By Victor Block
It's not often that someone about to enter a museum first dons snorkel equipment or scuba gear. Or if they're a bit squeamish about going into or under the water opts to view the exhibits through a glass-bottom boat. If that seems unusual, so are collections at a number of museums around the world that go beyond the usual art, historical items and other exhibits usually associated with those institutions.
Adding to their appeal are opportunities to enjoy what they offer with no more effort on your part than letting your computer mouse do the walking. From image galleries to slide shows to YouTube presentations, virtual visits to these museums offer fun, fancy and some food for thought.
The Cancun Underwater Museum is a perfect example of this dual personality. Those who swim in, paddle over or ride in a boat through the Mexican National Marine Park are treated to a submerged extravaganza. About 500 sculptures are divided into three galleries that attract a variety of marine life along with their human admirers. Some of the human faces depict residents of Cancun and other Mexican cities.
Along with their artistic appeal, the statuary plays an environmentally friendly role. The sculptures are made of materials that over time morph into a stunning reef. The goal is to preserve nearby coral shoals by providing an alternative destination for divers.
Each year millions of people visit museums located on dry land to admire great works by painters, sculptors and other creators of fine art. Fewer enjoy viewing "the best bad art," which ranges "from the works of talented artists that have gone awry to works of exuberant, although crude, execution by artists hardly in control of the brush."
The Museum of Bad Art in Somerville, Massachusetts, claims to be "the world's only museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all its forms." It lives up — or perhaps down — to its stated mission: "To bring the worst of art to the widest of audiences." Galleries are devoted to topics such as "Poor Traits" and "In the Nood."
The painting titled "Giraffe at the Beach" shows the animal walking on, rather than by, the sea. "The Pout" depicts an anatomically incorrect child with a sour look on her face. They are among more than 700 pieces which, according to the museum's own description, are set apart "in one way or another from the merely incompetent."
Photography is another art form, and taking "selfies" is among its most recent manifestations. It's no surprise that the Selfie Museum is located in Hollywood. When the interactive exhibits are open to the public, visitors may play king on a selfie throne, relax in a virtual emoji pool and walk the red carpet to pick up their Oscars. The website allows viewers to enjoy a sampling of the selfie opportunities.
If Hollywood is the land of dreams, the Museum of Failure in Sweden is devoted to aspirations that crashed and burned. The stories of more than 70 products and services that had spectacular failures include plastic bicycles that broke too easily, an electric facial toning mask and - flop of all flops - the Ford Edsel. A YouTube presentation is among those describing these and other fiascos.
Broken relationships rather than shattered items are explored at the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia, through stiletto shoes, a vase and other objects that represent the end of friendships, love affairs and marriages. One woman's footwear was taken away by her lover as a memento of their long but unconsummated connection. The young lady who donated a Frisbee had received it from her boyfriend on the second anniversary of their meeting, which she took as a sign that she was being tossed aside.
Paranormal relationships, palmistry and curses are topics included in the history of magical practices in Britain's Cornwall. Among artifacts at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic believed by some to possess paranormal powers are a dried rabbit head, bird skull and puppet used to cast spells on people. Website viewers may scan through pictures of the collection and view short videos.
Food is a frequent focus of exhibits. If you don't think there's enough variety to stock an entire building with items related to bananas, think again. From candy to compasses, pipes to perfume, more than 25,000 products shaped in the form of, tasting like and otherwise related to that popular fruit fill a gallery at the International Banana Museum in Mecca, California. When the museum is open visitors enjoy banana-flavored ice cream, shakes and other treats. Until then, virtual visitors must make do with a slide show.
Another yellow food is honored in Middleton, Wisconsin, where mustard is celebrated as the king of condiments at the National Mustard Museum. Among surprises about which visitors learn are that some people bathe in a mustard bath to soak away tension and fatigue, while others use it to flavor spice cake. A visit to the website offers recipes, photos and fun facts.
This is but a brief sampling of countless below-the-radar museums around the world that make up in offbeat appeal and quirky collections what they may lack in fame. Whatever your hobbies and interests, it's possible — perhaps even likely—- that you can make a simulated visit to one or more which will provide a welcome experience and diversion.
WHEN YOU GO
Cancun Underwater Museum: www.musamexico.org
Museum of Bad Art: www.museumofbadart.org
Selfie Museum: www.museumofselfies.com
Museum of Failure: www.museumoffailure.com
Museum of Broken Relationships: www.brokenships.com
Museum of Witchcraft and Magic: www.museumofwitchcraftandmagic.com
International Banana Museum: www.internationalbananamuseum.com
. National Mustard Museum: www.mustadmuseum.com
Victor Block is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Viewers of sculptures at Mexico's Cancun Underwater Museum must dive to see them or look through a glass-bottom boat. Photo courtesy of Nialldunne24/Dreamstime.com.