Even though it wasn't fully open when we were there, one of the more interesting places that we've been to over the past few years has been the Spam Museum in Austin, MN.
No really! It's pretty friggin' cool!
The Spam Museum is next to an annex of offices for the Hormel Foods Company (see map) - one of the largest food manufacturers and marketers in the world - which is headquartered in Austin. The present museum replaced a much smaller museum and has been open for a little over 4 years.
You wouldn't think that Spam would be interesting, but from what we saw of the museum, we knew that we were going to have to come back sometime to go through the whole thing.
We were there on Labor Day morning. We were disappointed the museum wasn't open, but the gift shop was. There were two ladies working at the gift shop and we were their first and only customers of the day, so far.
Since we were the only ones there, one of the ladies let us go back into the museum to look around. There were still some finishing touches to be done. But for the most part, it was about a week or so from opening. She said, "There's no one here today since it's Labor Day. I don't think I'd get in trouble if I just let you guys poke your heads in."
(As an aside - the museum was to open on Sept. 15, but with the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the Hormel people decided to delay the grand opening. They did have a "soft opening" of the museum in September of that year, but their official Grand Opening wasn't until the following June during their annual "Spam Jam" jazz concert.)
She pointed out a "hands on" area where people would be able to wear the hard hats and smocks like they do in the Hormel plant that makes Spam. There was going to be an interactive area and a number of little vignettes, small theaters, historical pictures and letters from prominent people.
The one area that really fascinated me was the area that showed Spam's importance to the American troops and their allies during World War II. There were some facts on a wall that gave many instances of Spam's contributions to the war. One fact was the amount of Spam the allies air dropped to the Russians during the Siege of Leningrad and the Battle of Moscow during the Nazi siege in WWII. It was something like 16,000 tons of Spam that was dropped. That's a LOT of Spam.
Actually, the coolest thing about the museum was the gift shop. Boy, they sold EVERYTHING there. They had hats, basketballs, pencils, key chains, shirts, boxer shorts, sandals - about anything you could think of to put the Spam logo on. You can look at what they have to offer in their gift shop here.
We blew over $100 bucks that day just picking up nifty little things at the shop. We could have easily spent TRIPLE that amount had we not been conscious of the fact that we were buying a lot.
We're going to go back sometime, we just haven't been up that way for a while. But I think it would be worth your while to stop in if you're ever in the Austin area. It really is something to see.