The Museum of Innocence and Other Bizarre Art Houses


Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk’s new novel, The Museum of Innocence, is now on bookshelves. Not yet available to the public is the corresponding real-world museum he is in the midst of building, which will open next year. In Pamuk’s novel, the protagonist, Kemal, collects artifacts of his beloved, and ultimately uses them to construct a shrine to her, which he calls the Museum of Innocence. The physical Museum of Innocence will be as lovingly crafted, with 83 exhibits to mirror the 83 chapters of the novel and will consist, as Kemal’s museum did, of everyday objects that had some significance to the novel’s gestation.

Admission will be free with a ticket found in the book.

Pamuk told the New York Times Magazine, “I want my museum to be modestly filled with the ordinary things that make up the city, that make up any city. I want my museum to be a museum of the city, to include everything from street maps to locks to door handles to public telephones and the sound of foghorns.”

If you’re like us, you can’t wait for Pamuk’s museum to open its doors. To tide you over, here are some more conceptual, bizarre and just plain awesome museums around the world.

The Hobo Museum (Iowa)

Apparently, hobos, tramps, and bums are all very different beasts (a hobo travels and works, a tramp just travels and a bum doesn’t travel or work, and is just a bum). Located in Britt, IA, the Hobo Museum houses memorabilia, photos, and other hobo artifacts. It’s best to go during the Hobo Convention, which happens every year. We’re not sure we would go to Indiana to see this museum, but it sure is fun to talk about hobos. Check out their website for answers to questions like “What is a hobo?” and to read the Hobo Code.

The National Museum of the Renaissance at the Chateau d’Ecouen (France)

This gorgeous, overlooked castle was originally built as a hunting lodge for the Duc de Montmorency, but now functions as a museum that works to integrate decor, exhibitions and architecture to create a complete experience. In fact, the director has made a conscious not to make the museum more accessible, feeling that too many people would ruin the peaceful atmosphere. So essentially, it’s a secret castle in the woods where you can go and seriously feel like you’re a duke. We like that idea. [Via Art.View]

The Museum of Bad Art (Boston)

The Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) is exactly what it sounds like. That is, according to their website, “a community-based, private institution dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all its forms and in all its glory.” Of course it begs the question of how to evaluate art — how can someone say that art is really, unequivocally bad or good? But no, this is no such monument to pretension. This is just bad art. And that’s kind of awesome. View the collection online.

The Winchester Mystery House (California)

Sarah L. Winchester commissioned this mansion in 1884, and it remained under construction for 38 years, the work ceasing immediately upon her death. The widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester, Sarah believed that her house was haunted by the ghosts of people killed by the guns her husband made, and that the only way to keep them at bay was to keep the construction going. The result of her paranoia is the current Winchester Mystery House, a sprawling, intricate piece of architecture, with 160 rooms, 47 fireplaces, and 17 chimneys, as well as bizarre details like stairs leading into the ceiling, a window built into the floor and an apparent obsession with the number 13. To no one’s surprise, the flashlight tours are especially popular around Halloween.

El Eco Experimental Museum (Mexico)

Originally designed in 1953 by Mathías Goeritz, the El Eco was meant to be a “living art” museum, combining painting, sculpture and dance in various stages of development in order to facilitate artistic communication and creativity. The opening event featured a dance choreographed by Luis Buñuel. Unfortunately, year after its creation the space was turned into a nightclub, but it has recently been reopened and its new directors have pledged to honor Goeritz’s vision of inviting “chaos and freedom.” Fight on.

What have we missed?