East Midlands Food

East Midlands Food

Strange museums…

A suitable exhibit for the Jell-O Museum?

A few weeks ago I found a book entitled Strangest Museums in Britain – and the best worldwide (Strangest Books, 2006) in a discount bookshop in London, and had a quick look to see if it included any food-related examples. There weren’t any in Britain that were remotely ‘strange’ – but there were lots of examples from elsewhere. For instance, in Columbus, Georgia, in the USA there is a Lunchbox Museum where over 1000 lunchboxes are on display, along with items such as tobacco tins used as lunchboxes… Its founder Allen Woodall was inspired to collect lunchboxes because ‘they’re just so neat’; but they do give an interesting insight into changes in materials over time – from metal to plastic, for instance – and the extent to which the designs reflect the culture of the day in terms of decoration, often featuring pop stars and cartoon and film characters. The range of materials and designs is even more extensive in the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, as you might imagine, including shakers made from shells and eggs among more conventional materials. 

There is also a museum in New York devoted to Jell-O - jelly to us – which tells the history of Jell-O from its first commercial sales in 1900. According to this entry, a bowl of Jell-O tested with an EEG machine in 1993 displayed ‘brain waves’ identical to those of adult humans - so if you ever have the feeling that your own brain has turned to jelly there’s probably no cause for concern.

Maybe you would prefer the International Vinegar Museum in Roslyn, South Dakota, the National Museum of Pasta Foods in Rome, or the European Asparagus Museum in Schrobenhausen in Germany; or if you think these really are a little strange, how about some non-food examples such as the Museum of Family Camping in Richmond, Virginia; the Paper Airplane Museum in Maui, Hawaii; the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices in St Paul, Minnesota; and the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum in LaCrosse, Kansas? Apparently an alternative name for barbed wire is Devil’s Rope – and in the Devil’s Rope Museum in McLean, Texas, the exhibits actually include a hat made of the stuff. If you happen to be a collector of barbed wire yourself, the museum apparently offers ‘an appraisal service to collectors for insurance purposes’.

The serious point to be made here is that almost anything is collectable, and many of the museums that we would never regard as remotely ‘strange’ had their own origins in a similar passion for collecting and sharing their collections – albeit in the form of fossils and stuffed birds and animals rather than lunchboxes or barbed wire.   

(The image is from Cannon Hall in Barnsley).




    Alex May 4th, 2011 at 9:51 am

    I wonder if Allen Woodall is a relation?!

About this Sponsor

A research project that looked at various aspects of food in the East Midlands, linking them with museum displays and objects in the region, and making the results available to as many people as possible in different formats.