/ Attractions / 5 History Museums You’ve Never Heard of, But Need to See

5 History Museums You’ve Never Heard of, But Need to See

Robot Fish from the CIA Museum.
Christina Boyes on February 19, 2015 - 5:05 pm in Attractions, Historical

Loving history is one thing, but knowing it is another. There are thousands of stories that go unheard, despite the mandatory inclusion of history courses in school. Many of them are more fascinating than what you’ll see in the classroom, too. Today, we’re exploring five history museums that don’t usually get talked about, but should. From secret spy missions to a wax museum with a twist, these spots make learning about the past a little more exciting for everyone.

Wherever you head on your next vacation, be sure to check out the unique history museums in the area. They don’t always make the list of best attractions, but many are worth the trip. You’ll be surprised by the hidden history that awaits, and the fascinating lessons they offer.

Dayton International Peace Museum

Isaac Pollack House. Photo by Greg Hume via Wikipedia.

Dedicated to the opposite topic of most history museums, you won’t find big guns, old battle uniforms, or tales of heroic bravery in war at the Dayton International Peace Museum. What you will find is an homage to something often forgotten – peace time. The museum studies nonviolent conflict resolution, peace movements, social justice, and international relations, among other things. It’s a unique space, and offers a very positive atmosphere. It’s also the last remaining peace museum in the US (Chicago’s Peace Museum closed in 2007).

National Great Blacks in Wax Museum

Wax personalities at the National Great Blacks In Wax museum in Baltimore.

Wax sports personalities at the National Great Blacks In Wax museum in Baltimore. Photo via Flickr user Obinna.

There’s a history that’s left out of many textbooks, ignored in most wax museums and sculpture gardens, and every bit as important to the history of our country as the stories of the Founding Fathers. The story of black America. That’s the focus of the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore, MD. But the exhibits at this history museum cover more than America’s history – you’ll find Africa’s present and history, the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, and stories of the Middle Passage carved in wax here, as well. Be prepared, this museum experience can be intense. For more about this museum, check out our article on Baltimore, MD. You’ll see why this history museum is one of our favorite stops.

Ellis Island Immigration Museum

Main building which houses the Immigration Museum. Photo via wikipedia.

Located in the French Renaissance Revival building that served as the main building during Ellis Island’s days as an immigration port of entry, this museum tells the story of the 12 million immigrants who passed through Ellis Island on their way to a new life in the U.S. Several interactive exhibits and a children’s tour are highlights of the location. If interested, you can look up any family members that may have entered through the Ellis Island port of entry while you’re there. This is one history museum most Americans with roots on the East coast can claim family ties to.

Museum of the Grand Prairie

Photo of Zay Wright, 1908. One of the museum's collectibles.

Photo of Zay Wright, 1908. One of the museum’s collectibles.

Another forgotten piece of American history is life on the prairie. The history of prairie living makes the rare appearance in pop culture, but is often left out of textbooks. The Museum of the Grand Prairie in Champaign County, Illinois works hard to change that. This history museum includes collections related to the natural and cultural history of the prairie, and is also an active research center. You might be surprised to find out how important blacksmithing and quilting were to the area. The museum also hosts a significant collection of prairie stories that describe the lives of area residents over the ages.

The CIA Museum

Cold War Gallery at the CIA Museum. Photo via wikipedia.

With the mission “Inform, Instruct, Inspire,” you might expect the CIA museum to be a more visible attraction. Then again, it’s the CIA. This unique history museum is home to a significant collection of items related to international intelligence, and is a popular stop for fans of all things spy. Unfortunately, it is often over-looked by the general public. From elephant counters to Eloise Page’s honorary ID, the collection offers an amazing look into the inner working of the American intelligence machine. James Bond would be proud, even though his fictitious home office is on the other side of the ocean.

Which of the history museums above have you been to? Any favorites on the list? Share your thoughts in the comments below. We’d love to hear where you’ve been, and what trips are in your future!


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