It only takes a road trip across the United States to realize how big this country can seem – in terms of physical space and diversity of ideas – and how small at the same time. Of course, scale is relative, but still there are some places so big or so small that they blur our sense of perception. If you cram every person on earth, they’d only fill a fraction of the Grand Canyon, as all 895,000 pre-1992 buildings across New York’s five boroughs are housed inside the Queens Museum of Art, a miniature metropolis built to a scale of 1:1200. In the middle of Kansas, a state known for its wide and flat vistas, you’ll find several great things besides a museum that straddles both ends of the size spectrum: The world’s largest collection of the world’s smallest versions of the largest big things.
The artist behind a museum of miniature versions of ‘the world’s largest’ objects
While vast, sprawling collections of important art and artifacts like the Met or Smithsonian museums are essential stops on any road trip, here are 8 miniature museums that prove that sometimes it’s quality – not square footage. in square feet – of the exposure that matters.
1. The smallest museum in the world
Measuring just over 100 square feet, the world’s smallest museum displays ‘artifacts of ordinary life’, including a 1984 Compaq computer, a Beatles concert poster, a letter from John F. Kennedy, natural curiosities and the “largest jar of prehistoric artifacts in the world”. Puzzle Pieces.” Located in a small red shed behind the Buckboard City Cafe an hour east of Phoenix, Arizona, the world’s smallest museum is free, but donations are appreciated.
2. World famous Crochet Museum
The World Famous Crochet Museum, owned by artist Shari Elf, is housed in a tiny former photo processing booth just outside Joshua Tree National Park. Elf has been collecting crochet items since the early 90s; after buying the photo booth, she built shelves to display her collection, painted it bright green, and moved it to Southern California. Elf is a curator, not a designer (she claims she can’t crochet), whose collection includes poodles, dolls, flowers, cats, waffles, a split banana, a full nativity scene, and even a (small) kitchen sink. The museum’s official curator is not Elf, but a crocheted alligator named Bunny, who reminds potential visitors that the free museum “is always open, even if we’re not there.”
3. Eyegore Odditorium and Monster Museum
Eyegore’s Odditorium and Monster Museum is a new addition to Cawker City, Kansas, home to the world’s largest ball of string. Located directly across from the small town’s famous big attraction, Eyegore’s is part shop, part museum, and the home of Matt “Wizard of Odd” Alford and his wife, “Master of Monster Management”, Julie. The space is only officially open on weekends for now, but visitors are encouraged to call the couple; If they’re at home, they’ll probably be happy to show off their collection, which includes custom taxidermy pieces, ancient medical equipment, a full human skeleton and what they believe to be Kansas’ biggest pants.
4. The Olive Gunnison Collection
The crown jewel of Akin’s Free Library’s eclectic archives is easy to miss – you’ll have to descend into the building’s basement to see Olive M. Gunnison’s curious collection. Gunnison began collecting insects, mice and worms as a child, then moved on to preserving her own specimens. The mother and housewife kept her burgeoning collection in a shed behind her house, dubbed a ‘chamber of horrors’ by her husband, until it was donated to the library in Pawling, New York, in 1960. Currently, Gunnison’s collection occupies four rooms, divided into two sections: one devoted to natural history and a cabinet of curiosities. The museum includes dozens of taxidermy specimens, a shrunken head from Ecuador, the footprints of a dinosaur captured in stone, uranium ore and a mammoth tooth.
A collection of world-class curiosities slowly evaporates in a dusty basement
First opened in 2012 in a downtown Manhattan elevator shaft, the 36-square-foot Mmuseumm is currently located in Cortlandt Alley, just south of Canal Street. Dedicated to “object journalism”, the Mmuseumm website presents it as “a new type of museum, growing in a network of expected and unexpected places, dedicated to the exploration of modern humanity and current events. through the revelation of objects from around the world”. Old items on display included a first-generation iPod, artwork created by prisoners, and a broken lava lamp. The Mmuseumm is temporarily closed but the collection is visible 24/7 through an observation window.
6. National Bonsai and Penjing Museum
Located less than 3 miles east of the US Capitol and the National Mall, and nestled in the middle of the 446-acre US National Arboretum, is a small museum of small trees with a long history: the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum. The mission of the free outdoor museum is to educate future generations about the ancient art of bonsai. Featuring over 100 specimens, the collection is divided by region of origin and includes trees from Japan, China and North America, many of which are centuries old.
The National Bonsai Museum may be tiny, but it represents centuries of history
7. Cryptozoology and Paranormal Museum
After he and his family moved from Long Island to Littleton, North Carolina, former New York journalist Stephen Barcelo began to suspect that their historic home was haunted. Today, the ground floor of their house houses the Museum of Cryptozoology and the Paranormal. One room is dedicated to the paranormal, including several haunted dolls, tombstone carvings, an old wooden coffin, and shrunken heads; the other is dedicated to cryptids, with plaster casts of Bigfoot footprints and other evidence of the mythical creatures’ existence. One of the most popular items sold by Barcelo is a complete Bigfoot go-bag for those doing their own research; Barcelo and his daughter Holly also run ghost tours and conduct paranormal investigations around the country.
This former New York journalist turned his haunted house into a museum
8. Hattiesburg Pocket Museum
When Mississippi’s Hattiesburg Pocket Museum opened in August 2020, the museum had no address or phone number. Today, a search will take you to an adjacent street, but visitors still have to find the right alley themselves, and that’s part of the fun. On busy weekends, you might be able to follow the crowds or ask someone to show you the way, like at a speakeasy. The museum itself, consisting of a window with shelves, is just part of the Pocket Museum experience, which includes several large-scale murals, a theater made from a modified ViewMaster, and a art gallery created in a former newsstand. Visitors can scan QR codes to get more information about exhibits and submit their own pieces for the exhibition.