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When you think of a museum, what comes to mind?

Vast exhibitions filled with hundreds of ages-old visuals and artefacts? Multiple storeys of diverse displays, chronicling the history of art in sleek cutting-edge surroundings? Full-size statues from years gone by, crafted by long-deceased masters of the craft? Jaw-dropping skeleletal replicas of dinosaurs measuring twenty feet high?

If any of those things rush into your imagination, it’s fair to say you associate museums with space. Lots and lots of space.

However, contrary to popular opinion, size simply doesn’t matter in the world of museums. Over the years, many different venues on a small scale have opened across the globe, offering visitors with the same educational, eye-opening experience as any other museum.

Of course, the smallest museums in the world have to omit certain features and facilities in order to operate. They might not be able to treat visitors to a well-stocked cafe or a fun gift shop. They may not even get to have a tour guide to take you on an informative stroll through their meagre venue and answer all of your questions.

However, these small museums are a must-see for any tourist or resident in their respective areas. They are exciting curiosities with distinctive characters, and while they might not have the biggest budgets to spend on marketing, their reduced size nevertheless helps to bring them greater attention than some larger venues get to enjoy.

Below, we’ll take a look at the top 10 smallest museums in the world, incorporating tiny establishments from across the globe: the list ranges from the north of England to the southern United States to the Bahamas.

Explore our pick of the world’s smallest museums and start planning your trip to see one near you!


The 10 Smallest Museums in the World


Museum
Description
1 Warley Museum

(Yorkshire, UK)
This is a fantastic choice to start our list.

The Warley Museum is one of the most charming, original, and distinctive museums in the world. Essentially, this is a history lesson in a telephone box, providing visitors with a chronicle of Warley’s development over the centuries.

Warley Town is a historic village based in the Calder Valley, just on Halifax’s outskirts in West Yorkshire. The museum is housed within a telephone box, secured as part of the telecommunications company British Telecom (BT)’s ‘Adopt a Kiosk’ initiative.

Before locals settled on building a museum inside the phone box, other options considered were a library and a defibrillator station (which are a common sight in the UK). However, members of the Warley Community Association saw a museum of local history as the strongest contender.

The museum has two curators – local artists Chris and Paul Czainski – and features a number of striking etchings on the box’s glass panels; each of these depicts a scene from Warley’s history. There’s a backboard on the box’s main wall too, titled ‘Notables of Warley Parish’, which includes beautiful illustrations by Czainski.

The museum also displays a selection of historical objects like local curiosities and artefacts, all of which have been donated by residents of Warley. These are changed every few months to keep the exhibition fresh and exciting. Visitors can view these from outside or inside the museum.

How can you find the Warley Museum? It’s in the centre of the village, located at The Maypole Inn, and is open between 8am and 4pm.

Learn more about the Warley Museum
2 Ethno Museum

(Dzepciste, Macedonia)
The world’s smallest ethno museum can be found in the village of Dzepciste. This is the brainchild of one Simeon Zlatev (also known as ‘Mone’), who has gathered a fascinating collection of local traditional goods across more than three decades.

He displays these in two rooms in his family home, but it’s not a tiny assortment of items: there are around 1,150 different artefacts to see when you visit. However, only one visitor can be accommodated at a time, such is the venue’s small scale.

The biggest group of items hails from the end of the 19th century and early 20th century, though there are some ceramics dating back what’s believed to be 5 – 8000 years.

Mone does not speak English, but his daughter Ivona has helped out at the museum over the years, helping to show visitors the collection. The exhibition inside has been known to overflow, prompting them to bring excess items out onto the lawn too.

The objects on display include small pieces of furniture, handmade costumes, jewellery, tools, pans, pots, old photographs, ornaments, memorabilia, chests, and more. It’s a beautiful collection of items chronicling many, many years of life from the local area.

If you ever visit Macedonia, the world’s smallest museum run by Mone and his daughter is a fantastic place to stop. It’s clearly a labour of love and the family’s passion for preserving their many different exhibition pieces is inspiring.

Learn more about the Ethno Museum
3 Edgar’s Closet

(Tuscaloosa, Alabama)
Without a doubt, Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most important American writers of all time. His short stories and poems remain beloved by many today, with such classics as ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’, ‘The Cask of Amontillado’, ‘The Raven’, ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’, and dozens more widely available.

