Moonshine stills, an 1880s hearse, UFOs, pro- and anti-Vietnam War bumper stickers, Victorian hair art, a tugboat, antique bobbin lace, a one-room schoolhouse from 1912, logging equipment, Native American art, tanks, fishing lures, phonographs, and an A-7D Corsair jet plane. These are just a sliver of the artifacts on view at the Miracle of America Museum, an in-depth and thoughtful tour of the U.S. as seen through its stuff.
The breadth and variety of the eclectic museum’s exhibits, which take up 35 buildings and much of the land surrounding, have earned it the nickname of “Smithsonian of the West.” Its owners and operators, Gil and Joanne Mangels, are collectors in the most extreme sense of the word.
Vehicles of all shapes and sizes make up a sizable portion of the collection. More than 3,000 motorcycles, some very rare, draw bikers from the highway to the museum. There are World War II and Vietnam-era trucks and helicopters, which patrons are allowed to climb in and steer. In fact, much of the sprawling museum is hands on. Kids are allowed to play with vintage coin-operated games, including player pianos and mini barrel trains. During summer, workshops on blacksmithing, lacemaking, and other arcane activities are presented using authentic tools.