The 5 Most Insane Museums Ever

Posted by Ben On May - 13 - 2009

Life is a weird place, so it’s very surprising that so many museums, supposedly the collectors and demonstrators of the wonderful products of the physical and creative world, are so very much the same from one country to another. And more often than not, dull as ditchwater.

However, there is a vicious and weird underbelly to the museum culture that deserves some serious illumination. Here are our top 5 picks of the most odd, obscene and crazed ideas for museums from round the globe.

5. Icelandic Phallological Museum, Iceland

Actual Tagline: None on their website

We Suggest the Tagline: The House that Dick Built

Finally! Its the world’s (apparently) only Penis Museum, “boasting” 209 individual “penises and penile parts belonging to almost all the land and sea mammals that can be found in Iceland,” even that of a “stray polar bear” which had somehow managed to get to Iceland, and after all that effort, blood sweat and tears, happened across some douche who cut said bear’s cock off and started a penis museum with it.

The museum was recently satirically featured in Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle and undoubtedly has become the reason for the renewed vigour with which US school children are defacing their schoolbooks. A quick look at the site’s guest list reveals some interesting posts. For example:


May 4th 2008






good afternoon arsenal are drawing with everton

So this museum really IS for dicks!

Aside from this random posting, most of the questions are from people inquiring if there are “T-Shirts” (read “novelty present for an unwilling friend who will NEVER wear a Dick-Tee and bin it”) and “Souvenirs” (Read “DILDOS”), the most amusing note comes from Mr Dave Menke at Prima college, who asks:

“Most interesting, particularly since the penis, as important as it is to most animal life forms, is often relegated to a forbidden status in pornography. I wonder if there is museum of clitori?”

Hey Dave, very interesting question – except, how can you have a museum for something that DOESN’T EXIST.

4. The Museum of Bad Art (MOBA), MA, USA

Tagline: Art Too Bad to be Ignored

We Suggest the Tagline: My eyes! My beautiful eyes! It burns! It BUUUURRRNNNSS!

Who doesn’t remember those great names in contemporary art; The great Sarah Irani! That master of painting the light, Frank B. Oldfield! Or that apparently all-pervasive genius whose artwork is visible in every corner of MOBA, “Unknown!” These pieces of sheer awful have to be seen to be believed, and then you’re stuck with not being able to un-see them. Forever. Just look at these – and if you still think “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” after casting your face over these, you belong in the phallus museum as an exhibit.

The site is damn well-presented, and in fact MOBA raises money from auctioning these pieces of “art” off (the highest bidder at the moment for the current offering has pledged a whopping $152.53.) Rather wrily, Curator-in-Chief Michael Frank states on the latest press release that “MOBA does not sell items from our Permanent Collection, although we have so far not been tempted with the opportunity to liquidate any of our works into “six figures”.”

The money the museum raises is being pledged to the economically afflicted Rose Art Museum , which is an actual museum with good art. A noble cause, but the ethics of it feel a bit like “helping” fight Homelessness by getting sponsored to walk around dressed like a homeless person all day while your friends laugh at you and throw coins.

3. The International Museum of Toilets, India

Tagline: None

We Suggest the Tagline: A shit museum

Picture a European traveler come to India to “find the magic” and diversify their cultural horizons. After approximately 4 minutes of a healthy stomach, and 10 days of painful, dangerous dysentery, what would the last museum on his mind possibly be? Yeah, I’d be pretty pissed off too.

But over 2 million page impressions tell me this site is weirdly popular, or a few random people keep clicking “Refresh page” a couple of hundred thousand times each because they can’t quite believe this could be a real website. But it is.

The introduction by its founder Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak has this to say about the museum’s chosen subject:

“Museums as repositories for the preservation and exhibition of the objects of historical, scientific and cultural interest are found all over the world. But rare are the museums that display the evolution of toilets and their various designs.”

Yes, I wonder why that is.

One thing very obvious here is that the designers of the toilets were one of three things: a) Batshit insane b) SO desperate to get their toilet exhibited by the museum they decorated it to already worse than what one normally resembles AFTER someone has sprayed their technicolor yawn all over it.