If you’re a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, then the world’s smallest museum dedicated to this master craftsman is well worth your time. Edgar’s Closet is based in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and is home to more than 400 items related to the writer and his work.

This museum was put together by middle school teacher Tommy Flowers. He was searching for a way to boost his students’ engagement with classic fiction, and decided to introduce them to Poe’s extensive portfolio of texts. He started collecting Poe-centric items in the closet of his classroom in 2008, dubbing it ‘Edgar’s Closet’.

It was a success: his students did indeed start to develop an appreciation of Poe’s stories and poems, prompting him to keep investing in collectibles. Soon, his classroom’s entire closet was dedicated solely to this assortment of goods, to the students’ delight.

Though the museum was ultimately destroyed by a tornado, he and his students gathered more and more Poe-related items to rebuild. The collection grew to around 1,000 pieces.

Flowers moved the museum when he got a job in a different school, at Tuscaloosa’s Holy Spirit Catholic School. It’s now 22 square feet and is a member of the Alabama Museum Association.

Learn more about Edgar’s Closet
4 World’s Smallest Museum

(Superior, Arizona)
The World’s Smallest Museum in Superior is owned by Dan Wright, who is dedicated to consistently improving the meagre grounds over time. You can find it on Superior’s west edge, located in the Buckboard City complex (on U.S. 60).

It opened in the mid-1990s, created by friends Wright and Jake Reaney. While this began as something of a gimmick to attract people from the highway, it has gone on to gain a strong reputation in the decades since. The collection is made up of different objects the two had built up over the years, and their eclecticism adds to the charm.

The museum has just 128 square feet of space, based within one very small building. There are 10 separate exhibition areas measuring around three feet across, two feet deep, and six feet tall.

As a result of its miniature dimensions, just two people are allowed in at the same time. The museum boasts what is believed to be the biggest roof constructed out of empty beer cans in the world. Approximately 1,800 used cans were incorporated into the roof, which presumably were donated from a large group of people.

The World’s Smallest Museum in Superior has no unifying theme inside. Instead, its exhibition pieces are from the middle to the end of the 20th century, including pop-culture memorabilia (with items based on films, television series etc.), old cameras, an aged computer, assorted collectibles, and the world’s biggest Apache Tear (a kind of rock).

Learn more about the World’s Smallest Museum in Superior
5 Mmuseumm

(New York City)
This venue is artistic, innovative, and distinctly New York.

Mmuseumm is based inside an abandoned freight elevator in the city. It measures just 36 square feet, and features a broad variety of exhibition pieces from across a number of decades.

This venue was established in 2012 by Alex Kalman, who acts as both its curator and director. The museum’s name simply derives from the fact that the URL for the highly-competitive term ‘museum’ was unavailable. Two extra ‘m’s were added as a solution, lending it a unique title.

There are two branches in the Mmuseumm group now, with the second located a few doors down from the first. They are referred to, quite simply, as Mmuseumm 1 and Mmuseumm 2. The former houses around 15 exhibitions with approximately 200 items, though this changes on a regular basis. Mmuseumm 2, on the other hand, is focused on bigger objects.

While the venues’ size help to attract attention and bring new visitors in through their doors, Kalman is more interested on the contents than the dimensions. The collection has included such diverse pieces as a four-foot by four-foot model city crafted out of paper by a young Syrian boy. Though it’s a deceptively simple item, it showcases a tremendous talent and eye for detail, and has an undeniable beauty.

Another exhibition feature at Mmuseumm has been a selection of items dropped by immigrants attempting to enter the United States in Arizona.

Learn more about Mmuseumm 1 and 2
6 Micro Museum

(Union Square, Somerville)
The Micro Museum, located in Somerville, Massachusetts’s Union Square, was opened on August 15th 2013. It is easily one of the world’s smallest museums, being just eight inches deep. It boasts a traditional neo-classical exterior, and is housed in a tiny space between a sandwich shop and a bar.

This fascinating venue was created by two local artists – Judith Klausner and Steve Pomeroy – who wanted to bring art to people in an ordinary urban environment, without the potential pressure associated with entering a large, prestigious, staffed museum.

Various pieces have been seen in the venue over the years. All of these are obviously miniature, and are created by local artists. The creators were inspired by what they saw as a major issue with the New England arts scene: not many museums or galleries were willing to display work produced by artists from Somerville, despite the high number of talented individuals there.

