The World’s Most Boring Museums

I was working in Lebanon this week, and did some tourism on the break periods. This included a visit to the Museum of Soap. It was a finely constructed building and, as one would expect, a very clean one. I learned how soap is made, shaped and stamped. I even saw some sculptures made of soap bars!

The only question in my mind was whether this was the most boring museum I had ever seen. Upon reflection, it’s not. It’s third place. I am going to put the ones I consider higher ranking here and am asking all museum-going readers to add their own nominations.

Second most boring museum in the world, IMHO: The Pencil Museum in the Lake District. Every wonder why a Number 2 pencil is called a Number 2 pencil? How they make erasers? What this whole lead vs. graphite distinction really means? Me either, but I learned all these answers and more at the Pencil Museum. The British friend who took me says that it is because it is so boring and strange that it is so great, and as a result he goes every year. Once will hold me for this lifetime.

The MOST boring museum, which doesn’t even have the redeeming weirdness of the Pencil Museum, is in my view the Museum of Cork in Palafrugell, Spain. This part of the costa has to compete with warmer stretches down south, and every city on it must compete for tourists with each other. Hence, the city fathers came up with a real corker: A museum devoted to the history and creation of corks of all sorts. Cork boards, bottle stoppers and those little pads that stop the chair legs from scraping the wood floor are all here for you to enjoy. A siesta writ large for the whole family.

Your own nominations please…

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

14 thoughts on “The World’s Most Boring Museums”

  1. I strongly recommend “The Dog Collar Museum” located at Leeds Castle in Kent. It’s entirely filled with exhibits of, well, dog collars. However boring that may sound, the reality is worse.

  2. Not have I added all three of those museums on my list of places to visit, I’m pretty sure the Cranky Offspring would willingly accompany me. Not sure what that says about me…


    Thanks for the info!

  3. The (now unfortunately closed) museum honoring Wladziu Valentino Liberace in Las Vegas would have to be the high mark in my personal utterly boring and pointless list. The little museum built to honor Madrid’s patron, Saint Isadore, was close (although it has a rather interesting municipal museum attached to it). I suppose it’s a matter of taste: the one time I was seriously threatened with divorce was when I spent a happy day cambering over the giant snow plow locomotives in the wonderful Western Pacific railroad museum in the otherwise very uninteresting (to wives) little town of Portola, CA.

  4. I generally avoid the types of museums you wrote about. But now that I’ve read your piece and its comments nothing in my museum-going habits will change.

  5. Boring, Oregon and a place called Dull in Scotland have formed a sister city relationship, hoping to boost tourism. Since one a year is probably a boost for both, might work.

  6. Some years ago, I visited the ancient town of Squillace in Calabria (largely because I was following in the footsteps of George Gissing’s ramble narrated in his wonderful book “By the Ionian Sea”). There’s a little museum there, a “diocesan museum of sacred art”, which has a few bits of Catholic ritual costume and such, and then a bunch of display cases of the most inconsequential things I’ve ever seen in a museum, just random stuff that was somewhat old. The item that sticks in my mind is an Italian dictionary, displayed as an object of interest, from around 1910. Nothing to do particularly with Squillace, just a moderately old Italian dictionary (about 90 years old at the time, so not even an antique by the conventional reckoning). I’m sure there are far more boring museums than the silly little museum of Squillace, but I find most museums other than art museums pretty boring, so I mostly don’t visit them.

    Interesting fact: the term “paparazzi” comes by way of Fellini (as Paparazzo) from Gissing’s “By the Ionian Sea”.

  7. There’s the museum of mold in Delaware. It was built by a DuPont engineer who was obsessed with mold.

  8. The Pasta Museum in Rome gets my personal endorsement for both the most boring museum and the most overpriced for the content. On the other hand, it’s become a family joke that gets a laugh just mentioning it.

  9. A counter-example of a museum that sounds like it would be boring, but is actually quite interesting, is the Corning Glass Museum in Corning, New York. Admittedly, there isn’t a lot of competition in Corning, New York, and I wouldn’t suggest a special trip there to see the museum, but should you find yourself in that part of the world with some spare time on your hands, you could do far worse.

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