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Museum: the word conjures up images of marble floors, strangely cool air and the muffled footsteps of hushed visitors as they admire grand works of art and hallowed ancient objects.
An air of quiet contemplation and reverence hangs as still in the air as the artefacts on the whitewashed walls. But dig a little deeper into some of the more obscure corners of major cities, and there are some museums to be found that don’t quite fit that description.
To celebrate Museum Day, we’ve chosen the top 5 unusual museums to visit on some of our cultural holidays.
Iceland Phallological Museum
View over Reykjavik, Iceland
Where else could you find 280 penile specimens from 93 species? Nowhere but Iceland, of course! The infamous Phallological Museum aims to enable “individuals to undertake serious study into the field of phallology in an organized, scientific fashion”.
Marvel at the 76-inch front tip of a blue whale penis to the tiny 2mm baculum of a hamster – on the less impressive end of the spectrum. You can even see a human specimen. Run by Hjörtur Gísli Sigurðsso, son of original founder Sigurður Hjartarson, this is one family business with a twist. Alongside its many specimens, the Phallological Museum also features phallic arts and crafts and the penis of a Huldufólk – an Icelandic elf!
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Prague, Czech Republic
Franz Kafka Museum
The menacing work of Prague’s most famous (and some may say elusive) literary son, Kafka, is brought vividly and alarmingly to life as you traverse the dark, disorientating exhibition housed in the Franz Kafka Museum.
As well as boasting an outstandingly collection of artwork, documents and diary entries relating to the revered author, this collection is brought to life with sound collages and a weirdly sinister atmosphere. Rooms filled with filing cabinets illustrate Kafka’s preoccupation and unease with bureaucracy and the alienation of humanity, making this museum a wonderfully unique prospect for the literary-minded.
Don’t forget to check out the rather famous and cheeky fountain in front of the museum!
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Cancun Underwater Museum
There are not many museums in the world that require you to strap on your SCUBA gear before you (quite literally) plunge into the exhibits. In fact, we can uncover only one: The Cancun Underwater Museum (MUSA).
Devoted to the Art of Conservation, the mostly submerged museum has a total of 500 sculptures in three different galleries. The museum was dreamt up by Jaime Gonzalez Canto and sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor to serve a dual purpose: to showcase sculpture and aid in conservation by creating artificial reefs.
The statues serve as a new place for coral to grow and collect and were designed with materials to aid in this venture, boosting the marine life in the area.
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Batcat Museum & Toys
River view over Bangkok
Bangkok in Thailand is host to many weird and wonderful museums, including the famous Siriraj Medical Museum. However, perhaps none are as charming and irreverent as the Batcat Museum, just outside Bangkok, in the Bangkapi area.
Glass shelves heave with 50,000 toys, including icons like Superman, and countless examples of collectable memorabilia. However, the jewel in the Batcat’s crown is the Batman room: home to a life-size Batman suit and high-tech Batmobiles and planes. Whilst not the easiest museum to find, for true aficionados nothing will delight more.
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Museum of Broken Relationships
Most of us try to forget our lost loves. Not Zagreb-based artists Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić, who three years after breaking up, set up the Museum of Broken Relationships in 2006 to house the left-over remnants of their four-year love affair, and it has only grown since as donations from broken hearts across the world poured in.
Replete with many bizarre objects, alongside explanatory notes from the donors regarding their significance, here you can see a former lover’s novelty pants, clipped off dreadlocks and more conventional reminders such as teddy bears and wedding albums.
Perhaps the most famous and controversial exhibit, “ex-axe”, is an axe used by a Berlin woman to chop her former lover’s furniture in frustration after being left for another woman. Whilst perhaps not for the recently heartbroken, the Museum of Broken Relationships is nonetheless a fascinating exploration of relationships and catharsis.
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Explore more of our cultural holidays below.