Book: Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder : Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology
U.S. Atlantic Coast
Metropolitan Museum, New York, New York
A giant collection of art and antiquities from everywhere. The "primitive" art collection is especially recommended, since pieces were selected more aesthetically than ethnographically.
Book: Masterpieces of Primitive Art (The Nelson A. Rockefeller collection)
American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York
Classic natural history dioramas and an incredible rock and meteorite collection
Book: Windows on Nature: The Great Habitat Dioramas of the American Museum of Natural History
Coney Island Museum, New York, New York
Has the last sideshow in Coney Island - tattooed women, fire-eaters, sword-swallowers, etc.
Freakatorium, New York, New York closed 2005
P.T. Barnum's American Museum, New York, New York
Barnum's pioneering combination of education, spectacle and hokum. Burned in 1865 and recreated online.
Mutter Museum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
America's premier medical museum. Noted for its annual calendars featuring photographs of the museum's collection by noted photographers such as Rosamond Purcell and Joel-Peter Witkin.
Book: Mutter Museum: Of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia
American Dime Museum, Baltimore, Maryland
In 19th century America, the "wonder" part of museums became more associated with circus sideshows and "dime museums" such as P.T. Barnum's. This museum was dedicated to preserving their memory. Closed 2007
Book: Weird & Wonderful: The Dime Museum in America
Palace of Wonders, Washington, D.C.
"The only vaudeville stage, museum of oddities, and full bar in the world!"
Belhaven Memorial Museum, Belhaven, North Carolina
An individual collector's amazing amassment of oddities
Cypress Knee Museum, Palmdale, Florida
This was both a classic Florida roadside attraction and an excellent example of natural art. Closed in 2000 due to vandalism and theft.
Tinkertown Museum, Sandia, New Mexico
Menil Collection, Houston, Texas
Museum of Natural and Artificial Ephemerata, Austin, Texas
UCM Museum, Abita Springs, Louisiana
Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford
A Victorian ethnographic museum, with rows of vitrines filled with a huge variety of human artifacts.
Snowshill Manor, Snowshill
Charles Wade spent the first half of the 20th century filling his manor house with objects of all kinds.
Sir John Soane's Museum, London
An 18th century London architect who made his home into a museum of art and antiquities
Hunterian Museum, London
Anatomical and medical museum based on the collections of an 18th century surgeon.
Potter's Museum of Curiosity, Cornwall
A Victorian taxidermist's collection of stuffed animals in anthropomorphic scenes. Auctioned off in 2003. For more information, see here
Musee Fragonard, Paris, France
Museum devoted to the pioneering preservation work of the 18th century French anatomist Honore Fragonard
Book (in French): L'autre Fragonard (Imager)
Musee Robert Tatin, Cossť-le-Vivien, France
An incredible personal sculpture and art museum in an old farmhouse in rural France.
Museum of Petrification, Savonniers, France
Petrifying springs coat objects left in them with layers of limestone. Via Kircher Society
Kunstkammer Georg Laue, Munich, Germany
A gallery that specializes in objects you might find in a princely cabinet of curiosities
Schloss Ambras, Innsbruck, Austria
The "Chamber of Art and Curiosities" is a reconstruction of Archduke Ferdinand II's princely cabinet from ca. 1600
Peter the Great's Kunstkammer, St. Petersburg, Russia
Opened in 1714 to showcase the Russian czar's collection of wonders, now an anthropology museum
Recommended tour guides to museums in the U.S. and Europe
Little Known Museums in and Around Paris
Little-Known Museums in and Around London
Also available for Rome and Berlin
Little Museums: Over 1,000 Small (And Not-So-Small) American Showplaces
Roadside America is an excellent source for updated news on roadside attractions, including the small museums that often do not survive indefinitely