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10 of the World’s Most Unusual Museums: Impressive Architecture and Original Exhibitions

10 of the World’s Most Unusual Museums: Impressive Architecture and Original Exhibitions

During the lockdown there was nothing to do other than take virtual excursions and wait for our favorite museums to open their doors (and for countries to open their borders). We decided to select some of the world’s most unusual museums that have impressed us with their exhibits and or architecture. 

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Glore Psychiatric Museum

  • Where: St. Joseph, Missouri, USA.
  • Opening times: daily from 10:00 to 16:00.
  • Ticket prices: adults — $7, pensioners — $6, students — $5, children up to 6 years — free. You can buy them on the site.

The first State Lunatic Asylum No. 2 opened its doors in November 1874: at the time it housed 250 patients.

 

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The official museum website says that the hospital was dedicated “to the noble work of reviving hope in the human heart and dispelling the portentous clouds that penetrate the intellects of minds diseased.”

Today the museum is located on territory adjoining the former state hospital. Exhibits include surgical instruments, treatment equipment, furniture, a nurse uniform, private notes, and works of former patients. 

 

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Visitors are invited to investigate the minds of mental patients, for example, they can view the embroidered words of a mute schizophrenic.

The museum is recognized as “one of the 50 most unusual museums in the country” and is often mentioned in publications and on TV, including the Learning Channel, Discovery Channel, PBS and Science Channel.

The Corpus museum of the human body

  • Where: Oegstgeest, Netherlands.
  • Opening times: daily from 9:30 to 17:00.
  • Ticket prices: adults — €19.75, children (from 6 to 12 years) — €17.25. When bought online there is a discount for adults and children of €1.50.

The Corpus is striking not only because of its facade — the most interesting part is hidden inside. It’s not hard to guess that an excursion through the human body awaits you!

 

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In the course of an hour tourists can experience an unusual trip and learn everything about how our body is built and what they should do for it to remain healthy for longer. The journey through the body begins from the knees and ends with the human brain: and you won’t miss the most interesting parts!

An audio guide in eight languages is available for visitors. 

The Sewers Museum

  • Where: Paris, France.
  • Opening times: from 11:00 to 17:00, closed for renovation until 1 October 2020.
  • Ticket prices: adults — €4.20, children — €3.40.

If you’ve already been to the Louvre and Orsay, then it’s time to head for the Sewers Museum, which is located underground. 

Here tourists can learn a bit more about the city’s sewer system, walk along both wide and narrow main tunnels and discover the water cleaning methods. There are no unpleasant smells or rats here.

 

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Exhibits displayed in underground galleries of the current sewer system include information stands, water cleaning systems and construction equipment from various times.

The sewer system in Paris was first laid by the Romans. However, after the fall of the Roman Empire sanitation in the city was forgotten about. For several centuries afterwards the French capital was a hotbed of infections.

 

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Everything changed with the appearance on the scene of Baron Haussmann and the engineer Eugene Belgrand: the new prefect of Paris laid the foundations of the sewer system and rebuilt the city’s water supply system.

Messner Mountain Museum

  • Where: South Tyrol, Italy. There is information on the site about how best to get there.
  • Opening times: from the first Saturday in June to the second Sunday in October and from the end of November to the middle of April (in accordance with when the cable cars operate) from 10:00 to 16:00.
  • Ticket prices: adults — €10, children (6-14 years), students, pensioners over 65 years of age and the disabled — €8.50. Payment in cash.

The museum named after the famous Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner is located at the top of the Kronplatz plateau. Tourists can learn how modern mountain climbing developed, how mountain climbers conquered the world’s main peaks and how their equipment changed over the last 250 years.

 

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Kronplatz is the most popular skiing resort of South Tyrol: masses of tourists arrive here in winter, quite unlike in the summer months.

The idea of a viewing platform and museum occurred as a means of livening up the plateau during the warm season so that the ski lifts could be used more regularly. The ski resort management agreed immediately and persuaded Zaha Hadid’s architect’s bureau to take on the project.

 

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From the viewing platform at 2,275 meters you see an amazing view — from the Dolomites above Puster Valley to the Zillertal Alps.

National Museum of Qatar

  • Where: Doha, Qatar.
  • Opening times: temporarily closed due to COVID-19. Check their site for updates.
  • Ticket prices: adults — QAR 50, students — QAR 25, children up to 16 — free.
  • Virtual excursions: part of the collection is displayed online.

The National Museum of Qatar is devoted to the history of the state and its people. The museum’s original building, shaped in the form of a desert rose, belongs to the French architect Jean Nouvel.

Photo: HasanZaidi / Shutterstock.com

The museum collection amounts to 8,000 items, including archeological artefacts, architectural elements, household items, textiles and costumes, jewelry, decorated applied art, books and historical documents.

The museum complex includes the palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani — his family home and the government’s residence. Apart from the unique architecture and gallery, visitors can eat at two restaurants and a cafe. 

Photo: Sriram Kumaran / Shutterstock.com

The museum invites academics and students to visit a new research center and laboratory, and also provides access to digital archives. In the tended park you can find out more about local plants in Qatar and their role in Qatari culture.

Holon Design Museum

  • Where: Holon, Israel.
  • Opening times: they vary during the week — see the site for details. Closed on Sundays and Mondays.
  • Ticket prices: adults — NIS 35, older children (from 11 to 17) — NIS 30, younger children (from 5 to 10) — NIS 20. There are also concessions.

