From Pez To Ticks, 'Atlas Obscura' Discovers 'Wonderfully Specific' Museums People often become obsessed with collecting certain types of objects and then, before you know it, they have the basis for what writer Molly McBride Jacobson calls a "wonderfully specific museum."
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From Pez To Ticks, 'Atlas Obscura' Discovers 'Wonderfully Specific' Museums

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From Pez To Ticks, 'Atlas Obscura' Discovers 'Wonderfully Specific' Museums

From Pez To Ticks, 'Atlas Obscura' Discovers 'Wonderfully Specific' Museums

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There are museums, and then, there are wonderfully specific museums. We're talking about such institutions as the American Toby Jug Museum, the German Watering Can Museum and, of course, the U.S. National Tick Museum. All of these came to our attention through the work of Atlas Obscura writer Molly McBride Jacobson and her article, "Wonderfully Specific Museums," and she joins us now. Welcome to the program.


SIEGEL: First, I have to ask you about the U.S. National Tick Museum. Where is it, and why is it?

JACOBSON: The National Tick Museum is in Statesboro, Ga. They collect all these ticks for the purpose of studying Lyme disease, and they have an unbelievable number of ticks, and they're all just pasted on to little pieces of paper.

SIEGEL: Now, remind us again of what Atlas Obscura is and how these collections came to be a part of your article.

JACOBSON: Sure. So Atlas Obscura is a compendium of the world's most unusual and off-the-beaten-path places. As an editor of Atlas Obscura, I was looking at all of these places and I - and when I visit a new place, I like to go to their cemetery and then see what unusual museums they have in their place. So you're going to Burlingame, Calif. The Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia would come up.

SIEGEL: Say no more. What a magnificent idea. The Museum of Pez Memorabilia - whose idea was that?

JACOBSON: That was the work of Gary and Nancy Doss, and they had this computer repair shop and sort of collected Pez. I'm assuming the only real Pez memorabilia is Pez dispensers.


JACOBSON: But they collected these and displayed them sort of as a hobby in their shop. And then that took over, and the entire shop became the Pez museum.

SIEGEL: So if I wanted to find that one with the little fox's head where the fox mouth opened up and the Pez came out, they would probably have that there.

JACOBSON: That would be the place to go.

SIEGEL: Wow. I also like the idea of the tuba museum in North Carolina.

JACOBSON: That's actually a similar situation where it was one collector who opened his collection up to the public. Vincent Simonetti was a tubist, and he started collecting antique tubas. There, you can find all kinds of tubas, but you can also find cousins of the tuba, like euphoniums or sousaphones. And I think it's nice because it gives this oft maligned instrument a nice little day in the sun.

SIEGEL: Of course, it takes up more space than a museum devoted to ticks.

JACOBSON: Yeah. I guess it depends on the size of the collection.

SIEGEL: (Laughter) I guess you could have that many takes.

JACOBSON: Exactly.

SIEGEL: What about - there's a museum in Germany that you include in your list, which is the Museum of Snoring. From what I could tell on its website, it's more like the museum of trying to stop snoring.

JACOBSON: Basically. As long as snoring has been around, people have been trying to stop it. You find all sorts of contraptions. You know, some of them are almost surgical in their appearance. They go up your nose or into your sinuses. I like museums like this because they sort of lend a very specific lens to human history or human medicine.

SIEGEL: Do you find, given these various, very specific museums that Atlas Obscura's written about, that there's something common to the urge to create a museum of ticks and snoring and Pez dispensers and tubas and whatever else you might have a museum about?

JACOBSON: Yeah. I mean, I think they all start with one person who cares deeply about this very specific item or phenomenon. Then from there, it grows. And in some cases, you know, someone has a collection, and it's just a collection. You could say that about Pez dispensers, for example. But sometimes, the size of the collection and the variety of the items that they have, whether they're hand fans or mustard jars or garden gnomes, the variety in the breadth of the collection can actually tell you something about this phenomenon and what people were doing when they were making gnomes or Pez dispensers.

SIEGEL: (Laughter) OK. That's Atlas Obscura writer Molly McBride Jacobson talking about wonderfully specific museums. Thanks.

JACOBSON: Thank you.

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