10 Top-of-the-Line Brand Museums
The word “museum” has its origin with the ancient Greeks, for whom a mouseion was a place of contemplation and a seat of the Muses. It’s easy to see what the Muses of modern culture are—check out our list of the most interesting museums dedicated to brand-name products.
1. NATIONAL CORVETTE MUSEUM, BOWLING GREEN, KENTUCKY
Jerry and Pat Donaho, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
According to General Motors, the Chevrolet Corvette is the world’s longest-running, continuously produced passenger car. Gawk at more than 80 sports cars (displayed in “periodic settings”) at this museum—some classics, some prototypes, and even the newest model. Just cross the street and you can tour the company’s 100-million-square-foot plant.
You may want to tread lightly—in 2014, a sinkhole opened up under the museum and damaged eight of the classic cars. According to FoxSports.com, after the disaster the museum saw their Facebook followers rise to 200,000 from 50,000 and experienced record attendance, with the posted photos of the damage becoming more popular than those of the restored Corvettes. Not one to miss out on opportunity, the museum began selling jars full of dirt and rocks from the sinkhole in their gift shop for $10 apiece, and they’ve sold thousands of the souvenirs. The infamous sinkhole has since been filled in, but you can still watch security-camera footage of the carnage on YouTube.
2. GUCCI MUSEO, FLORENCE, ITALY
The famous fashion house was founded in Florence in 1921. This three-level museum not only showcases artifacts and products from the company’s history and its legacy, but also displays contemporary modern art. You’ll see jet-set luxury luggage, floral designs inspired by Princess Grace of Monaco, and bamboo-adorned handbags. You’ll learn about the history of the company’s logo and see it gracing SCUBA flippers and even a customized 1970s Gucci Cadillac.
3. CATERPILLAR VISITORS CENTER, ILLINOIS
Don’t get too excited when you read about the “Cat Toys” exhibit on view through April—it’s not what you think. But this display of toy tractors and trucks still promises fun for kids and any fan of heavy machinery.
The museum offers the chance to design your own Cat vehicle and operate simulators that give you a sense of what it’s like to use the real things. Maybe the coolest features are the movie theater inside a replica of a two-story mining truck and the chance to design your own Cat machine.
4. GUINNESS STOREHOUSE, DUBLIN, IRELAND
Mack Male, Flickr //CC BY-SA 2.0
This seven-floor attraction has the “world’s largest pint glass”—a glass atrium in the shape of a giant pint of Guinness, inside which you’ll see the infamous 9000-year lease that Arthur Guinness signed on the site. If it were filled, that giant glass would hold 14.3 million pints of the stout.
Check out the exhibit on the brewery’s advertising, learn about Mr. Arthur Guinness himself, and view the brewing process. It may go without saying, but the location also features a bar—high up on the seventh floor and with a 360-degree panoramic view of Dublin. That’s where you can drink the pint included in your admission price and enjoy some traditional Irish fare.
5. THE HERSHEY STORY, HERSHEY, PENNSYLVANIA
Ricky Brigante, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
“The Museum on Chocolate Avenue” goes into detail about five separate stages of Milton Hershey’s life and how he became a chocolate king. One exhibit demonstrates the powerful promotional strategies of the company and how it became the country’s top chocolate brand. There is an interactive factory installation where you can receive job assignments and do your part to fill customer orders as it was done in the early 20th century. And yes, of course there is a café where you can indulge in chocolate desserts.
6. WORLD OF COCA-COLA, ATLANTA, GEORGIA
Ryan Quick, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
This vast museum celebrates the history and legacy of the world’s favorite soda pop. Check out memorabilia dating back to the 1800s, explore an interactive exhibit all about the “secret formula,” and watch a robotic bottling line producing eight-ounce souvenir bottles of Coke. The museum owns some pieces of art by major artists who illustrated the drink, such as Andy Warhol. If you get thirsty, help yourself to a sample of different Coca-Cola products from around the world. The museum holds in its collection a 1939 Chevrolet Coke delivery truck from Buenos Aires that is so large that the attraction had to be built around the truck.
7. DR PEPPER MUSEUM AND FREE ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE, WACO, TEXAS
MarkScottAustinTX, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Motto: “Belching is not encouraged.” Located in an 1880s building in Waco, this museum is a privately owned non-profit that aims to educate the public about the soft-drink industry as a whole. You can also learn about the pharmacist who invented Dr Pepper in 1885 in an attempt to recreate the smell of his drug store in drink form.
Inside the building is also the W. W. Clements Free Enterprise Institute, which offers instruction on the American economic system as well as on the life philosophy and business ethics of Woodrow Wilson “Foots” Clements (who rose from delivery-truck driver to president and CEO of the Dr Pepper company). Don’t forget to pick up a classic “I’m a Pepper” T-shirt in the gift shop.
8. WALMART MUSEUM, BENTONVILLE, ARKANSAS
ZhaoScorpio, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Shop in Walton’s 5 & 10—a working general store made from the original storefront, ceiling, and floor tiles that housed the humble dime store that started it all. View founder Sam Walton’s 1979 Ford pickup truck and original office. Stop for a scoop of trademark blue-and-yellow ice cream in the Spark Café Soda Fountain, a tribute to Walton’s love of the frozen treat. The quirkiest display in the museum may be the collection of items that were returned to the store, including the hand mixer that was brought back because the customer believed it to be possessed. Don’t delay your visit: On view through March 16 is a special collection of founder Sam Walton’s own baseball caps.
9. CUPNOODLES MUSEUM, IKEDA, JAPAN
Rich Luhr, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
This is a whole museum devoted to the creative process of Momofuko Ando, the inventor of Chicken Ramen, the world’s first instant noodle dish. The legend goes that Momofuko worked tirelessly in a tiny shed for a whole year, sleeping only four hours a night and with no days off, to come up with the meal. About a decade later, he came up with Cup Noodles, the world’s first ramen served in a cup. In 2005 he invented Space Ramen, made to be eaten in a weightless environment. Exhibits in the museum include a collection of over 3000 product packages, a recreation of Momofuko’s work shed, and an interactive factory where you can make your own dried ramen to take home.
10. PEZ VISITOR CENTER, ORANGE, CONNECTICUT
This is the official PEZ museum and factory. You can learn about the early history of the candy dispenser, which was initially for adults and designed to mimic cigarette lighters. Here you’ll find the World’s Largest PEZ Dispenser and a custom-made PEZ motorcycle. You can also see into the actual factory that manufactures 12 million tablets each day.
BONUS: MUSEUM OF BRANDS, PACKAGING AND ADVERTISING, LONDON
Whereas the other museums on this list are dedicated to individual brands, this one is devoted to branding in general. Founded in 1984 by consumer historian Robert Opie (also described as a “supermarket archeologist”), this collection showcases packaging and advertising for food products, cosmetics, toys, and more. There are more than 12,000 original examples, from the Victorian era up to present times. As well as offering educational talks, the museum also loans out “Creative Reminiscence Packs”—collections of vintage packages (such as the “Rationing pack” featuring items from 1940s wartime) that are meant to facilitate discussion and creativity with groups of senior citizens.