And this one…

That’s right – one of the “toilets of the 90s”, as they are called on the site, was a kitchen bin you could relieve yourself in. So we’re probably talking the 1490s. If I’d found myself in a house where a host regularly defecates in the kitchen, I would have very slowly walked backwards out of their house with eyes wider than a cartoon mouse.

2. The Homeless Museum, New York, USA

Tagline: The Homeless Museum of Art

We Suggest the Tagline: Touch the porcupine. Orange! Orange! That’s my Nelson!

By far the sharpest Museum website on the list, it is also the most willingly mental of the bunch. It’s not an actual museum so much as an apartment you can visit. Filip Noterdaeme, its creator/curator, walks around puffing on his pipe, sits in his studio bed next to his muse, a woman dressed up as Madame Butterfly, and has a stuffed dog sitting in front of a tripod-mounted mic in place of an official spokesperson. In a pram. Called Florence Coyote. Don’t believe us? Look!

The Museum features a Homelessness simulator, a large plastic opaque box you kind of just sit in, and the walls are adorned with placards like “Give to Charity. Just Not Here.” And just when you think Mr Noterdaeme might be just having a massive straight-faced laugh at your expense, you come across the hilarious letters he writes to other museums, suggesting to some curators that in the face of a bad economy, the Homeless museum will be relocating to the rooftops of their own museums around New York, or writing to Veuve Cliquot suggesting they set up a Help the Homeless program (“The Veuve Cliquot Shelter, for women, and The Dom Perignon Shelter, for men.”)

Most notably Noterdaeme writes to MoMA Chief Curator Klaus Biesenbach, offering him a free sample of Biesenbach’s “ex-lover Marina Abramovic’s” fragrance he created by salvaging an iceblock she used in a performance piece and “distill[ing] drippings from it to create Eau d’Abramovic, a skin care tonic infused with the aura of the self-described “grandmother of performance art.”

Yep, it’s fairly safe to say Filip is our kind of dude.

1. The Museum of Quackery, USA

Tagline: None Needed

We Suggest the Tagline: None Needed

OK, Bad news first – the museum’s curator and founder Bob McCoy retired in 2002, but the good news is that the Science Museum of Minnesota was the lucky recipient of his outlandish and brilliant collection of thinly-disguised torture devices, some of them so plain odd as to be a complete mystery in their supposed application, even to avid collectors of quasi-bullshit medical ephemera.

This museum is by far the one that will teach you the most. For example, it may surprise some readers to know that John Harvey Kellogg (yep, the guy behind Kellogg’s cornflakes) also presided over a chair that cures intestinal peristalsis issues by shaking the shit out of you (literally I suppose) while you scream for dear life – so think about that the next time you’re chucking down that breakfast of yours.

Or perhaps you want to cure a headache by giving yourself an electric shock in the face with an adapted grill igniter. No? How about an enthusiastic round on the foot-operated Breast enlarger. Sounds mental right? Only guys buy suction devices to make their anatomy larger, the dolts! Women know better! Except that in 1976, four million US women spent $10 on a device that does what this weird-ass object claims to.

Sounds like a 1970s free-love leftover oddity does it? Well, no. People are STILL paying up to $70 to buy these objects online, so much so that the the US Food and Drug Administration had to issue a press-release in 1988 and re-issue it in 1990 warning that quackery is targeting teens, who swipe their parent’s Amex cards and order a tit-tangler with it. And then presumably tell their fathers that “mum must have ordered it” and their mothers that “it’s probably for daddy’s new but top-light lover.”

McCoy himself has been on Television exactly 8,00,0002 times demonstrating these devices to a public that clearly can’t fathom that we once bought into this shit as a collective IN LIVING MEMORY. But what’s the lesson here perhaps? Maybe we’re all buying into something dumb right now, in this “modern age” of ours.

If we work it out or not, it’s a hell of a lot more of an interesting lesson to take away with you and mull over than your standard museum gift-shop plastic.

To play us out, here’s McCoy on Letterman in 1987, with some of the craziest shit ever bought into.




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