Do you know what mudlarking is? No? I'm not surprised. I had never heard the word until I read a book with a character participating in this activity. I did a little research that led me to another book written by the self-proclaimed Mudlarking expert in England. Then, I found her on Facebook, where she posted photos of her finds every weekend.
OK, enough suspense. Mudlarking is the hunting for relics, precious stones, jewelry, and antiquities in the mud of tidal river banks. The "tidal" part is vital: the river must ebb and flow regularly to expose portions of the river bed during low tide and refresh and stir up the banks when the tide is high. The Thames River that flows through London and the surrounding area seems to be the center of the mudlarking world. Amazingly, it is regulated to the point that there are different classes of mudlarkers who must have an appropriate permit to stick their hands into the mud.
I am spending time writing about an activity that most of us can't and probably wouldn't want to pursue because it vividly demonstrates what an interesting species we are. People will collect and display anything, and I mean anything. There are clubs and societies for literally whatever you can dream up.
One of the small joys of traveling is to run across a museum or display of something that wouldn't seem worth the effort except to those who are passionate about something. One of the more exciting places we have visited is the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum in Gatlinburg, with over 20,00 examples on display. And, don't forget the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, a large auditorium covered inside and out in corn cobs. Somebody loves their veggies.
For fun, I gathered a list of some of the more unusual museums and collections in the U.S. and a few in Europe.
The Mustard Museum, Middleton, Wisconsin. I know the French love their mustard, but so does someone in the Cheese State.
The Potato Museum in Blackfoot, ID. Not a great surprise for a place that brags about its spuds.
The Barbed Wire Museum in McLean, TX. Did you know there are over 2,000 different types of barbed wire? Consider yourself informed.
The Hobo Museum in Britt, Iowa. Run by the Hobo Foundation, no less.
The Spam Museum is not in Hawaii, as you might guess, but in Austin, Minnesota.
National Museum of Roller Skating in Lincoln, Nebraska. I am guessing that the sidewalks out front do not ban skates.
Museum of Pez Memorabilia in Burlingame, California. Every type of Pex dispenser ever sold is here, and that would be over 1,000 of these little devils.
The UFO Museum in Roswell, NM. This is run by some earnest believers.
The Banana Museum, in Mecca, CA. I have nothing to add to this.
The National Museum of Funeral History, in Houston, TX. Probably best seen on Halloween.
The Crochet Museum, in Joshua Tree, CA. There is not much to see in Joshua Tree, so pay the lovely lady a visit. I understand she does not even know how to crochet, she just loves the end result.
The Mutter Museum, in Philadelphia. All sorts of medical stuff, including a tumor removed from President Grover Cleveland's mouth.
The Hammer Museum is safely nailed in place in Haines, Alaska. It is dedicated to the history of hammers.
The Ventriloquist Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky. 800 scary things are on display for your silent and nightmare pleasure.
The Internation Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center is in Baraboo, WI. No, thank you.
The Museum of Bad Art is in two locations in the Boston area. Contrary to what some may think, my paintings are not here yet.
The Bayernhof Museum in Pittsburgh is a 19,000-square-foot mansion packed with music boxes and antique music machines. Bring ear plugs.
The Toilet Seat Museum in Colony, Texas, has collected over 1,400 seats for your viewing and sitting pleasure. And, yes, that is collector Barney Smith in the picture above.
And, just to give a few overseas oddities their due:
The British Lawnmower Museum is in Southport, England. Over 300 machines dating as far back as 1799.
The Sewers Museum in Paris sounds interesting. It is the place to learn all about the city that is under the city above.
The Pencil Museum in Keswick, England, has more than you ever need to know about this ubiquitous writing instrument. The museum claims to have the very first pencil ever made.
The Dog Collar Museum in Leeds, England, claims to have the only (and therefore the biggest) collection of dog collars in the world. Somewhat surprisingly, the website doesn't say if dogs are allowed.
This is an appropriate "end" to this list: The Poo Museum in England. I have nothing to add to this one, but it is filled with precisely what the name implies.
Welcome to the oddity of being a human being!
If you have been to an unusual museum or collection, please add it to this list.
What a wild and wacky world in which we live.