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10 Offbeat Museums to Visit This Season

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Brain Museum
Brain Museum

Museums don’t have to display fine paintings or sculpture. Pop culture, specific interests and the downright quirky comprise the collections at the following 10 offbeat museums.

1. In Western New York, check out the Museum of Neuroanatomy — aka, the Brain Museum — at the University of Buffalo South Campus. You guessed it: the place displays actual human brains. The “brainchild” of Harold Brody, the museum showcases 80 specimens including cross-sections, complete brains and educational displays. To arrange a guided tour, contact Christopher Cohan, at 716-829-3081 or ccohan@buffalo.edu.

2. Western New York is also home to the Jell-O Gallery Museum (www.jellogallery.org) in LeRoy, where Jell-O was invented. Once you follow the Jell-O Brick Road inside, you’ll learn all about the wiggly treat, such as retired Jello-O flavors that include celery, mixed vegetable, cola an coffee. A large display of vintage Jell-O molds covers and entire wall.

New York Museum of Transportation
New York Museum of Transportation

3. “Rush” seems an appropriate location for the New York Museum of Transportation (www.nymtmuseum.org). But take your time to peruse the antique trolley cars, steam locomotive, fire truck, ambulance, operating model railroad and other vehicles. Don’t forget to ride the electric trolley.

4. From telegram to text, learn about the progression of communication at the Antique Wireless Association in Bloomfield (www.antiquewireless.org). Displays include vintage telegraphs, radios and more.

5. Rochester Auto Museum houses just a handful of vehicles from the ‘60s and ‘70s, but any gear head would enjoy its lineup of privately owned muscle cars. Donations for admission benefit Rochester chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America. (http://rochesterautomuseum.com)

6. Alling Coverlet Museum (www.historicpalmyrany.com/allingintro.htm) in Palmyra displays a surprising number of coverlets but holds many more in storage, awaiting their turn. In fact, it takes six years to cycle through each of its coverlets. Visitors can also tour the Quilt Room and see looms, spinning wheels, and other tools used for weaving.

The Jell-O Gallery in Leroy features a wall covered in Jell-O molds. Photo courtesy the Jell-O Gallery Museum
The Jell-O Gallery in Leroy features a wall covered in Jell-O molds. Photo courtesy the Jell-O Gallery Museum

7. In Newark, check out the Hoffman Clock Museum (http://hoffmanclockmuseum.org). Housed in a wing of the public library, the museum displays more than 300 timepieces and tools of the clock repair trade. Plus, the museum features a mural-sized stained glass window. Call ahead to meet with the curator for a more informative tour of the museum.

8. In nearby Lyons, the H.G. Hotchkiss Prize Medal Essential Oil Museum (https://lyonsheritagesociety.org), locally known as the “Peppermint Museum,” pays homage to the town’s biggest industry of yesteryear with displays of original equipment from the H.G. Hotchkiss factory, along with Lyons area artifacts. It’s open only by appointment, so call ahead at 315-946-4596.

9. You know and love the movie. Now visit the It’s a Wonderful Life Museum (www.wonderfullifemuseum.com) in Seneca Falls, thought to be director Frank Capra’s inspiration for the fictitious Bedford Falls. Check out memorabilia and photos from the classic Christmas movie.

10. Geneva’s Mike Weaver Drain Tile Museum (http://genevahistoricalsociety.com/visit/johnston-house) at the Johnston House highlights one of the most important innovations in agriculture: drain tiles. By using drain tiles, farmers can better manage moisture on fields.

Smaller museums may not keep regular hours, so contact the museum before making plans to visit.