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THIS IS AMERICA - October 7, 2002: Unusual Museums - 2002-10-04


VOICE ONE:

The United States has thousands of museums. Some museums show large collections of art. Some show objects about science or history. Other museums show collections of unusual things. I'm Sarah Long.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Steve Ember. We visit some unusual museums on the VOA Special English program THIS IS AMERICA.

((THEME))

VOICE ONE:

Some museums in the United States have huge collections of interesting things. The museums of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., are a good example. But the United States also has some very different museums.

Smaller places throughout the country collect and show one kind of object. For example, some museums exhibit only medical instruments or different kinds of soap. Or, they present information about just one subject. Many Americans visit these unusual museums every year.

VOICE TWO:

One such place is the Drug Enforcement Administration museum. It is in Arlington, Virginia, near Washington, D-C. Its subject is a history of illegal drugs in America. People of all ages visit the museum. But it is especially popular with school groups. The museum's exhibits begin with the nineteenth century Opium Wars. And, they continue to the illegal drug operations in South America today.

One area of the museum shows a collection of objects used by people who take illegal drugs. Visitors also can see a gun with diamonds on it. It belonged to a drug criminal.

There are pictures of famous people who used illegal drugs. These include musicians Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. Both died after taking too much of the drug heroin.

Retired Drug Enforcement Administration agents often show visitors around the museum. They talk about anti-drug operations. They tell exciting stories of arrests they made.

VOICE ONE:

A very different but equally interesting place is the Museum of Bad Art. It is in Dedham, Massachusetts, near Boston. The museum has more than two-hundred terrible-looking paintings.

Scott Wilson started this museum. He found the first painting for the museum among unwanted objects on a Boston street. This place may be the only art museum in America where officials are pleased when visitors say the paintings are ugly. What exactly is bad art? It is hard to describe. But Mister Wilson said he knows bad art when he sees it.

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VOICE TWO:

Several interesting American museums tell about health subjects. One is the Doctor Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry. It is at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. That is where the first college in the world to train dentists began. The museum tells about the history of the medical treatment of teeth. Visitors can see some frightening devices that once were used to remove infected teeth. They also can see sets of teeth made of animal bone. They were made for a famous American -- the first President, George Washington.

Most people do not consider a visit to the dentist their idea of a good time. However, the director of the museum says he wanted to make the museum a fun place to visit. He says he also wants to teach visitors about the importance of taking care of their teeth.

VOICE ONE:

Another museum collects devices that help people hear. The Kenneth W. Berger Hearing Aid Museum is at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. The museum has more than three-thousand hearing aids from around the world. They include old and strange devices. Some hearing aids were made to look like other objects. That is because in the past many people did not want anyone to know they were wearing a hearing aid.

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VOICE TWO:

Some popular foods in America also have museums. One is the Jell-O Museum in LeRoy, New York. Jell-O is the name of a popular American food that shakes when you move it.

You mix the Jell-O powder with hot water to melt the particles. You add cold water. Then you put the container in a cold place until the liquid becomes solid. Jell-O tastes like different kinds of fruits. It also is the color of fruit -- red, orange, yellow or green.

Jell-O was invented in eighteen-ninety-seven. The museum tells about the history of the product.

VOICE ONE:

Another unusual museum also tells about a popular food product -- mustard. Mustard is a spicy substance made from mustard seeds. People have added it to their food for centuries.

The Mount Horeb Mustard Museum is in Wisconsin. It has more than three-thousand different kinds of mustard. There are mustards from almost every American state and from several foreign countries. The museum shows how mustard is made. Visitors can taste three-hundred kinds of mustard.

VOICE TWO:

An unusual museum in Boston, Massachusetts, collects a very common substance. But it is not a substance that you would want to eat. You would not want to have this substance inside your house, either. It is the Museum of Dirt.

This museum has more than three-hundred small containers of dirt given by people from around the world. There is dirt from famous people and famous places.

For example, there is dirt from Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley in Memphis, Tennessee. There is red sand from Nome, Alaska, containing gold. There is dirt from Mount Fuji in Japan. And there is dirt from the Yankee’s baseball stadium in New York City.

The head of the museum says the dirt tells stories about the famous people and places where it was found.

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VOICE ONE:

Speaking of famous people, a museum in Victorville, California, tells about the King of the Cowboys and his wife -- Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. They were famous in cowboy movies and on television during the nineteen-forties and nineteen-fifties. They helped keep the spirit of the American West alive.

Memories of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans crowd the museum. There are western hats and clothing. Letters and records. Photographs. Popular Roy Rogers toys. Even Roy’s horse, Trigger, is stuffed and mounted in the museum. It is one of the most popular things in the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum.

VOICE TWO:

Another museum celebrates the memory of two of the most popular television entertainers, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The Lucy-Desi Museum is in Jamestown, New York. That was Lucy's hometown.

Lucy and Desi appeared in one of America’s best-loved television programs, "I Love Lucy." Millions of people watched the program during the nineteen-ffties. Even today, millions of people watch repeated broadcasts of these programs. The museum includes clothing and other objects of the famous couple.

VOICE ONE:

One museum has the world's largest collection of things linked to actor James Dean. The James Dean Gallery is in Fairmount, Indiana. That is the town where Dean grew up.

James Dean was a film star in the Nineteen-Fifties. He appeared in only three movies: "East of Eden", "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant." Each time he played a young man angry at the world. Many Americans remember James Dean as a young man rebelling against society.

David Loehr started the James Dean museum twelve years ago to honor the actor. James Dean was killed in a car crash in nineteen-fifty-five. He was only twenty-four years old.

VOICE TWO:

Another unusual museum is the International Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center. It is in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It honors actors who paint their faces and perform in the circus. Clowns also make people laugh at other public events. Many clowns entertain sick children in hospitals.

The museum shows pictures and objects from the lives of a number of famous clowns. Perhaps the most famous clown remembered there is Emmett Kelly. He performed for the Ringling Brothers circus. Emmett Kelly was a clown for more than sixty years. He began in nineteen-seventeen. And he was still making people laugh with his clown performance until he died at age eighty.

VOICE ONE:

If you visit one of these small and unusual museums you will not find huge crowds. But you will find people who think these collections represent memories worth sharing.

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VOICE TWO:

This program was written by Shelley Gollust and Jerilyn Watson. It was produced by Cynthia Kirk. Our audio engineer was Holly Capehart. This is Steve Ember.

VOICE ONE:

And this is Sarah Long. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

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