Holon is the first museum in Israel dedicated to design. In just 10 years of existence it has gained a reputation as one of the world’s leading museums of design and contemporary culture.

Holon Design Museum is located in a cult building designed by the internationally famous architect Ron Arad: the exterior is impressive. According to the museum’s official website it is an important and dynamic resource for designers, students, creative industries and the wider public. 

Photo: meunierd / Shutterstock.com

The museum collection consists of historical works beginning from the 1930s to the start of the 21st century; modern projects (from 2000); commissioned works created especially for the museum and exhibitions that it hosts, as well as the best projects of graduates from Israeli design academies.

Exhibitions and other events are held there every year whose purpose is to help visitors understand more deeply design and the role that it plays in their lives.

Photo: meunierd / Shutterstock.com (left и right)

The publication Conde Nast Traveler named the museum one of the wonders of the modern world and a must-visit place in Tel Aviv.

The Kunsthaus Museum of Contemporary Art

  • Where: Graz, Austria.
  • Opening times: depends on the time of year, you can check on the site.
  • Ticket prices: adults — €9.50, groups of at least 12 persons, pensioners and disabled persons — €8, schoolchildren and students up to 26 — €3.50, children up to 6 — free.

“Innovative exhibitions in a unique space” — that’s how the Kunsthaus Museum of Contemporary Art in Graz, Austria, positions itself. The concept of the building, built in blob style, belongs to London-based architects Peter Cook and Colin Fournier.

Photo: Milena Vuckovic / Shutterstock.com

The gallery of contemporary art hosts exhibitions of artists from various countries: apart from paintings, archive materials are displayed.

The museum stands out among other architecture in the area. The base of the building consists of cement, but its outer shell is made from bluish plastic panels.

Photo: Lunghammer / Shutterstock.com

Locals have nicknamed it the Friendly Alien. Flashing elements have been integrated into the facade that are operated from a computer: when it’s dark, hundreds of lights are turned on, forming a bright installation covering 900 m2.

The Royal Ontario Museum 

  • Where: Toronto, Canada.
  • Opening times: Wednesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 17:30.
  • Ticket prices: adults — CAD 23, children (from 4 to 14) — CAD 14, young adults (from 15 to 19), students and pensioners — CAD 18. You can buy them on the site.
  • Virtual excursions: part of the collection is available online.

The walls and exhibition halls of the largest ethnographic and historical museum of Canada contain 13 million works of art, including sculptures, paintings, artefacts, a collection of dinosaurs, art of the Middle East, Africa and East Asia, and European and Canadian history. 

Photo: Niloo / Shutterstock.com

However, tourists are attracted not only by the rich collection, but also the architectural appearance. The museum’s historical building harmoniously combines with a new wing — the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal. 

It was designed by the American deconstructivist architect Daniel Libeskind, who made the museum not only a dynamic cultural center but also one of the main tourist sites of Toronto.

Museum of Contemporary African Art Zeitz MOCAA

  • Where: Cape Town, South Africa.
  • Opening times: daily from 10:00 to 18:00. First Friday of each month — from 10:00 to 21:00.
  • Ticket prices: adults — ZAR 200, children (to 18) — free with ID. First Friday of each month from 16:00 to 21:00 — ZAR 100. You can buy tickets on the site.

The world’s largest museum of contemporary African art is located in a former grain silo built in the 1920s. It displays works of artists such as Chris Ofili, Marlene Dumas, Wangechi Mutu and Julie Mehretu: they are all of African extraction. Most of the collection was donated to the museum by German businessman Jochen Zeitz.

Photo: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

Architects at Heatherwick Studio were faced with a complex task — to redesign a building consisting of 42 cement pipes each with a diameter of 5.5 meters into a functioning space that would house the largest collection of contemporary art of Africa and its diaspora. 

Photo: Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock.com

Apart from the restaurant and souvenir shop, the building houses a five-star hotel The Silo on its top floors. The rooms provide a panoramic view over the Victoria and Albert Waterfront, the Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean. So now you also know where to stay.

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

  • Where: Bilbao, Spain
  • Opening times: daily from 11:00 to 19:00. Closed on Mondays except in June, July and August; 7 and 14 September; 12 October; 7 and 28 December 2020.
  • Ticket prices: adults — €15, students (from 18 to 26) and pensioners — €7.50, children up to 18 and employees of the museum — free. Discount when buying tickets on the site.

This branch of the American museum established by Solomon Guggenheim opened in Bilbao in 1997 and instantly turned the region into one of the most popular ones in Spain. 

Photo: Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com

It has earned its renown not only thanks to the contents, but also due to the building itself: many architects agree that it is one of the most striking constructions of modern times. Note that it doesn’t have a single right angle, while the museum resembles a huge ship made of steel and glass. 

Apart from the permanent collection of 20th century contemporary art, the museum houses temporary exhibitions, concerts, film viewings and master classes. It displays works of various forms: sculptures, paintings, installations and abstracts.  


Throughout the world, museums have ceased to be simply galleries: they have transformed into interactive centers and unusual tourist sites where you can spend the entire day profitably. 

And although the borders of most countries remain closed, you now know where to go when you are next in Paris, or what to see during a long layover in Qatar.

Believe it when I see it

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