Hideous Objects Become Museum Art

"They amaze us and educate us. That's the whole point of a museum."

Here's a look at some of America's strangest collections. Among other things, they prove there's hope for Coleman's Cryptozoology Museum, even if that neurotic loner Bigfoot never shows his face.

Odd Museum Gallery

Pathological Pleasures at the Mütter: Looking for the preserved body parts of major historical figures? How about a presidential tumor?

The Mütter Museum boasts a cancerous growth secretly removed from Grover Cleveland's chin in 1893, during his second term in office.

The tumor, given to the Mütter after Cleveland's death, now floats in preservative, not far from bladder stones removed from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall and a tissue specimen of John Wilkes Booth.

As far back as 1849, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia had a collection of "pathological specimens" for its members to view.

But six years later, when Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter retired and donated his vast private collection of diseased tissue, the college earned a national reputation, and now boasts more than 900 preserved specimens.

Among the most popular attractions: The shared liver of the world-famous conjoined twins Chang and Eng, who were billed internationally as "Siamese twins."

How did the sideshow stars end their lives as a museum attraction? In 1874, doctors from the college performed the autopsy on Chang and Eng and were allowed to keep the curious organ.

The Most Unusual Museum — Period: You probably don't need to visit Maryland's Museum of Menstruation more than once a month, where you'll find the midriffs of mannequins suspended from the ceiling, modeling feminine hygiene products from around the world, some more than 100 years old.

The displays of mid-20th-century hygiene equipment from the old Soviet Union are said to be barbaric enough to convince any woman of the virtues of capitalism.

Among the treasures: A 1914 Sears catalog advertising a rubber "sanitary apron" along with displays illustrating the evolution of Kotex sanitary napkins, developed from surgical bandages by World War II Army nurses.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Museum of Menstruation (or MOM, as it's called) is its founder and curator — Harry Finley, a 60-year-old bachelor who works for the Pentagon as a graphic designer.

Finley runs the museum from his basement and says he just wants to demystify and remove the stigma from feminine hygiene.

A Smithsonian researcher has praised his collection as a valuable piece of pop culture, and so has others. But Finley has his critics, including Sassy magazine, which told him, "Stick to jock itch products, buddy."

Quacks Can't Duck this Exhibit: Out of shape? No problem. Just scrub away those pesky excess inches with some weight-loss soap. Of course, you'll want a foot-powered breast pump to put those inches back where they belong.

What now? All that self-improvement makes your husband feel inadequate? There's just the right gizmo for him, too.

Even before the advent of the late-night infomercial, fast-talking salesmen have been hawking dubious products, and you can see the best of them all at Minnesota's Museum of Questionable Medical Devices, or as it's frequently called, "The Quackatorium."

Even in the late 19th century, men sought the all-elusive washboard stomach, and in a Sears catalog, you'd find the Heidelberg Alternating Current Electric Belt, designed to jiggle you to perfection.

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