Feature

6 bizarre museums you can visit from the comfort of your desk

Opium, paper airplanes, and ashtrays — oh my!

1. The Toaster Museum

You don't know toasters. What you're picturing in your head when you hear the word "toaster" could not possibly encompass the infinite variety and curiosity of the subject. Jens Veerbeck, a media designer and purveyor of a gorgeously accessible web museum, does know toasters. And he wants to show us how exciting the design history is of the machine that makes the most boring food on earth. He says it best himself: "The design of each single toaster is like a small window to the design trend of the corresponding decade and country. The variety of designs is unbelievable: There are Art Deco and Art Nouveau toasters, raw or crazy technical constructions, streamlined toasters from the '50s, and porcelain pieces matching to the flower patterns of contemporary dinnerware." And we thought they just toasted bread.

2. The Museum of Menstruation

Half the Earth's population menstruates for several decades of their lives. But do you know what a lady used for those particular hygienic needs in, say, 1700? Back before women even wore undies? That's a great question. And up until recently, you could spend hours in libraries and probably never find an answer. It just wasn't the sort of thing that got written down.

But the Museum of Menstruation (The MuM) has tracked down multiple answers to those questions, and many more. But they don't just cover the fascinating, deeply shushed history of The Curse of Eve. The site keeps up to date on women's health issues, reproduction issues, and a surprising amount of news about menstruation. They also have a collection of some of the funniest retro magazine ads on the web. Trying to advertise your menstrual product without ever acknowledging menstruation exists was a fascinating challenge faced by advertisers of old. And that's just a portion of the information The MuM has to offer.

3. The Moist Towelette Museum

Sometimes it's not the depth of knowledge to be gained that draws you to an online museum. It's the curious thrill you feel to find out such a museum even exists. And not just exists, but is so hardily overwhelmed with interest and donations that the curator, in this case a Mr. John French, can't keep up with them all.

Towelettes became ubiquitous all over the world without us ever noticing. You probably don't know that there was a series of moist towelettes dedicated to Star Trek characters, and you may not be able to translate the honorable description on a Japanese towelette import. But you don't need to, because Mr. French has compiled these tiny disposable artifacts for you, with as much information as he, or a moist towelette, can possibly provide.

4. Big Ashtray Museum

There is a two-fold intrigue to this online museum. One, the materials used to create ashtrays, heat resistant and moldable, readily lend themselves to incredible works of art. And second, it's one of the few non-electric objects of our time that we're getting to watch, firsthand, fade into history. Ashtrays are falling hard, from "one in every room in America" to display cases in museums. The Big Ashtray Museum displays a truly breathtaking array of a dying art form spanning the globe and history, as well as showcasing forgotten designs, some so unique you'd be hard pressed to identify them as ashtrays.

5. The Online Paper Airplane Museum

The Online Paper Airplane Museum doesn't just show you photographs of the outstanding marriage of engineering and delicacy that is the paper airplane, (though they do have hundreds of images). It also provides directions and links for the construction of hundreds of unique planes. They are rated by difficulty level, meaning you can start with the simple Jet airplane we all flew in third grade, and work your way up to a level 5 Achi Val. Whether your passion is aviation history, design, or paper-craft, the Online Paper Airplane Museum has something for you.

6. The Opium Museum

The history of opium is one of trade, war, changing cultures, and astounding artwork. The online Opium Museum takes you from the pre-Communist days of open opium indulgence in China up to the day it became a controlled substance in America. In between are rarely seen photographs and surprisingly beautiful artifacts of the opium culture.

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