Let’s say it’s any given Sunday morning. It’s raining, the Eagles have a night game and you’ve got nothing to do. You realize that the last time you stepped into a museum was on a tenth grade field trip. Maybe, just maybe, you should get some tiny modicum of culture into your life.
But you mentally survey Philly’s museum scene and remember that art bores you more than a foreign film, you’re sick of history, politics and all that Constitution stuff, and the last time you went to the Mutter Museum you secretly puked in the bathroom, which you really hope your ex-girlfriend still hasn’t told anyone.
What do you do with yourself? Here’s your answer. – Tara Nurin
The Museum of Mourning Art at Arlington
2900 State Road
Drexel Hill, PA 19026
Hours: by appointment
Hundreds of years ago, doctors and artists would commonly steal corpses from cemeteries. So what did cemetery employees do? Shoot them. See the “cemetery guns” they used, plus hundreds of other symbols and objects surrounding the rituals of death at this museum devoted to chronicling and paying homage to grieving. A lot of people try to make light of this place but the people who run the cemetery that owns the museum take it very seriously. So if you go, be mindful of being respectful but have as much fun as you want “checking out” items that tell the universal story of mourning.
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology
3260 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Hours: Tues, Thurs to Sat 10am-5pm; Wed 10am-5pm
Price: $10 general admission; $7 senior citizens (65 and above); $6 for children 6 to 17 and full-time students with college ID; Free children 5 and under; “Pay-what-you-want” general admission during the last hour of everyday
The Penn museum may be the most underrated institution in all of Philadelphia. Not only is it encased in a grand edifice full of rotundas and mosaics but it houses one million incredible objects that span thousands of years. These artifacts tell the story of humanity through items like weapons, masks, funerary objects, tools, and human remains collected from archeological excavations and anthropological exhibitions around the world. The Egyptian and Nubian galleries are especially staggering with 42,000 objects, making it one of the biggest collections in the country.
Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum
6825 Norwitch Drive
Philadelphia, PA 19153
Hours: Tues to Fri 10am-6pm; Sat to Sun 10am-4pm
Price: $12; $10 Seniors; $8 Students; Free children under 8
Website & Reviews
This private collection of 60 race cars represents the history of auto racing, from a 1909 American Underslung to a 1982 Alfa Romeo GTV6, and all the Ferraris, Bugattis, and Aston Martins you could ever want in between. They’re displayed in dioramas that represent the time and place the actual cars raced. The neurosurgeon who owns the vehicles began collecting them fifty years ago, and according to the marketing materials, he selected them specifically to illustrate the “how the principles of evolution affect inanimate objects the same way it does living organisms.” That’s a great way to start revving your engine, right?
904 Sheble Lane
Lower Gwynedd, PA 19437
Hours: Fri. Nov. 25, 2011, 10am-3pm; Sat. Nov. 26, 2011, 10am-3pm; Sun. Dec. 18, 10am-3pm
Website & Reviews
For some dudes, there’s nothing funnier than Moe, Larry and Curly. Pity, then, that most of them don’t know about one of the region’s best-kept secrets. The Stoogeum is the only museum in the world completely devoted to Three Stooges memorabilia. Props, costumes, pictures, paintings, marketing materials, toys, branded merch, actors’ personal belongings and anything else you can associate with the show total almost 100,000 artifacts. That’s in addition to the research library, a vault for storing 16MM films and the 85-seat theater for screenings, lectures and presentations. The Stoogeum is also the headquarters for the show’s fan club, which is one of the country’s oldest and biggest fan clubs. It goes without saying that this place is full of yuk yuk yuks.
The James A. Michener Art Museum
138 South Pine Street
Doylestown, PA 18901
Hours: Tues to Fri 10am-4:30pm; Sat 10am-5pm; Sun 12pm-5pm
Price: $12.50 Adult: $11.50 Senior; $9.50 College Student; $6.00 Youth; Free children under 6
Website & Reviews
If you loved his books, you may not love the museum. It’s not a collection of his artifacts or a paean to his life. But it’s hard not to get into the groove here because while the Doylestown museum does contain some stuff that belonged to its namesake, much more of the building is dedicated to showcasing some of the Greater Philadelphia’s most bad-ass photography. There’s always at least one traveling photography exhibition, and it often pertains to music, society or the military. Until February 29, 2012, the work of photographer Nancy Hellebrand is being shown in the Pfundt Gallery. In the exhibition, Learning to See, combines individual pictures of Philly-area tree branches into large-scale amalgamations that are, as described on the museum’s website, “more an abstract meditation than a mirror of nature.”
Tara Nurin is a freelance writer and producer based in Philadelphia and Camden, NJ. She specializes in coverage of craft beer, nightlife, restaurants, sustainable food and local destinations.