The world’s unique museums: from espionage to noodles

From Osaka to Washington, the world is filled with fascinating and quirky institutions

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Bored of looking at medieval pottery when you visit museums? Well, you don't always have to endure traditional exhibitions while wandering through a city's cultural offerings.

In the UAE, there's the recently opened Museum of the Future turning everything we know about museums on its head.

Whereas most institutions give us a glimpse of the past, Dubai’s latest landmark showcases advanced technologies that will shape society for decades to come, including virtual and augmented reality, big data analysis, artificial intelligence and human-machine interaction.

But it’s not the only museum in the world to turn heads.

From Cancun's Underwater Museum to one in Japan dedicated to cup noodles, we check out six other unique museums from around the world.

Avicii Experience

Visitors pass graffiti during the inauguration of the Avicii Experience Museum in Stockholm on February 24, 2022. AFP

February was not only the opening of the Museum of the Future, it also gave us a first look at Avicii Experience, a new interactive museum in Stockholm that pays tribute to the late DJ.

The 300-square-metre museum is produced by Pophouse Entertainment and allows visitors to get to know Avicii, the artist, and Tim Bergling, the person, who died in 2018 in Oman.

The audience can follow Bergling's path from reserved music enthusiast in inner-city Stockholm to internationally celebrated superstar, with a tour that leads from his “childhood bedroom” to a “club” where fans can dance to unreleased music.

Museum of Broken Relationships

The Museum of Broken Relationships is in the old town of Zagreb, Croatia. EPA-EFE

Whether you’re wallowing in heartbreak or simply pining for the one who got away, the Museum of Broken Relationships is the perfect place to torture yourself with what might have been.

Initially conceived by Zagreb couple Olinka Vistica and Drazen Grubisic as a joke about their doomed romance, the museum became a reality after the pair parted ways and decided to display old tokens of their former affection.

Originally, the museum began as a travelling collection of donated trinkets before becoming a permanent fixture with an ever-expanding collection in Zagreb, Croatia.

As the name suggests, the museum is dedicated to failed love and exhibits personal items from former sweethearts, often with a short description detailing the significance of the item and delving into what went wrong.

Museum of Cup Noodles, Osaka

Inside the CupNoodles Museum in Osaka, Japan. Photo: CupNoodles Museum Osaka Ikeda

Whether you’re a chicken-and-mushroom lover or an extra-hot fiend, we’re all guilty of guzzling a cup noodle from time to time and where better to pay tribute to the prized pot than Japan?

Osaka is the birthplace of instant noodles, dreamt up by revolutionary Momofuku Ando, who embarked on a year of tireless research in his quest to produce the perfect instantaneous snack.

The result was life-changing, for both Ando and anyone else who has found themselves ravenously poking around an empty kitchen cupboard only to lay eyes on a slab of glorious beige frills.

Since his discovery, instant noodles – and later cup noodles – were popularised worldwide and today, visitors to the museum, also in Osaka, can marvel at an Instant Noodles Tunnel, comprising 800 product packages.

Hungry museum-goers can create personalised cup noodles, combining a wealth of flavours to whip up the perfect bespoke noodle blend.

International Spy Museum, Washington, DC

Lobby of the International Spy Museum with Aston Martin on display. Photo: Dominique Munoz for the International Spy Museum

Fancy yourself as a bit of a Bond? For those who find themselves listening at doors or twitching curtains, the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC, is the next step in your secret agent training.

Wannabe sleuths can skulk their way around the largest public collection of espionage artefacts, shedding light on one of the world’s most secretive professions.

Microscopic cameras, counterfeit money, secret weapons and cipher machines reveal the role of human intelligence throughout the ages in an immersive tour that takes visitors through the dizzying technological advances in spyware.

Visitors can also adopt a disguise and take part in interactive spy adventures or simply absorb the history of the world’s most elusive spies through historic video interviews and rare photographs.

Cancun Underwater Museum/Museo Subacuatico de Arte

This sculpture on the sea bed forms part of the Underwater Sculpture Museum of Cancun (Museo Escultorico Subacuatico de Cancun) at the West Coast Marine Park of Isla Mujeres, Punta Cancun and Punta Nizuc. EPA

Every modern museum with a half-decent PR team can bleat on about "immersive exhibitions", but to visit the Cancun Underwater Museum you’ll have to immerse yourself 10 metres deep in the Caribbean Sea.

Museo Subacuatico de Arte features 500 life-size structures fixed to the seafloor in the azure waters surrounding Cancun.

As well as being pleasing to the eye, the oceanic art also acts as an artificial reef, designed to promote the growth of coral and provide an important ecosystem for underwater life.

The result is an eerily beautiful representation of human interaction with the environment whose purpose will far outlive its USP.

If taking the plunge isn’t your thing, you can also explore the museum by glass-bottom boat or while snorkelling.

Museum of Bad Art (MOBA), Massachusetts

Not every museum is a shimmering beacon of high culture. In fact, some demand a certain calibre of bad from their artefacts.

The Museum of Bad Art is just that – a withering collection of more than 600 artworks that would not make it to your grandmother’s fridge, let alone the Guggenheim.

Formerly located in an old basement in Dedham, Massachusetts, the museum is now on the hunt for a new location that can do its ugly artworks justice and presumably accommodate a wealth of lockdown artistry.

The museum specialises in art so lacklustre that they leave all who encounter it transfixed, with endless displays of grossly proportioned portraits and childish finger painting rigorously affirming the museum's motto time and time again – art too bad to be ignored.

Updated: April 03, 2022, 8:29 AM
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