On January 12, 1773 (yeah, we’re going way back for this Throwback Thursday), the first American museum opened in Charleston, South Carolina.
“Inspired in part by the creation of the British Museum,” the Charleston Museum was “established by the Charleston Library Society on the eve of the American Revolution.” And “when it first opened to the public in 1824, the Museum developed prominent collections, which Harvard scientist Louis Aggasiz declared in 1852 to be among the finest in America.” Today the museum houses “natural history, historical material culture and both documentary and photographic resources.” [From charlestonmuseum.org].
Okay, so we’re not here today to load you up with historical information about the Lowcountry (though here’s a fun fact: did you know Bill Murray is part of owner and the Director of Fun for Charleston’s baseball team, the Riverdogs? Which makes sense, because, well, this.)
Today really is about the awesomeness of America’s museums, and a lot has changed since 1773. According to a 2014 report by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, there are more than 35,000 active museums in the country. America officially has more museums than Starbucks. Thank goodness.
So from art to science to history, you’ll definitely be able to find one that interests you. Sure, some are more exciting or famous than others, but regardless of the kind of museum you might visit, you have to appreciate the wide variety of treasures inside each one, waiting to be discovered.
Those in search of something traditional could stop at the New York Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and take in the beauty of world-famous artworks such as Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lilly Pond by Claude Monet or The Starry Night by Van Gogh. A visit to Chicago’s Field Museum, one of the largest natural history museums in the world, would provide another classic experience. The highlight of your trip to The Field would surely be Sue, the most complete and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex fossil in the world.
If you’re a foodie, you could swing by the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wisconsin, which boasts more than 5,624 mustards from all 50 states and more than 70 countries. It even has a mustard vending machine. Or how about the International Banana Museum in Mecca, California? According to their website, it’s a very “apeeling” museum that’s a great place to “go bananas.
Techies would be in heaven stepping into Gallery One at the Cleveland Museum of Art. It houses a 40-foot, multi-touch MicroTile Collection Wall—the nation’s largest multi-touch screen—where visitors can manipulate thumbnail images of the museum’s 3,500 works in its permanent collection. Then, using the museum’s ArtLens iPad app, visitors can link to the wall to create their own “playlist” of favorites. Those checking out the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California can check out some of the first computers from the 1940’s and 50’s, as well as a replica of the Babbage Engine, the first automatic computing engine designed by Charles Babbage in the 1800’s.
Or perhaps you’re in the mood for something downright strange. San Antonio, Texas’ Toilet Seat Museum is covered with toilet seats and lids decorated with all manner of mixed media. Free to the public, this museum is the creation of 95-year-old master plumber Barney Smith. Rumor has it that every year he makes a new toilet seat art piece for his wife for their anniversary. (Sweet, but still strange.) And strange things must be commonplace in Texas, because the state also houses the Museum of the Weird in Austin, which looks just, well…weird.
No doubt many of you remember the excitement as a child of going on a field trip to a museum (and not just because you didn’t have to be in school)…The bus rides…The sack lunch (with the PB&J and fruit cup and soda pop can covered in tin foil to keep it cold)…And of course, the LEARNING—about art and history and science and culture. As kids, we knew we lived on a remarkable, fascinating planet in a vast, never-ending universe that begged for exploration. As adults, we sometimes forget to keep discovering the beauty of our strange, wonderful, magnificent world.
Where even toilet seats get their own museum.
So if you haven’t been to a museum in a while, maybe you should take a field trip to one: Take your kids, your spouse, your friends, your family, or even just yourself, and walk around, slowly, and bask in its greatness. It’s strangeness. It’s pricelessness. Because no matter what’s inside, it’s sure to fill you with wonder.
Like, I wonder where all these toilet seats came from?
What’s the best museum you’ve ever visited? Why? And what museum would you like to visit? Let us know in the comments below! (Not surprisingly, this one is at the top of our list).
While you’re here, check out our new series, Everyday Nostalgia: A 52-Week Journey Celebrating the Past to Create Better Days Today, where you can follow Corey’s journey to help create happier, simpler, more fulfilling lives through nostalgic living.