Sunday, December 12, 2010

Favorite Museums?

This is so random, but the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine has come up in conversation several times this week, and I was thinking how the Lightner might just be my favorite museum I've ever been to, which then got me thinking about what my OTHER favorite museums I've ever been to are. I was in D.C. twice this year and I went to the American History museum, because I've always wanted to see things I've heard of like the flag and the First Ladies dresses and stuff, but it was kind of disappointing, honestly. Too crowded, too tourist-y, and as Dade said, "I think 10% of the people here actually want to be here." So the best museums are probably the ones I've never heard of.

Here are my favorites, although of course there are many many MANY more to see in the world, and some gems I don't remember because I was a kid when we went there and I have no idea what they were!

The Lightner Museum, St. Augustine, FL
This is housed in an old Flagler hotel, and just the building is impressive. It had an indoor pool, which has since been drained and is part of the museum, as well as a steam room, both of which you can easily imagine Gilded Age folk wandering in and out of. It has a bit of a "Titanic" air to it. There is such a random assortment of stuff--from art and glass, to a mummy and weird collections--that anyone would be hard pressed not to find SOMETHING interesting, but the best part is the mechanical musical instruments. It's worth it to catch the twice-daily (if they haven't changed it) demonstration. I particularly love the Violano-Virtuoso, which was electric, and starts up with this great slow thrum and lights coming on and then it plays and it sounds just horrid. In a wonderful way.

Pioneer Memorial Museum, Salt Lake City, UT
This museum is just a ton of old junk shoved together with a lot of information and it's kind of creepy. I say both "junk" and "creepy" in the best possible way imaginable. We went to this museum when I was like, 10, and we only had an hour to look before it closed, or maybe less, and I almost cried (or maybe I did cry, I was a weepy child) because I could have spent hours and hours in there. Yeah, I've been a total history geek as far back as my memory goes.

Carl Sandburg Home, Flat Rock, NC
I've toured a lot of houses in my day, and this was one of my favorites, although I don't remember it very well. It's been years! I just know there are goats. And I think this is the place where everything is just like Carl Sandburg left it, even the trash in the trash can. But don't quote me on that.

Ringling Museum, Sarasota, FL
This place is huh-yuge. it's like three museums. Plus grounds. There is the Ringling House (which unfortunately, you have to do with a tour group and it's a bigger tour group than I'd like, compressed into smaller space than I'd like, and they are very strict, but it's designed like a Venetian palace), a circus museum and an art museum. We were here all day and we barely made it through the art museum, but it's an impressive collection.

The Met, New York, NY
Well, this is one museum that absolutely lives up to the hype. It's a little overwhelming. But you can spend forever in there and find something new each time. I recommend reading Museum: Behind the Scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, too, which gave me a new appreciation for the collection and all the work that goes into it!

What are your favorite museums? Any museums of historical interest I ought to add to my list of dream museums?


  1. When I lived in Bradenton, we used to take our students on field trips to Ringling all the time. Their reaction was usually, "Again?" But I loved hearing the "school talks" on all of the paintings.

  2. Well, school kids say that about every museum, don't they? I remember going to the science center with my 2nd grade class and all the kids who were bored and complaining. I didn't know what was wrong with them! We went to the science center all the time.

  3. I mean, my family went to the science center all the time. But I was always a very patient museum-goer!

  4. The Uffizzi Gallery in Florence is pretty spectacular, both for its building and history AND for its art - so many Botticellis!

    I am exceedingly fond of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and, in particular, of its reproduced "rooms", which include a Chinese emperor's reception room, part of a Hindu temple, and part of a cloistered courtyard. *happy sigh*

    The Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, CT is pretty great - hubby & I stopped there once.

  5. Coolest museums I've ever been to were the Chicago Field Museum and the Musical Instrument Museum ( which recently opened up near me.

  6. Internationally, my favorite museum is the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Stateside, I adore the National Museum of the American Indian in D.C. It is breathtaking, educational, and always fresh.

  7. Cool! I am remembering these. I love the rooms at the Met so I'll have to check out the Philadelphia Museum of Art for sure...

    And foreign museums...someday!!

  8. I loved the York Castle Museum in York, England. Lots of interesting exhibits, plus the cells in which they imprisoned some famous highwaymen.

    The Auckland War Memorial museum is also great. I've been a few times since I moved overseas, and I know I'll go a few times more before I leave.

    Te Papa, New Zealand's national museum in Wellington, is HUGE and fascinating. My feet were sooooo sore by the time I'd looked at everything.

    The Otago Museum in Dunedin, New Zealand, has a surprisingly large collection of artifacts from the ancient world. I loved it!

    The Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, BC is a longtime favourite. Whenever I'm in Victoria, I have to go visit their mammoth.

    I loved Victoria's Wax Museum, too, but I believe they closed a couple of months ago. :( They had hundreds of uber-realistic wax figures. I was once unlucky enough to go through the museum all by my lonesome, on a slow day. It was just me and all these wax people. Disturbing doesn't even begin to cover it.

    ...and I guess I'll stop there. I'm kind of a museum junkie. :)

  9. Memory, you are giving me seriously museum lust. I think whenever I make it abroad where they have really old stuff to look at...gosh, I don't know. I might die of historical awesomeness. Although being alone with wax people does sound fairly terrifying...