu Shibutani describes rumors as “improvised news,” which tends to spread when the demand for information exceeds supply. Such an information deficit most often occurs during wars and other crises, which might explain why some rumors have had such dramatic results. Here’s a selection of some of the most interesting rumors with real-life results collected in Bartholomew and Hassall’s book.

1. KING LOUIS XV WAS KIDNAPPING CHILDREN.

In 1750, children began disappearing from the streets of Paris. No one seemed to know why, and worried parents began rioting in the streets. In the midst of the panic, a rumor broke out that King Louis XV had become a leper and was kidnapping children so that he could bathe in their blood (at the time, bathing in the blood of children was thought by some to be an effective leprosy cure).

The rumor did have a tiny kernel of truth: Authorities were taking children away, but not to the king’s palace. A recently enacted series of ordinances designed to clear the streets of “undesirables” had led some policemen—who were paid per arrest—to overstep their authority and take any children they found on the streets to houses of detention. Fortunately, most were eventually reunited with their parents, and rumors of the king’s gruesome bathing rituals were put to rest.

2. LONDON WAS GOING TO BE DESTROYED BY AN EARTHQUAKE.

Two small earthquakes struck London at the beginning of 1761, leading to rumors that the city was due for “the big one” on April 5, 1761. Supposedly, a psychic had predicted the catastrophe. Much of the populace grew so panicked that they fled town for the day, with those who couldn’t afford fancier lodgings camping out in the fields. One soldier was so convinced of the impending doom that he ran through the streets shouting news of London’s imminent destruction; sadly, he ended up in an insane asylum a few months later.

3. JEWS WERE POISONING WELLS.

A deep well
iStock

Reports that Jews ritually sacrificed Christian children were not uncommon during the Middle Ages, but things took a particularly terrible turn during the spread of the Black Plague. In the 14th century, thousands of Jews were killed in response to rumors that Satan was protecting them from the plague in exchange for poisoning the wells of Christians. In 1321 in Guienne, France alone, an estimated 5000 Jews were burned alive for supposedly poisoning wells. Other communities expelled the Jews, or burned entire settlements to the ground. Brandenburg, Germany, even passed a law denouncing Jews for poisoning wells—which of course they weren't.

4. BRIGANDS WERE TERRORIZING THE FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE.

In July 1789, amid the widespread fear and instability on the eve of the French revolution, rumors spread that the anti-revolutionary nobility had planted brigands (robbers) to terrorize the peasants and steal their stores of food. Lights from furnaces, bonfires, and even the reflection of the setting sun were sometimes taken to be signs of brigands, with panic as the predictable result. Provincial towns and villages formed militias in response to the rumors, even though, as historian Georges Lefebvre put it, “the populace scared themselves.” In one typical incident, near Troyes on July 24, 1789, a group of brigands were supposedly spotted heading into some woods; an alarm was sounded and 3000 men gave chase. The “brigands” turned out to be a herd of cattle.

5. GERMAN-AMERICANS WERE PLOTTING SNEAK ATTACKS ON CANADA.

Officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police marching in a Canada Day parade
iStock

Canada entered World War I in 1914, three years before the United States did. During the gap period, rumors circulated that German-Americans sympathetic to their country of origin were planning surprise attacks on Canada. One of the worst offenders of such rumor-mongering, according to authors Bartholomew and Hassall, was British consul-general Sir Courtenay Bennett, then stationed in New York. In the early months of 1915, Bennett made “several sensational claims about a plan in which as many as 80,000 well-armed, highly trained Germans who had been drilling in Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York, were planning to invade Canada from northwestern New York state.” Bizarre as it may sound, there was so much anxiety and suspicion during the period that Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden requested a report on the story, which the Canadian police commissioner determined to be without any foundation whatsoever.

6. THE INDONESIAN GOVERNMENT WAS HUNTING HEADS FOR CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS.

In certain parts of Indonesia, locals reportedly believe—or once did—that large-scale construction projects require human heads to keep the structures from crumbling. In 1937, one island was home to a spate of rumors saying that a tjoelik (government-sanctioned headhunter) was looking for a head to place near a local jetty construction project. Locals reported strange noises and sights, houses pelted with stones, and attacks from tjoelik wielding nooses or cowboy lassos. Similar rumors surfaced in 1979 in Indonesian Borneo, when government agents were supposedly seeking a head for a new bridge project, and in 1981 in Southern Borneo, when the government headhunters supposedly needed heads to stabilize malfunctioning equipment in nearby oil fields. Terrified townspeople began curtailing their activities so as not to be in public any longer than necessary, although the rumors eventually died down.

7. POWERFUL APHRODISIAC GUM WENT ON SALE IN THE MIDDLE EAST.

An assortment of sticks of pink bubble gum
iStock

In the mid-1990s, the Middle East was home to some alarming rumors about aphrodisiacal gum. In 1996 in Mansoura, Egypt, stories began spreading that students at the town’s university had purchased gum deliberately spiked with an aphrodisiac and were having orgies as a result. One local member of parliament said the gum had been distributed by the Israeli government as part of a plot to corrupt Egyptian youth. Mosque loudspeakers began warning people to avoid the gum, which was supposedly sold under the names “Aroma” or “Splay.” Authorities closed down some shops and made arrests, but never did find any tainted gum. Similar rumors cropped up the following year in the Gaza Strip, this time featuring a strawberry gum that turned women into prostitutes—supposedly, the better to convince them to become Shin Bet informants for the Israeli military.

8. SORCERERS WERE PLAGUING INDONESIA.

In the fall of 1998, a sorcerer scare in East Java, Indonesia, resulted in the deaths of several villagers. The country was in crisis, and while protests raged in major cities, some in the rural area of Banyuwangi began agitating for restitution for past wrongs allegedly committed by sorcerers. The head of the local district ordered authorities to move the suspected sorcerers to a safe location, a process that included a check-in at the local police station. Unfortunately, villagers took the suspects’ visits to police stations as proof of their sorcery and began killing them. Anthropologists who studied the incident said the stories of supposed sorcery—making neighbors fall sick, etc.—were based entirely on rumor and gossip.

9. OBAMA WAS INJURED BY A WHITE HOUSE EXPLOSION.

These days, rumors have advanced technology to help them travel. On April 23, 2013, a fake tweet from a hacked Associated Press account claimed that explosions at the White House had injured Barack Obama. That lone tweet caused instability on world financial markets, and the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index lost $130 billion in a short period. Fortunately, it quickly recovered. (Eagle-eyed journalists were suspicious of the tweet from the beginning, since it didn’t follow AP style of referring to the president with his title and capitalizing the word breaking.)

An earlier version of this story ran in 2015.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios