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International Museum Day 2022: 10 unusual museums around the world

On International Museum Day (May 18), a look at some unusual museums in the world.

May 18, 2022 / 02:33 PM IST
Set up in 2006 as a travelling exhibition with 100 displays, the museum now has nearly 1,000 objects. (Photo: Preeti Verma Lal)

Set up in 2006 as a travelling exhibition with 100 displays, the museum now has nearly 1,000 objects. (Photo: Preeti Verma Lal)

Museum of Erotic Pottery (Lima, Peru)

At the iron gate of Lima’s Rafael Larco Herrera Museum, leave behind all puritanical notions. There’s no room for coyness in the Museum’s Erotic Pottery Gallery.

Housed in an 18th century viceroyalty-era mansion, the Gallery has several sex-themed pieces that were found during excavations of burial and religious sites of the Moche, a highly organized, class-based society that dominated Peru’s northern coast for 800 years until about 800 AD.

Dating to pre-Columbian times, it is the world’s largest collection of erotic pottery. The most frequently depicted sexual act in the ceramics is anal sex, while, surprisingly, vaginal sex is almost non-existent.

(Photo credit: Preeti Verma Lal) (Photo credit: Preeti Verma Lal)

Museum of Broken Relationships (Zagreb, Croatia)

Displayed on white pedestals are strange objects – pink handcuffs, a sculpted dwarf, a car’s number plate, bridal gown, an axe, a frayed tee, a clump of barbed wire… Next to the artefacts are printed notes that narrate the story of broken relationships: the ‘broken’ is not only about man-woman love; the stories are about heartbroken children, parents, siblings.

When their four-year love broke, Olinka Vištica, a film producer, and Dražen Grubišić, a sculptor, did not know what to do with the remnants of their togetherness. That is when they hit upon the idea of Museum of Broken Relationships (MoBR).

Set up in 2006 as a travelling exhibition with 100 displays donated by friends, the museum now has nearly 1,000 objects. You can buy a Bad Memory Eraser or a I Love Break-ups tee at MoBR shop. Or calm your broken heart with lavender tea in the Brokenships Cafe.

(Photo credit: Preeti Verma Lal) (Photo credit: Preeti Verma Lal)

Phallological Museum (Iceland)

The Icelandic Phallological Museum is probably the only museum in the world to contain a collection of phallic specimens belonging to all the various types of mammals found in a single country.

In all, there are 209 penis specimens belonging to 46 different kinds of mammals - 56 specimens belonging to 17 different kinds of whales, one specimen taken from a rogue polar bear, 36 specimens belonging to seven different kinds of seals and walruses, and 115 specimens originating from 20 different kinds of land mammals. There are four human penis samples also.

Museum of Art Fakes (Vienna, Austria)

Opened in November 2005, Vienna’s Fälschermuseum (Museum of Art Fakes) is all about fakes and forgeries and/or master copies. The art fakes are so good that it is difficult to discern the real from the fake.

On one wall is an identical forgery of Otto Muller’s (1874-1930) lithograph Self Portrait of Model and Mask (1921/22); on another wall hangs the identical forgery by Tony Treto of Marc Chagall’s (1887-1985) Bouquet Sur La Ville. A couple of Picasso fakes stand near a master copy of Raffael’s (1483-1520) Madonna of Belvedere, an oil on wood painting and Egon Schiele’s black chalk on paper Maria Steiner (1918) which was master copied by Diana.

This museum even owes its beginning to a master forger. A chance encounter with art forger Edgar Mrugalla piqued the curiosity of Diane Grobe and Christian Rastner, the museum’s founders, about the spectacular world of art fraud. Mrugalla was no ordinary forger. He made more than 2,500 fakes and came clean in 1987, providing the German police with a 167-page document detailing how he had used coffee, tea and sun to make the sketches and paintings look far older than they were.

(Photo credit: Preeti Verma Lal) (Photo credit: Preeti Verma Lal)

Museum of Sex (New York)

Visitors must be 18 years old and have an ID in hand to enter the Museum of Sex that has a permanent collection of 15,000 artefacts, ranging from an early vibrator made in Great Britain, a lotus shoe worn by a woman in China, to a Braille issue of Playboy magazine.

Porno Chic to Sex Positivity: Erotic Content & the Mainstream, 1960 till Today chronologically traces pornography’s permeation into mainstream culture over the last 40 years; Super Funland: Journey into the Erotic Carnival examines the sexual history of the carnival, its evolution in pre-industrial Europe and the ‘midway’ of the great World’s Fairs of the 20th century. Reclaiming and Making: Art, Desire, Violence presents 14 international artists who have faced and challenged sexually motivated violence through artworks that date from the 1970s to the present day.

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons) (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Bandit Museum (Ronda, Spain)

Museum of Bandits is Spain’s only museum dedicated to the social phenomena of highway robbers and romantic travellers. In the 1800s, daring bondoleros and highwaymen roamed the hills and valleys of the Serrania and created terror. So powerful were these bondoleros that in 1844, a special task force - Guardia Civil – was created to put an end to their thieving ways. As late as the 1930s, a few bandits were still robbing wealthy travellers on their way to Ronda. Now, Ronda has no bandits but their stories live on in the Museum of Bandits which is owned by J. Almazan Gonzalez.

(Photo credit: Preeti Verma Lal) (Photo credit: Preeti Verma Lal)

Instant Ramen Noodles Museum (Osaka, Japan)

Cup noodles originated in Osaka, and not surprisingly, the city houses an Instant Ramen Noodles Museum. There's a tunnel with a lineup of over 800 product packages showing the evolution of the cup noodles into a global food choice over half a century. You can watch the entire process of making cup noodles and make your own noodles.

(Photo: Preeti Verma Lal) (Photo: Japan Tourism Board)

Avanos Hair Museum (Turkey)

Instituted in 1979, this unusual museum has 16,000 samples of different hair. It is said that the museum was started when Chez Galip, a local potter while bidding farewell to his friend, wanted a souvenir to remember her by. For reasons unknown, she chose to cut strands of her hair and hand them to him. The potter told and retold the story of the souvenir to tourists and visitors who passed by. The visitors started leaving back a sample of their hair, turning the shop into a local museum.

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons) (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Dog Collar Museum (Kent, England)

The world’s only museum dedicated to dog collars is tucked inside the imposing Leeds Castle (Kent). Spanning five centuries, the artefacts in this tiny museum include 130 rare and valuable collars. The earliest in the collection is a Spanish iron herd mastiff’s collar that dates back to the late 15th century. Other collars range from 16th-century German iron collars with fearsome spikes and ornate gilt collars of the Baroque period, through to finely-chased 19th-century silver collars and 20th-century examples fashioned from tyres, beads and plastic.

(Photo: Preeti Verma Lal) (Photo: Preeti Verma Lal)

Million Toy Museum (Ayutthaya, Thailand)

This one really has a million toys. Painted with bright blue and white colours, the Million Toy Museum is spread over two floors: the first floor shows an exhibition of Thai people's lives, presented through their daily equipment, and a collection of Thai toys from Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, and Rattanakosin periods. The second floor displays old toys from all over the world, including figures and models of cartoon characters from America and Japan such as Superman, Ultraman, Dragon Ball, Doraemon, Crayon Chin Chan, Hello Kitty, and Scoopy Doo.

Million Toy Museum by Krirk Yoonpun, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya. (Photo: Thailand Tourism Authority) (Photo: Tourism Authority of Thailand)

Preeti Verma Lal is a Goa-based freelance writer/photographer.