Pardoned Turkeys and Voodoo Dolls: Visit These Offbeat Treasures for Free on Museum Day This Saturday

They’re all part of the 100-plus museums that will be free on September 26

(Image courtesy of Flickr user Jennifer Boyer)

On September 26, over 1400 museums across the country will open their doors for free in celebration of Museum Day, the annual event hosted by Smithsonian magazine. 2015 will mark the 11th year of the event. In 2014, over 400,000 people participated at museums from Puerto Rico to Alaska — a number that is expected to increase this year.

But Museum Day isn’t just about free admission: Many participating institutions will offer special programs and up-close looks at their most unique artifacts and collections. From pardoned turkeys to handcrafted voodoo dolls, here are ten of the most unusual artifacts, exhibits and programs that visitors can enjoy on Museum Day:

Cloktoberfest at the National Watch and Clock Museum: Columbia, PA

There is no better time than the present to pay a visit to the National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, Pennsylvania. All corny puns aside, this museum boasts the largest and most comprehensive horological (relating to the science of measuring time) collection in North America. Of the 12,000 pieces in the museum, none are more popular than the Engle clock. Built in the 1870s, the clock stands 11 feet tall and was called by the “eighth wonder of the world” by its builder.

On Museum Day, this Smithsonian Affiliate museum will host its first ever Cloktoberfest. There will be behind-the-scenes tours, kids’ activities and experts on hand to help visitors determine the history and origin of their family heirloom timepieces. 

The Oldest Operating Wooden Carousel in the U.S. at the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum: Leavenworth, KS

In the late 19th century, Charles Wallace Parker revolutionized the carousel business when he invented portable carousels — “Carry-Us-Alls” — with interchangeable parts. Soon, C.W. Parker carousels were bringing joy across the country.

The C.W. Parker Carousel Museum in Leavenworth, Kansas, (the company moved after feuding with Abilene town leaders in 1911) houses artifacts, photographs and archives dedicated to the carousel king. Of course, the real treasures of the collection are the carousels. You can even view the circa-1850 Primitive Carousel — though it is too fragile to ride, it’s the oldest operating wooden carousel in the United States.

Cinnamon Black at the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum: New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans’ original voodoo museum is tucked away in the French Quarter, about a half a block from Bourbon Street. Founded in 1972, the museum pays tribute to a New Orleans folk tradition that dates back to the 18th century.  Beads, dolls, candles, bones, jars to store souls and human skulls make up a collection that aims to tell not only the story of voodoo, but aspires to keep the tradition alive.

On Museum Day, local voodoo practitioner Cinnamon Black will be at the museum to speak with visitors and handcraft Louisiana voodoo dolls.

About Matt Blitz

Matt Blitz is a history and travel writer. His work has been featured on CNN, Atlas Obscura, Curbed, Nickelodeon, and Today I Found Out. He also runs the Obscura Society DC and is a big fan of diners.

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