Where can a person see a butter churn, an 1,800-year-old metal fire starter, and a 1901 cylinder phonograph all in one place? Anywhere, because the Museum of Interesting Things is built to travel.
Headquartered in Manhattan’s East Village, the museum is the brainchild of Denny Daniel, a freelance filmmaker and photograph restorer who wanted to use his vast collection of fascinating antique devices to inspire curiosity and innovation.
He started with small demonstrations in his apartment, and as people showed more and more interest, the project grew and began to travel. The exhibit is organized by categories, like Math, Science, and Literature, which he takes to schools—elementary through university—as well as hospitals, libraries, and galleries. Any space that is big enough for him to set up a few tables for his antiques is fit for the exhibit. Visitors are encouraged to handle some of the items, to experience what it was like to use them, and make suggestions. (That’s how the collection ended up with three 8-track players.)
The idea is to remind people of today that something like the iPhone did not come from nowhere, but evolved over time from history’s innovations. This point is probably driven home when visitors bring out their smartphones to take pictures of his wind-up wooden box telephone. More recently, the exhibit has grown to include several “green power” items, including a crystal radio, which was powered by nothing more than radio waves.
Know Before You Go
The traveling show can also be viewed at its headquarters in New York if pre-arranged by phone. Call to schedule a visit (212) 274-8757.