Klausner had always been fascinated by small things, and saw this as a chance to draw attention to smaller pieces as opposed to larger, more bombastic ones. They managed to locate the narrow alleyway in which the museum is located, and managed to secure its usage rent-free.

Solar power runs the venue’s lights, allowing it to essentially ‘stay open’ around the clock. As a result, the art presented in the Micro Museum are always available for people to enjoy at any time of day or night, without having to pay an entrance fee or stick to a schedule.

Learn more about the Micro Museum
7 MICRO Mollusk Museum

(On Tour)
The MICRO Mollusk Museum is the world’s smallest of its kind. It opened at Brooklyn Public Library’s central branch, but has gone on to tour numerous other venues since. It is six feet tall, around as big as a vending machine.

The museum was constructed in an old shipping container, and is home to a number of shells gathered from seafood restaurants. Each of the exhibitions within this tiny venue is small enough to fit within a standard shoe box.

The people behind the museum, Amanda Schochet and Charles Philipp, are fascinated by mollusks (spineless creatures like snails, sea worms, clams, and octopuses). Their museum contains a 3D printing of an octopus brain, a litre of slime (the same portion a single snail would use to cross the city’s Brooklyn Bridge), and holograms of various mollusk species.

The creators devised the idea after Schochet misheard Philipp announce his plans to visit New York’s smallest museum, believing he’d said ‘mollusk museum’. This sparked an idea that took hold of her, and they realised no other mollusk museum existed anywhere in the world.

The pair run a nonprofit organisation titled MICRO, which aims to build more of these museums covering mollusks and other deserving scientific topics. They plan to place their distributed museums in unexpected locations like airports and hospital waiting rooms.

It’s a fantastic concept that provides valuable education in a simple, unobtrusive way. The organisation is growing bigger and bigger, and more of the museums will continue to appear.

Learn more about the MICRO Mollusk Museum
8 World's Largest Collection of World's Smallest Versions of World's Largest Things Traveling Roadside Attraction and Museum

(Kansas, United States)
Yes, that really is this museum’s name.

It’s something of a mouthful, but it only adds to this venue’s extraordinary charm. This is exactly as it sounds: visitors can browse a collection of small objects based on the biggest things in the world. It’s an innovative idea and is a must if you’re ever in Kansas.

There are two versions of the World’s Largest Collection of World’s Smallest Versions of World’s Largest Things Traveling Roadside Attraction and Museum (or WLCoWSVoWLT, as it’s more simply known). One of these has stopped traveling and is now based in Lucas, while the second version is a smaller take on the original, but provides its driver with a more practical vehicle to handle.

Shrunken-down replicas of the world’s largest items include the World’s Largest Ball of Video Tape (from Kansas City, Missouri), the World’s Largest Ball of Twine (from Darwin, Minnesota), the World’s Largest Black Duck (from Black Duck, Minnesota), the World’s Largest Frying Pan (from Long Beach, Washington), and more.

The museum was created by Erika Nelson, an artist keen on promoting Lucas, Kansas. She prefers to take the tiny replica to the original large-scale version of the piece and take a photograph, showing the beautiful similarities and differences between the two. These are displayed inside the museum to complement the exhibitions.

Nelson has tended to tour the museum on her own, taking art to the people rather than expecting people to come to the art. It also serves as a nice promotion for the original large-scale creations themselves.

Learn more about the World's Largest Collection of World's Smallest Versions of World's Largest Things Traveling Roadside Attraction and Museum
9 Cherokee Shell Museum

(Abaco, Bahamas)
Cherokee Shell Museum in Abaco, Bahamas, opened in April 2017. Its core exhibition is known as ‘Gifts from the Sea’.

The Cherokee Shell Museum is based in what used to be a 1950s telegraph office (which ended its business in 1987). The structure was restored and provided with something of a makeover (including a new roof) and is outfitted with a large selection of beautiful shells from Abaco’s (and other) waters.

The Cherokee Shell Museum was the brainchild of its curator Lee Pinder, though she had help from passionate members of the local community. They all worked together to equip the museum with furniture and paint the interior with a stunning mural.

More than 200 shells are displayed in the exhibition, all of which are labelled clearly. They are mostly from local waters, though some come from further away, including some rare pieces.

