Five Unexpected Museums: Add these to your must-visit list

Read more about the Morse Museum and other  Must-Visit Unexpected Museums at

Every city in the USA has a lineup of art and history museums. They are a delight to visit as a traveler and a crucial part of cultural life for residents. But some cities have museums, collections, and exhibits that you won't find anywhere else.

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art

Fans of the art of Louis Comfort Tiffany will, of course, love the Charles Hosmer Morse museum. But anyone who thinks Tiffany's glorious creations were some lampshades and a few mosaics will be amazed at the depth and diversity of his art. The Morse Museum is home to the world's most comprehensive collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848 -- 1933), including his famous chapel. Piece of Tiffany's distinctive glass art can be found around the world, but the depth and breadth of the Morse collection is unique. The town of Winter Park will charm visitors as well.

Jesse Owens Museum

In 1936 a poor black man from rural Alabama, Jesse Owens, single-handedly destroyed Hitler's vision of the perfect racial group of pure Aryan stock. It was at the Olympic Games and the dictator was certain his athletes would show the world their superiority. That is until Owens blew by the competition to win gold medals in the 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump, and 400 meter relays. He humbled Hitler's vision and the tyrant himself. Owens' actions made an eloquent statement about hard work, effort, and ability independent of racial heritage.

The Jesse Owens Museum in Oakville, Alabama focuses on Owens' beginnings and his amazing feats of physical prowess. The museum includes a replica of the tiny cabin, theater, timeline of Owens life, a wonderful statue of Owens surrounded by the Olympic rings, picnic area, long jump pit and sports fields.

Read more about the Eastern State Penitentiary and other  Must-Visit Unexpected Museums at

Eastern State Penitentiary

This half-derelict half-stabilized campus in the heart of Philadelphia is fascinating to visit (and photograph). Eastern State started out perhaps with the best of intentions, but used solitary confinement as the key principle. Even the name -- penitentiary -- tells a story. A word not often used today, penitents are people who are repentant, ashamed of their behavior and ready to be released to the world. Easterm State Penitentiary was thought to inspire prisoners with its architecture, and encourage penitence in the convicts.

Visitors to Eastern State Penitentiary can trace the changes in penal theory and implementation in the buildings. But there is more here than prison philosophy gone bad. There are fascinating stories of prisoners stretching over a hundred years.

Las Vegas Boneyard

The history of the pleasure Mecca of Las Vegas is told in neon – through the signs that graced the hotels and casinos. The Las Vegas Boneyard is its repository. The collection was actually started by YESCO (Young Electric Sign Company) who was designing, creating, and installing these neon extravaganzas up and down the Las Vegas strip. YESCO would often lease their signs rather than sell them, so when the logos were decommissioned they would revert back to the company that made them. Aware of their unique heritage, and proud of their innovative designs YESCO, began to store some of their favorites. That morphed into the Neon Museum and the Boneyard. Today, visitors can take a tour and see some of the signs that made Las Vegas a glittering fantasyland.

BB King Museum

Riley B. King was born on September 16, 1925 near Berclair Mississippi (where there is a Blues Trail marker), but he always considered the town he moved to as a teen, Indianola, to be his hometown. The man that was BB King has died, but his musical legacy is told at The BB King Museum – the story of the man who became one of the most loved blues musicians in the world, and named all his guitars Lucille.

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Neala McCarten

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author

Published: January 1st, 2016

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