By David Wilkening, Contributing Writer
REGION – Massachusetts, in part because of its long-standing history, has long been a bastion of significant and important museums. But there are also some lesser-known ones that are quite unusual.
Unfortunately, at least partially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the list of candidates has dwindled.
It’s farewell at least temporarily, to outstanding candidates such as the retired Dr. John Collins Warren’s lifelong collection of 15,000 items. They included fetal skeletons and pickled organs at the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine in Boston. “Not for the faint of heart,” one visitor said of the ghoulish collection.
And still another candidate was “washed out,” you might say. The American Sanitary Plumbing Museum, conveniently located in Watertown and often called the Toilet Museum, was flushed away with the announcement it was “temporarily closed.” The same fate has befallen the Telephone Museum in Waltham.
But here’s a selection of existing museums where you can still get your fix of the arcane and unusual.
West End Museum
Boston’s West End is best known for its immigrants. It was a melting pot of Greeks, Jews, Lithuanians, Poles and others. You find all of them and more at the West End Museum, entry on 150 Staniford Street, Lomasney Way Suite 7, in Boston. The often-neglected neighborhood museum has been around since 2004. Local leaders dedicated it as an educational institution for the area’s culture. Admission is free.
Patriotism on display at Faneuil Hall
Veterans and others might want to salute the Museum of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts on the fourth floor of Faneuil Hall in Boston. It is said to be the oldest chartered patriotic service organization preserving the city’s historic and patriotic traditions. Historically, members of this company have served in every Massachusetts colonial war and national conflict since its founding in 1638. Items span all conflicts from the Revolution to the battlefields of Desert Storm. Admission is free.
Tom Thumb Museum
For a unique experience, consider a visit to the Middleborough Historical Museum, also known as the Tom Thumb Museum, at 18 Jackson St. in Middleborough. It includes seven buildings housing artifacts related to the New England town. P.T. Barnum came to Middleborough in 1863 to recruit dwarf performer Tom Thumb’s wife Lavinia, who was then living here. The museum today features the largest collection of Tom Thumb (aka Charles Stratton) memorabilia in the U.S. The couple on a world tour eventually made 1,471 performances which included many admirers, such as Queen Victoria.
Lizzie Borden House
There aren’t many museums where you can stay the night, but this one fits the bill as it’s both a bed- and-breakfast and a museum. The former home of Lizzie Borden in Fall River is the site of the 1892 double murder of Andrew and Abby Borden, victims of a hatchet attack. Lizzie was tried and acquitted of her involvement in the deaths of her father and stepmother but lived with the accusation the rest of her life. Located at 230 Second St., the home’s original hardware and doors are intact, and the 19th-century decor has been “painstakingly” replicated. Artifacts linked to the case are also on display. Various ghostly doings are associated with it. The most requested room is where Abby Borden was found murdered.