Unusual Museum Experiences Around the World
May 25, 2021
Tell someone that you are going to a museum and it will likely bring images of paintings, statues, or antiquities, but sometimes a museum is something completely different. We have had the opportunity to see a variety of different museums in various locations during our travels. They range from cultural museums or locations of historical and political significance. The definition of a museum is basically a building or series of buildings in which objects of historical, scientific, artistic, or cultural interest are stored and exhibited. These certainly meet that criteria and are some of the more unusual ones that we visited over the past several years.
Settlement Museum in Borgarnes, Iceland – During our stay in Reykjavik in Iceland, we made the hour-long drive to Borgarnes, going through a five kilometer tunnel underneath one of the bays, and enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the restaurant of the Settlement Centre. We then took the tour through the museum, which consisted of two thirty-minute audio tours that covered the history of how the Vikings first came to populate Iceland as well as their turbulent history once they arrived. The early history of Iceland is told through Viking Sagas, one of which is the Eglis Saga. Egill Skalla-Grimsson was a famous Viking and poet whose story is used to provide an understanding of the first people to populate Iceland. It isn’t just a recanting of his poetry, but is the tale of his life, beliefs, fortunes, and misfortunes.
Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, Ireland – Almost everyone we spoke to about what to do during our visit to Dublin recommended us taking a tour of Kilmainham Gaol. Kilmainham Gaol is a former prison in Dublin that has been converted into a prison museum. It has been used as a set for many movies including In the Name of the Father and Michael Collins as well as many others. The tour was very interesting and provided a lot of detail about the prison and prisoners, especially the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising. The prison held almost every leader of the Irish revolutionary groups until it was shut down in 1924 by the Irish Free State.
Chocolate Museum in Cologne, Germany – When we visited Köln during our time in Germany, we decided to take a tour of the Schokoladen Museum (Chocolate Museum). The museum is situated right on the Rhine river in the Rheinau Harbour next to old town and not far from the cathedral. The three story building is shaped like a large ship with floor to ceiling windows providing wonderful views of the river and city. Lindt is the official chocolatier of the museum and the highlight of the tour is tasting and buying the freshly made chocolate. There is even an opportunity to create a personalized chocolate bar with nut and candy toppings and fillings chosen by you.
The COPE Visitor Center in Vientiane, Laos – During our trip to Vientiane we visited the COPE Visitor Center, which is partly a museum, but also provides insight into the work that COPE does in Laos. Visiting the center wasn’t on our original itinerary, but we ended up with enough time during our tour of the city to fit it in. The country of Laos has many unexploded cluster bombs (referred to as bombies) from the Vietnam war that are still causing injuries throughout the country. COPE is an organization that is attempting to find and defuse all of the bombs as well as provide medical attention and supplies to those that get injured.
Intiñan Museum near Quito, Ecuador – One of the things that we really enjoyed during our visit to Quito, Ecuador, was going to the true equator and participating in several experiments at the Intiñan Museum. The museum itself is dedicated to the history of Ecuador with several exhibits about the cultures of the people of the Amazon. Although there are several exhibits regarding the people, animals, and plants of the jungle, the main attraction of the museum are the various science experiments that are a hands on experience for those that visit the museum.
DakshinaChitra Cultural Museum in India – Located outside of Chennai, the DakshinaChitra is a living museum that depicts life, art, culture, and architecture of Southern India, including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. DakshinaChitra features 18 authentic historical houses that were deconstructed from their original region and then reconstructed by artisans from the region on the grounds of the museum. Each of the houses features exhibits that represent the region’s art and daily life. Although we visited during an off time, the museum features typical artisans and performers from the various regions that you can interact with, thus making it a living museum.
We’ve certainly been to other interesting museums including the Nuremberg Courthouse in Germany, the Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna, as well as the Brother’s Grimm Museum in Kassel, and each is unique, fun and interesting in their own ways. Obviously we have also been to many traditional museums that are certain famous and contain amazing works of art or pieces of historical significance, but sometimes going to someplace that is more about the fun than it is about an education experience is equally worthwhile. What is the most unique museum experience that you’ve been too during your travels?