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I originally wrote this article for the October 2006 Wide World Books & Maps Newsletter. Let me know if you have any particular favorites you think should be added to the list -Terrell



The Best Things Come in Small Packages

Charming Small Museums Around the World

It seems to be a basic instinct of humankind to preserve our special treasures and share them with society. Since the days of the pharaohs we've created museums to store our history, art, science and culture (no, really, Ptolemy I, Alexandria…). And as every good traveler knows, it is our travel duty as well as our pleasure to visit museums wherever we go. When a customer came in this month asking for information on the Corrie Ten Boom Museum in Amsterdam , it got me thinking that museums don’t need to be huge, important places to show us something worth remembering. Some of my favorite museums are the small, specialized, sometimes offbeat, usually idiosyncratic kind. I decided to ask the staff and our beloved customers to tell me about their favorite small museums around the world. I wasn’t surprised by the number and variety of responses I got but I was a little startled at the intensity of attachment people displayed: the lady who remembered from childhood the smell of the flowers from the courtyard of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the “spirited debate” over the best art museum in Paris, the heated defense of local favorites. Apparently, travelers can be pretty passionate about their history and culture.

Here’s the list of our favorites so you can add them to your own travel itineraries…

Art Museums

Paris is the clear winner for the home of the best small art museums and the Musée Maillol got by far the most votes for the best small museum of any kind. I’m thinking about planning a trip to Paris just to see it.

In Paris:
The Musée Maillol
The Dali Museum in Montmarte
The Rodin Museum
Musée Jaquemart-Andre
The Picasso Museum

and elsewhere:
The Heard Museum in Phoenix (my personal contribution to the list)
The Courtauld Gallery in London
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston
The Guggenheim in Venice
Collection de le Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland

Cultural and Historical Museums

An interesting collection, if I do say so myself. I was a little doubtful about the Ice Skating Museum but almost as soon as it got added to the list another customer commented “Great museum!”

Gaziantep Archeological Museum in Gaziantep, Turkey
Cannon Beach Historical Museum in Cannon Beach, Oregon (housing, they tell me, the original cannon)
Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin
The Textile Museum in Washington DC
Friesen Ice Skating Museum in Hindeloopen, Netherlands

Science and Technology

The Antarctic Center sounds awesome. I’m totally adding it to my list.

International Antarctic Center in Christchurch New Zealand
Air Museum in Tillamook, Oregon
Pima Air & Space in Tucson Arizona
Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana

Local Favorites

People were a little apologetic about suggesting the local guys, but I think we’ve got some world class museums here. And I can’t wait to see the Nordic Heritage Museum’s new building going up just blocks from my house.

Frye Museum
Nordic Heritage Museum in Ballard
Seattle Children's Museum


These guys are just weird. The Satie museum turns the composer’s house into a giant avant garde art project and I’m really not sure what’s going on at that Jurassic Technology place. Still…they sound fun!

Musee de Eric Satie in Honfleur, France
Museum of Questionable Medical Devices in Minnesota
American Visionary Museum in Baltimore, Maryland
Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles


Hope you enjoyed the list. Let us know if you think we missed a particularly good one!