The museum is incredibly welcoming and managed with love, making it a simple, accessible way to learn more about the fantastic marine life in the Bahamas. You can get in for free, though donations are welcomed, and private tours can be set-up upon request. The museum is open every Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

The Cherokee Shell Museum is a gorgeous creation and one of the most fascinating of all the world’s smallest museums. There are many, many things to see and do in the Bahamas, but if you find yourself in Abaco this an essential stop in your travels.

Learn more about the Cherokee Shell Museum
10 William Burke Museum

(Edinburgh, Scotland)
William Burke is known as one half of Burke and Hare, two of Scotland’s most notorious historical figures. He was actually from Ireland, but moved to Scotland in the 1820s. This is when he first met William Hare.

Hare discovered the financial benefits of selling bodies to science when a lodger died still in debt to the man. Hare sold the cadaver to recoup some of his losses, earning a tidy sum equivalent to around £8 in modern money.

Burke and Hare soon started murdering individuals instead of waiting for them to die. They suffocated victims to ensure there were no telltale marks, and killed at least 16 individuals.

Hare ended up getting away with his crimes after he was persuaded to testify against Burke. The latter was hanged and publicly dissected in January 1829.

The William Burke Museum easily qualifies as one of the world’s smallest, as it has just one exhibit. This single item has proven incredibly successful with locals and tourists alike.

So, what is it? A 19th century calling card case crafted from what appears to be human flesh.

William Burke’s flesh, to be precise.

This gruesome little exhibition piece is believed to have been removed from his left hand’s back, and was purchased in 1988.

The William Burke Museum opened in 2017 to mark the 188th anniversary of Burke’s death, and is located within Edinburgh’s The Cadies & Witchery Tour shop. It’s open seven days a week, all day, with free entry.

Learn more about the William Burke Museum






What’s the Appeal of the World’s Smallest Museums?

So, what is the appeal of the world’s smallest museums? Why would people take time out of their holidays or days off to visit a venue lacking the space, vast exhibitions, and cutting-edge facilities of bigger museums?

There are various reasons.


More Personality

On one hand, the world’s smallest museums are much, much more distinctive than bigger alternatives. Many of the most popular large-scale venues around the world are extremely similar, utilising identical minimalist aesthetics and interactive technologies. You might find yourself struggling to identify a sense of unique character or personality.

The smallest museums in the world, though, have plenty of character. The William Burke Museum, for example, has just one item – but it’s something you will never forget. The prospect of a calling card case made from the flesh of one of Scotland’s most iconic killers is horrifying and thrilling at the same time. This unique appeal ensures countless visitors and locals will visit the museum to see it, even if only to say they have.

Likewise, Edgar’s Closet is equally appealing for its innovative use of space and its curator’s passion. Housed within a classroom closet in an otherwise ordinary school, Edgar’s Closet is filled with items that appeal to dedicated fans of Edgar Allan Poe, while its small size and unusual focus is attractive to people who don’t particularly know his work.

The World’s Largest Collection of World’s Smallest Versions of World’s Largest Things Traveling Roadside Attraction and Museum is equally fascinating for its utterly bizarre concept. The biggest objects in the world – such as the biggest ball of video tape – attract people from all over the world, and the smallest recreations does the same. It’s an incredibly charming idea, and many tourists would take pleasure in seeing both extremes.


More Independence

The smallest museums are also more independent endeavours and labours of love than the bigger ones. Many of them are run by just one or two people, and may be held in intimate environments – the Macedonian Ethno Museum, for instance.

When you’re visiting one of the world’s smallest museums, you’re supporting the passion and hard work of people who are running their operations to share their interests with others. Even if there’s no fee to enter the museum, even if they accept no donations, simply having visitors explore their exhibition pieces and spend time in the space itself can be rewarding for the owners / curators.


A sense of community

Another major aspect of the smallest museums’ appeal is that they tend to celebrate the achievements or history of their local community or country.

The Warley Museum, based in an old telephone box in a Yorkshire village, is absolutely tiny, yet is a fitting tribute to the community’s history. Images and relics from its past populate the museum, chronicling its evolution.

The Warley Museum has also been a project for local artists and talented individuals, as have others in this list. They help to bring people together in a way few things do.

Of course, being able to boast about having one of the world’s smallest museums is a real boost to an area’s tourist trade too. Even if there’s nothing else to see in a place, a curiosity like this can still bring people in.