Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I got this tip from Roadside America.  Things Swallowed! it said.  Death Masks! it said.  Taxidermy! it said.  It didn't come right out and say it, but it heavily implied that the Allen County Museum might be a Things in Jars museum, which, of all the museums, might be my favorite kind.  All of that weird stuff right at my fingertips, and all it takes is the short drive up to Lima, Ohio (yes, Glee fans, it does exist!).

The Allen County Museum is a museum of gifts.  Every artifact comes with it's own little placard, finished with the words 'Donated By,' or 'Gift From.'  I wonder how long some of these pieces were left in Lima attics, gathering dust while the family puttered around below thinking, "Oh, we can't just throw Grandpa's gramophone away.  It's practically historic!"  Did the artifacts demand a museum of their own?  Or did the museum send out the call for Lima's near forgotten relics?  

19th Century Homestead says the sign on the wall in the first big room.  The big display of an 1800's kitchen dominates the room, and really makes a show of how much the kitchen was the woman's space.  There's a spinning wheel next to the fireplace, far enough away that the wool won't catch the embers, but close enough that the prairie mother can still be productive when she's doing something as trivial as making dinner. 

I get a bit waylaid by a display case full of 19th century cutlery.  Some of the pieces look very familiar (you'll be happy to know that forks, knives, and pie crimpers have remained unchanged by time) while others sound familiar, but look much different than expected (the nut cracker looks...problematic, while the baby bottle looks a bit like a dalek).  Still more look charmingly archaic.  Who uses a butter mold, anyway? 

At the end of the case is a collection of tiny little irons, matching with tiny little dresses, and a tiny little washboard propped up in the corner, all perfect for tiny little girls who need to learn how to be tiny little homebodies.  

A docent corners me next to the covered wagon.  He's just itching to tell me all about it, and that pack of children that just went racing through the exhibit aren't likely to listen, so I let him.  He rests an elbow on one of the wagon's big wheels and describes a family pushing everything they owned into the wagon, then walking along beside it.  "No riders on the covered wagons," he says with a grin, then wanders away.  I never quite know what to think about docents.  Do they just have incredible amounts of knowledge tucked away in the corners of their brains, or do they collect informational odds and ends and then wait to spring it on unsuspecting visitors, whether they want to hear it or not?  Watching the docent hover by the covered wagon with an eye trained a young couple that's just wandered into the room, I suspect it might be the latter.

A line of Burma Shave signs hung from the ceiling draws me in to the next room.  

Dear Lover Boy
Your Picture Came
But Your Doggone Beard
Won't Fit the Frame!
Burma Shave

There's a big, horse-drawn hearse in the next room, and I can just see the glass eyes of stuffed birds peeking around the corner.  This might just get interesting.

No pictures in the museum, I'm afraid, but come back all this week to learn about Noah's Ark, John Dillinger, Mt. Vernon, and the rest of the Allen County Museum.   

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