Missouri Museum Madness: Quirky

What do you look for in a vacation? If you’re a fan of the quirky, strange, off-beat, peculiar and odd, make sure you visit one, or more, of these Missouri museums – you won’t be disappointed!

On display at Leila’s Hair Museum in Independence are thousands of pieces of jewelry, buttons, wreaths, pictures, bookmarks and other artistic creations, all made from human hair. Popular in the Victorian era but dating to at least the 12th century, hair art was crafted as memorials, keepsakes and other symbols of family ties.

Leila's Hair Museum in Independence.
Leila’s Hair Museum in Independence.

Creepy? Maybe.

But lovely, too.

The collection includes snippets of hair from several presidents (among them George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy) and other notable historic figures, as well as from many celebrities. If you’re not too young, you may remember when Michael Jackson’s hair caught fire while he was filming a Pepsi commercial. Well, Leila’s has a piece of that hair, along with the locks of many other celebrities – Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and John Lennon, to name just a few.

Plan a visit to this one-of-a-kind museum and see these beautiful pieces crafted long ago.

Glore Psychiatric Museum, St. Joseph.
Glore Psychiatric Museum, St. Joseph.

Another northwest Missouri museum, the Glore Psychiatric Museum in St. Joseph, houses thousands of exhibits related to mental health and its treatment. Also in the collection is artwork created by patients, photos, surgical instruments (think lobotomy), personal notes and furnishings of what was State Lunatic Asylum No. 2.

Now part of the St. Joseph Museum complex, Glore Psychiatric Museum houses replicas of equipment once used to treat mental illness. With names that sound as ominous as the devices look – the Bath of Surprise, the Hollow Wheel, the Tranquilizer Chair – it’s a wonder anyone ever left the facility.

Across the state at the Weldon Spring Site Interpretive Center you’ll see a photographic history of the area as well as exhibits detailing the cleanup process at this former dump site for chemical and radiologic waste products from federal milling and weapons manufacturing operations. You can even walk to the top of the 45-acre onsite disposal cell holding those wastes – don’t worry, the site is now safe for habitation. Nearby are the 150-acre Howell Prairie, the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area, the Weldon Spring Conservation Area and the eight-mile Hamburg Trail.

Pigs Aloft located in Linn, Mo.
Pigs Aloft located in Linn, Mo.

It doesn’t get much more quirky than a museum devoted to our porcine pal, the pig. The Pigs Aloft Museum is a part of the Where Pigs Fly Farm in Linn. The museum boasts of having the second largest collection of pigs in the world – that’s thousands of pigs made of everything from plastic to pewter – and of being the only pig museum in America. The farm offers a petting-zoo experience and features everything from sheep and goats to parrots and pigeons. And yes, pigs.

The Enns Entomology Museum on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia has approximately 6 million fossil, insect and arachnid specimens. The collection is comprised of specimens mainly from the Ozark Plateau and other Missouri and Midwestern locales, but also has in its collection specimens gathered from other U.S. regions and exotic locales.

A human nervous system at A.T. Still
A human nervous system at the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine at A.T. Still University in Kirksville.

Among the items in the collection at the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine on the campus of A.T. Still University in Kirksville is an actual human nervous system and a yard-long photograph of students dissecting cadavers on the lawn. Class was often held outdoors during the hot summer of 1919, offering locals quite a view, as well as a bit of an education.

One of the country’s largest collections of original artwork, literature and decorative objects devoted entirely to our canine companions is on display at The American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog in St. Louis County’s Queeny Park. Fortunately, you won’t see any of the costumed creatures from the next museum here!

See fleas (yes, fleas) wearing clothes at The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures in Kansas City. Only one of the more than 70,000 antique toys and fine-miniatures in the museum’s collection, you’ll of course need to use a magnifying glass to see the detail in their costumes!

One of more eclectic exhibits at the Ralph Foster Museum at College of the Ozarks is a collection of stumps from the Ozarks region. Also see costumes and other memorabilia from celebrities who performed on the Ozark Jubilee, the first network television program showcasing country music stars, the jalopy used in The Beverly Hillbillies television show, a large firearms collection (including one of Pancho Villa’s rifles), dolls, antiques and many other items from the Ozarks region.

Sweep by St. James and visit the world’s first Vacuum Cleaner Museum and Factory Outlet. The museum, located along historic Route 66, has in its collection more than 600 vacuums, all in working order.

These are but a few Missouri museums with exhibits of a peculiar nature. Check out more to enjoy at VisitMO.com.


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