5 Quirky museums and how to visit them online

Author Carina Klein
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Off the beaten path museums around the world and how to visit them online! We've got you covered if you like medieval art, Reggae and penises.

We love museums and have been to countless ones around the globe. You've all heard about the MOMAs and the Louvres of this world so let us introduce you to our favorite lesser-known museums! All of them have online offers to get your travel fix while you stay at home.

Kingston - Trench Town & Culture Yard Museum

About the museum: When you think about Jamaica, you probably rather think about beaches than about museums. But the capital Kingston boasts a few - amongst them the Trench Town & Culture Yard Museum. It's part of the Kingston quarter of Trench Town - a public housing scheme, which was build in the 1940s. You probably heard about it in the Bob Marley song No woman no cry:

'cause I remember when we used to sit
In the government yard in Trenchtown

Trench Town is considered the birthplace of Reggae music: many of the famous artists like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, The Abyssinians, Anton Ellis, and Bunny Wailer lived here. A guided tour takes you through the Trench Town & Culture Yard Museum. You get to see a lot of Bob Marley memorabilia like his guitar, his bed, and his car. The same bed that was featured in his song Is This Love:

We'll share the shelter
Of my single bed

There is an active recording studio on the premises, which you can visit and have a chat with the musicians. And if you look for more you can also take a guided tour through the whole quarter of Trench Town and learn even more about the history and its links to Reggae music.

Online offer: The online offer is quite amazing - Trench Town & Culture Yard Museum does FaceTime Virtual Tours, where you can either only visit the Culture Yard, the Culture Yard & Bob Marley's Mother's house, and even tour the whole Trench Town neighborhood!


Picture of mural in Trench Town & Culture Yard Museum, Kingston, Jamaica
Trench Town & Culture Yard Museum, Kingston, Jamaica

New York City - The Cloisters

About the museum: We all know the MOMAs and the Guggenheims, the METs as well - the Metropolitan Museum of Art being the largest art museum in the United States. But did you know that the MET has a smaller second location in Upper Manhattan? It's called The Cloisters and contains an extensive collection of art, architecture, and artifacts from medieval Europe. The museum building in itself is impressive: it sits on a steep hill overlooking the Hudson River and looks like a medieval European monastery. It is centered around four cloisters, which were dismantled in Europe between 1934 and 1939 and relocated to New York. It features several levels, medieval gardens, and a series of chapels and themed galleries. Make sure to visit the Unicorn gallery! It's the perfect place to get your Europe fix when you can't make it to the real thing.

Online offer: You can take different tours with Joy of Museums. Currently, 5 exhibitions are highlighted but you can also take virtual tours through the premises and watch an array of videos featuring interviews, views behind the scenes, and much more.


Picture of courtyard, cloisters, and tower of The Cloisters, NYC
The Cloisters, New York City, USA

Reykjavik - Icelandic Phallological Museum

About the museum: This museum features penises - yes, the male genital kind of penises. It's actually the world's largest display of penises and penile parts with 300 penises from more than 100 species of mammals as well as 22 penises from creatures and peoples of Icelandic folklore. The largest piece is the tip of a blue whale penis with 170 cm (67 in), the smallest piece is the baculum of a hamster with 2 mm (0.08 in). By the way: did you know that many placental mammals have a baculum or penis bone? The collection also features phallic art and crafts such as lampshades made from the scrotums of bulls, as well as one of my favorites, a bow tie that was made out of the foreskin of a whale's penis.

The museum is still looking for a human penis. The one they already have is only a shriveled mass in a jar of formalin. Now they are looking for a bigger and younger specimen so go ahead and volunteer!

Online offer: The museum has a gallery on its homepage: https://phallus.is/en/gallery.html

They also have a YouTube account: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyVLCTbaDcbiXFq6d93SI_A

Picture of penis bow-tie in Icelandic Phallological Museum, Reykjavík, Iceland
Bow-tie made out of the foreskin of a whale's penis, Icelandic Phallological Museum, Reykjavik

Berlin - DDR Museum (GDR Museum)

About the museum: This museum lets you experience former East Germany (German Democratic Republic or GDR) in an interactive way. Just a quick history intermission: Germany was divided into two parts, an eastern and a western part, from 1949 to 1990, as an aftermath of World War II, and so was the recent capital Berlin. East Germany was part of the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War and hence a communist (or rather a socialist) country. Although many problems like mass surveillance, no democracy, no freedom of speech and press, and limited supplies of imported goods arose from its political status, there still is a sizable Ostalgia (nostalgia for the East or Ost in German) movement in former East Germany.

The exhibition of the GDR Museum features three major topics: “Public Life”; “State and Ideology” and “Life in a Tower Block” - all of them explore the positive and the negative sides of the former GDR. Some highlights of the museum are a driving simulation in an original Trabi (or Trabant) car and an original Tower Block apartment with 5 rooms. You can touch and experience most of the exhibits.

Online offer: On the occasion of the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the GDR Museum released a digital exhibition called Painting Utopia "In Praise of Communism" by Ronald Paris via Google Arts & Culture.


Picture of original GDR living room in GDR Museum, Berlin, Germany
Original GDR living room in GDR Museum, Berlin, Germany

Paris - Catacombs

About the museum: This is the darkest museum on this list. The catacombs are underground ossuaries, which house the remains of over 6 million Parisians. Starting in 1785 the bodies were transferred here from the overflowing cemeteries. Public visits began as early as 1809 when concerts and other events took place in the ossuaries.

The catacombs were created in an old mine, where Lutetian limestone was quarried. Hence they are an excellent place to learn about the history of the rocks, which shape the cityscape of Paris!

A 1.5 km (0.9 miles) circuit leads you through the catacombs in around 20 meters (65 ft) depth. You have to climb a lot of steps down and up again. Also, be aware of the fact that it's cold (around 14°C or 57°F) all year round because you're underground.

If you like a good horror movie, the 2014 film As Above, So Below was shot in the real catacombs of Paris. Maybe watch it after you've been, though.

Online offer: The catacombs offer an excellent virtual tour, where you can stroll through the corridors and take closer looks at your points of interest.


Picture of catacombs, Paris, France
Catacombs, Paris, France

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