I recently joined the board of trustees of the envisioned New York City Peace Museum, alongside amazing folks such as UN Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury. New York can be a tough town, but we know from peace. We have to, what with literally living on top of each other, our insanely fast pace, and our beautiful cacophony of cultures and languages. When xenophobia and Muslim scapegoating gripped so much of the country in the wake of 9/11, New York City -- the target of the attacks -- remained a relative oasis of interfaith and intercultural tolerance. The amazing mediators I am fortunate enough to work with at New York Peace Institute with help more than 10,000 people creatively resolve their disputes each year...I like to say we're the largest civilian peacekeeping force in NYC.
So it's about time we honor peace as a New York thing with our very own Peace Museum, and join our brethren in cities all over the world. Stay tuned.
Speaking of museums, here are a few I've enjoyed over the years:
The Devil Museum in Kaunus, Lithuania. Three floors of satanic sculptures, posters, gewgaws, tchachkis, and other Luciferian ephemera...an enormous evil analog of your sweet aunt's china cabinet of porcelain figurines. My favorite: A plastic Count Chocula figure (why not). Second favorite: a sculpted wrasslin' match between a horned Hitler and Stalin.
And speaking of Stalin, there's the Stalin Museum in Gori, Georgia. For my money, this is the pièce de résistance of weird museums. Gori has a mixed relationship with its most infamous son; the exhibitions don't overtly praise him...but there's also no mention of the millions of people he sent to death and/or gulags. (The tour guide did conspiratorially whisper that he was vain about his pockmarked skin and short left arm.) Favorite exhibit: Stalin's death mask hovering over a cheaply carpeted abyss, surrounded by cheesy plaster columns. Second favorite: portraits of the young, beardy, be-scarved Stalin looking like a Williambsurg hipster.
The Tenement Museum, right here in NYC. We New Yorkers shell out big coin to shoehorn ourselves into the same matchbox apartments our grandparents couldn't wait to get out of. The Tenement Museum gives small group tours of apartments made up to look like they did back in the day (back in various days, actually, to represent several generations of the immigrant experience).
The Mutter Museum of Medical Oddities, in Philly. Scary medical implements. Jars of forlorn fetii marinating in formaldehyde. Plaster casts of various human deformations that teeter on the razor's edge twixt exploitive and poignant. Things people swallowed in little card catalogue drawers. Grotesqueries a go-go. Yep.
Your favorite quirky museums?