Enter at your own risk: the world’s queerest museums

[originally printed in fab issue 382 – September 30, 2009]

For those who travel the world, museums are to sightseeing lists what oatmeal is to breakfast: good for you but rarely delicious. Once considered halls of dusty relics and dustier attitudes, museums now feature queer, pop and avant-garde histories from the silly to the perverse. Here’s a few fab museums along with some cultural events and (potentially educational) tourist traps…

Schwules Museum
Berlin, Germany
Translated from the German, its name means “big gay museum” and it celebrates 200 years of thrilling gay art and history, including lots of scandal, oppression, defiance plus all our really bitchy protest signs.
Info: schwulesmuseum.de

Icelandic Phallic Museum
Husavik, Iceland
Two centuries of gay love may be moving but perhaps all you really want is to stare at cock. Who knew Iceland would come to your rescue? Recently moved from the capital city of Reykjavik, this penile paradise showcases a whole universe of dick, ranging from the hamster to the whale. Prepare to feel intimidated.
Info: phallus.is

Underwear Museum
Brussels, Germany
One of the newest and sassiest museums, this collection of framed underwear was unzipped this summer by Belgian anarchist painter Jan Bucquoy. Though his ginch gallery features mostly Belgian celebs, it also includes his paintings of world notables in their knickers. Bucquoy has even requested donations from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Pope. Just imagine those skid marks.
Info: myspace.com/janbucquoyofficial

Sex Machines Museum
Prague, Czech Republic
Plug yourself in, you’re in for a bumpy ride. Comprised of a gorgeous set of little red rooms, this museum showcases a full range of antique erotic devices ranging from the clever to the disturbing. Thanks to the 1910 vibrator, I’ve coined the term “steamprick” but I wouldn’t wish the museum’s electric anti-masturbation machine on my worst enemy.
Info: sexmachinesmuseum.com

Festival of the Steel Phallus
Kawasaki, Japan
So you wanted to see a massive penis in Iceland but you’re stuck in Kawasaki, Japan on the first Sunday in April? No problem. The locals parade giant cock idols through the streets in honour of ancient fertility folklore. Okay, it’s not as historical as a museum but since the festival comes off like Disney and Priape hosting a Pride parade, we just had to include it.
Info: tomuraya.co.jp/wakamiya-10.htm

Jeju Love Land
Jeju Island, South Korea
The whale penis and cock parade float weren’t big enough for you size queens? Check out the giant stone phalli and copulating couple exhibits at this outdoor sexual theme park in South Korea, “A place where the visitor can celebrate the natural beauty of love.” If you should get caught having park sex, just tell them you were celebrating “the natural beauty of love.”
Info: jejuloveland.com

The Andy Warhol Museum
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
To some it’s a museum or just an art gallery but to queer filmmakers and artists, it’s a church. Andy all but invented the 15-minutes-of-fame pop-culture world we’re currently living in and this industrial fortress is a worthy shrine to his bent sensibilities.
Info: warhol.org

The Judy Garland Museum
Grand Rapids, Minnesota
Judy! Judy! Judy! Unendingly popular with gay men over 50 and Rufus Wainwright, this original diva had one of the great voices of all time. Her birthplace-turned-museum has been preserved even better than Liza’s face.
Info: judygarlandmuseum.com

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
It’s a bit creepy that this shrine to Dolly Parton was made before she was dead but her fans will find a double helping of excitement at the “Chasing Rainbows” museum inside this bubbly Dolly-inspired theme park. Can’t make it down to Tennessee? Order the DVD with Dolly as your personal tour guide and croon the night away.
Info: dollywood.com

Liberace Museum
Les Vegas, Nevada
Were the 1950s truly a better time? Well, people believed that hiding under desks would protect against a nuclear explosion and that piano showman Liberace was straight. Look back into a world so much more opulent and dumb than our own. It’s in, where else, Vegas: the birthplace of the sequin and home to the largest rhinestone ever made. Again size queens rejoice.
Info: liberace.org/liberace_museum

Barbie Museum(s)
Life in plastic? It must be fantastic because this bitch gets around. There are at least half a dozen pretty-in-pink places vying to be the Barbie doll museum. Their locations are as diverse as Prague, New York, Wijchen and Boca Raton — but none are as terrifying as the newly-opened House of Barbie store/spa/Barbie zone in Shanghai. One visit and you’ll either rush to own 15 of the dolls or run screaming leaving a trail of glittery carnage in your wake.

Is all this sin and silliness still a bit too tame for you? If you don’t mind when your road trip includes a couple of eerie side trails, consider these stops that mix the campy with the creepy.

The Mütter Museum
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The College of Physicians of Philadelphia’s massive collection of human medical anomalies boasts “over 20,000 unforgettable objects.” By “unforgettable” they mean frightening but if you’re fascinated by these kinds of things, enjoy. Sicko.
Info: collphyphil.org/mutter.asp

The Museum of Questionable Medical Devices
St Paul, Minnesota
Located at the Science Museum of Minnesota since 2002, this bizarre collection of so-called healing devices is also available to view on the website maintained by founder Bob McAvoy. Check out the creepy prostate cures, bloodletting devices and the terrifying “Relaxacisor.”
Info: museumofquackery.com

"Disappointment" from the Museum of Bad Art

The Museum of Bad Art
Dedham and Somerville, Massachusetts
Any old museum can show you great art but only a dingy movie theatre basement on the outskirts of Boston can show you the absolute worst. So popular (and tiny) that a second thrilling location was added last year. Get more bad for your buck.
Info: museumofbadart.org

The Creation Museum
Petersburg, Kentucky
Are you tired by all of these museums filled with nothing but science and facts? Take a trip all the way back, actually only about 6,000 years ago, to unwind in the Garden of Eden and watch children playing with dinosaurs. Christian fundamentalism has never been this much fun or so accidentally hilarious.
Info: creationmuseum.org

The Mystery Hole
Ansted, West Virginia
No, not the one in the gas station toilet stall but a shack that seems to defy the law of gravity and promises a “short, sweet, almost free, 10-minute trip that will intrigue you all the rest of your life.” More intriguing than the “Relaxacisor?” This place may prove to be the best hole yet.
Info: mysteryhole.com

Amsterdam: the city so vice, we visited twice
Why travel around the world when everything you want to see that’s gay is in Amsterdam?

Sexmuseum Amsterdam
Lots of big cities have small, overpriced tourist traps devoted to sex (looking at you, New York) but this is the world’s first and best erotica museum. It features pictures, recordings and objects even older than a couple of the cheapest prostitutes in the red light district.
Info: sexmuseumamsterdam.nl

Museum of Bags and Purses
Handbags: the most alluring addiction of them all. It’s a handbag party and everyone’s invited: Chanel, Dior, Lagerfeld, Givenchy, and Gautier, darling — names, names, names!
Info: tassenmuseum.nl

Vodka Museum
If gay men were cars, this would be a hall devoted to gasoline. Enough said.
Info: vodkamuseum.com


About Scott Dagostino

An arts & culture journalist who's the bastard love child of Van Morrison and Jessica Mitford
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