Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

6 really, really small (and really good)

Photograph: Mmuseumm.

Sophie Dickinson, 6 really, really small (and really, really good) museums around the world, Timeout, 17 January 2022

Forget traipsing around a massive art gallery – squeeze into one of these extremely tiny spaces instead

Sometimes, art, culture and history have to be consumed in small doses. Sure, there’s something majestic about traipsing around Paris or Florence, cramming in every gallery and famous bit of architecture you can. But that can get exhausting. Happily, these pocket-sized museums allow you to get your culture fix without spending all day doing it.

Whether it’s an exhibition in a classic British telephone box or a collection of curious New York items displayed in an elevator shaft, you’ll discover that in many cases the museum location is just as weird as the stuff inside. Good thing. Ready to seek out some seriously obscure culture? Here are six of the best really, really small (and really, really good) museums across the globe.

1. MICRO, San Francisco

Most of these tiny museums are exactly that: a very small display in a very small building, focusing on one (often pretty estoric) topic. MICRO is a little bit different. The curators behind the project describe it as a ‘fleet of six-foot-tall museums’. In other words: it’s a whole army of mini-galleries, spread throughout the city. The exhibition cases are stuffed with artefacts and detailed descriptions, and are pretty stylish to boot. Topics include molluscs, the science of perpetual motion and the politics of care.

Photograph: : Emmanuel Villegas

2. Mmuseumm, New York

Mmuseumm describes itself as a ‘modern natural history museum’. That means you won’t find crusty dinosaur exhibits and hominid skeletons here. Peer into this former elevator shaft, and instead you’ll find everyday objects, from an an Amazon Dash button for on-demand Doritos to transcripts of the last text messages people received from loved ones. It’s a strange, oddly moving collection of seemingly unrelated items which you can browse at literally any time of day.

Photograph: Mmuseumm

3. The Warley Museum, UK

Warley is a tiny village in West Yorkshire in the UK. It might not be top of your British bucket list, but this museum might convince you to take a detour. Tucked inside traditional red phone box, the changing exhibits are created by village residents and detail moments in Warley history, like its unlikely links to a brewery in China. The floor of the phone box is covered in mosaics made from pottery found in nearby gardens. Best of all, it’s right by the pub – giving you all the ingredients for a quintessential British day out.

Photograph: Warley Community Association

4. Ethno Museum, Džepčište, North Macedonia

Only one visitor at a time can enter this remarkable ethnography museum. Like a particularly diverse and impressive Dad’s garage, Ethno Museum is stuffed full with more than a thousand objects. Most are Macedonian items from the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, but you’ll also find ceramic remains that date back more than five millennia. Just don’t expect to find out much info: the objects speak for themselves.

Photograph: Rašo/Wikimedia Commons

5. William Burke Museum, Edinburgh

On the counter in the The Cadies & Witchery Tours shop, you’ll find a ‘museum’ with a single, gory exhibit: a small calling card, made out of the skin of a notorious Edinburgh murderer. The Victorian bodysnatcher William Burke used to sell the bodies of his victims to an undiscerning university professor and was eventually executed for his crimes. This grisly relic is a testament to a particularly dark part of the city’s history – have a peep if you’re passing through.

Photograph: The Cadies & Witchery Tours

6. The Faraday Effect, London

Michael Faraday discovered electromagnetism, and that in turn led to much of the world getting electricity. Thanks, man! This tiny museum – essentially a shed – is perched on an unassuming London dockside, near where Faraday worked for more than 30 years. Head on in, and you’ll find a recreation of the scientist’s workshop. The walls are lined with historical documents, technical drawings and, er, fishing tackle. It feels surprisingly calm inside, so head here to escape the bustle of the city.

Photograph: Patrycja Nowak / Trinity Buoy Wharf

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