Good News — An Embarrassment of Riches

Somewhere I ran across the observation that if you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention.

Reader(s) of this ‘umble blog will scarcely accuse me of not paying attention.

On the other hand, sometimes one stumbles across a news item which allows one to break the pattern of endless carping and excoriation.  Something like The Washington Post’s report that there are more museums in the United States than McDonald’s and Starbuck’s outlets . . . combined.

Granted, most of them are tiny.  F’rinstance, on the Gulf Shores Parkway in Alabama there is a Spear Hunting Museum.  Seriously.  Not just spears, or spear throwing, but specifically spear hunting.  I wonder if they include spear fishing in there.

[Aside:  The link goes to a page in Atlas Obscura, a truly wonderful outfit dedicated to the unusual.  I forget how it was that I first came across it, but one day a few years ago they sponsored a specific day for everyone to get out and go somewhere way out of the way.  As things happened I was in a position to visit the Berman Museum of World History in Anniston, Alabama, which is right next door to the Anniston Museum of Natural History.  Both are city museums, and the Berman is especially fascinating.  It was founded by this couple who had met during the war in North Africa, where both were working for different outfits, both doing Things That Don’t Get Into Newspapers (if you know what I mean).  Over the course of what appears to have been a very long and very successful life, they seem to have managed to acquire any number of intriguing objects.  Like Hermann Göring’s Reichsmarschall’s baton.  Not a field marshal’s baton; Hitler made more field marshals at one shot than the Kaiser made during all of the Great War.  But there was only one Reichsmarschall, and ol’ Fat Hermann was it.  They’ve also got a complete toilet set that belonged to Napoleon; let’s just say that however much hair the dear ol’ Emp. had or didn’t have, if he couldn’t comb it, brush it, and perfume it with all the trinkets, unguents, and whatnot in that set, he should have just given up and shaved his head.  But they’ve also got tons of ancient history stuff, stuff from the Far East, piles of Great War weapons, equipment, and uniforms, and all in all just about anything a reasonable person could want to see.  When they died they left it all to the city, for the specific reason that joints like the big cities already had enough museums and why couldn’t Anniston (apparently he was from there) have a nice one too?  The natural history museum is also very well done, I have to say.  Add in the side benefit that I got to spend the day with one of my Favorite. People. Ever. and it was just about perfect.  Cannot recommend both places too strongly.]

Or there’s the Corning Museum of Glass, which the wife and I stumbled across many years ago while wandering around in upstate New York.  It was there, it was about the only indoors thing to do in town at that time of year, and so I figured I was going to squander an afternoon doing something so this might as well be it.  It turned out to be one of the best museums I’ve ever been to.  Fascinating stuff, really, and I can only speculate that it’s got even better in recent years.

Then there’s the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum in Auburn, Indiana, with emphasis on the three eponymous car manufacturers.  It’s in the old factory museum, which includes the original, and wonderfully restored, factory showroom, the height of 1920s art deco design (it’s so glam that people have their weddings there).  They’ve got several of the 481 total J-Series cars ever made, including one of the only two short-wheelbase models.  Back then, if you were as rich as God, you drove a Rolls; if you were actually richer than God, you drove a Duesenberg.  They’ve got some absolutely priceless other specimens there, including the only Type E-2 prototype which they discovered in pieces, re-assembled and restored, and there it sits with its 193-inch wheelbase.  Think about that:  193 inches between the axles; hell, the radiator isn’t even in the same ZIP Code as the gas cap.  But it’s not just Auburns, Cords, and Duesenbergs they’ve got; there’s an entire wing devoted to Indiana-built pre-1920 cars, a large proportion of which are pre-World War I.

If you like really off-the-beaten-track car museums, it’s hard to beat the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.  It’s in an old commercial bakery, and like the Berman Museum, it was the collection of a single collector.  They specialize in foreign oddball cars most Americans have never heard of.

If you’re into things a bit less greasy and noisy than cars, and a bit less dusty than Napoleon’s dandruff, there’s the American Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky.

This is one of those areas where the internet really earns its keep.  If you’re even a tiny  bit interested in something, chances are someone out there has collected a bunch of it and for a nominal consideration will let you look at it.

Happy exploring.

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