Offbeat museums

Museum Monday: SPAM Museum reopening

If you’re a fan of the tinned meat product known as SPAM – or just enjoy a good offbeat museum – then you have a new reason to plan a trip to southeastern Minnesota: the Spam Museum is set to reopen on April 22, 2016.

Hormel's SPAM MUSEUM reopens April 22 in a new spot in downtown Austin, Minnesota.

The museum is located in Austin, Minnesota – home of SPAM manufacturer Hormel Foods Corporation – and has been closed since September 2014 in preparation for a move from just outside of Austin’s downtown to a spot right in downtown.

One of the new exhibits in the SPAM Museum - opening April 22 in Austin, Minn. Courtesy SPAM Museum

Some new galleries have been created, but Hormel made sure to keep the more popular exhibits, including one exploring Spam’s connection to the military and the production line game where guests can simulate making Spam.

SPAMples, the Spam Museum’s version of free samples, will continue as well.

Why did they move the Spam Museum?

To be neighborly.

Since 2001, the Spam Museum welcomed visitors first from a spot in a local mall and later from a building attached to Hormel corporate headquarters, just off Interstate 90.

But stopping at the museum didn’t require a drive through Austin (population: 25,000), which meant most visitors never ventured into the town’s historic shop and restaurant-filled downtown.

So when it came time for a new and bigger spot for the museum, members of Vision 2020 – a community group working to improve the quality of life in Austin by the year 2020 – urged Hormel to move the museum to Austin’s Main Street.

Hormel agreed. And now finishing touches are being put on the Spam Museum, which has scheduled its soft opening for April 22 and a grand opening in July as part of Hormel’s 125th anniversary celebration.

SPAM production line

Museum Monday: hair, cockroaches, plumbing and more

Thousands of museums in the United States document important events and valuable objects.

But if it’s the funny and offbeat you’re after, hightail it to the Plumbing Museum, the Pencil Sharpener Museum and these other offbeat and somewhat off-kilter places I profiled in a recent slide-show story titled Bizarre Museums for Bing Travel.

Here’s a sampling:

Established to celebrate “the labor of artists whose work would be displayed and appreciated in no other forum,” the three galleries operated by the Museum of Bad Art in the Boston area celebrate paintings that have “gone horribly awry in either concept or execution.” Rescued from trash heaps, yard sales, thrift stores and attics, the collection now includes more than 600 works of art, all of them bad — but in a good way.

Whether it’s a good hair day or a bad one, Leila Cohoon is happy to weave stories about the history of hair and take visitors through Leila’s Hair Museum in Independence, Mo. The carefully coiffed collection includes locks snipped from the manes of celebrities, 400 framed Victorian hair wreaths and more than 2,000 pieces of antique brooches, bracelets, necklaces and other jewelry made entirely with, or containing, human hair.

Located, appropriately enough, in Watertown, Mass., the Plumbing Museum’s collection snakes back to the 18th century and includes antique sinks, toilets, water closets and bathtubs as well as historic tools of the trade. If you’re curious about water mains, overflows and septic tanks, this museum devoted to piping technology through the ages will help flush out the answers.

When he’s not out removing unwanted critters from private homes, pest-control expert Michael Bohdan is tending to his Cockroach Hall of Fame and Museum in Plano, Texas. The museum features live insects, such as Madagascar hissing cockroaches, and more than two dozen costumed and preserved cockroaches, including the bejeweled, piano-playing Liberoachi and the sexy Marilyn Monroach.

Get the picture? There are 14 offbeat museums featured in the Bing Travel story, Bizarre Museums.
I’ll let you contemplate these a while and post a few more tomorrow.

Have I missed your favorite offbeat museum? Drop a note in the comment section below and perhaps your recommendation will be featured on a future edition of’s Museum Monday.