4 Great Niche Museums For the End of Summer

Yes, I’m that dad.

The one who drags his long-suffering wife and children to every historical marker, battlefield, and museum he can find.  Our vacation trips are invariably lengthened by my “enforced educational opportunities.”  It’s my way of passing on my own distinctive style of geekery. 

They’ll thank me someday, really.

With that in mind, I’m recommending a few of my favorite niche museums for you to enjoy in the last few weeks of Summer. 

Museum of Appalachia  (Website)

ImageJust north of Knoxville, TN, is the sprawling sylvan campus of the Museum of Appalachia.  This celebration of old time mountain living features a reconstructed Appalachian village, including Mark Twain’s boyhood home.    The large barns on the property have been re-purposed into storehouses for artifacts from mountain life:  tools, cookware, clothes.  However you also find extensive exhibits on country music, famous Appalachians (like my hero, Sgt Alvin York), and folk art.  Along the way, you’ll hear live music, chase chickens, and enjoy beautifully landscaped grounds.  Definitely worth the trip if you are travelling I 75.

The American Sign Museum (Website)


This has become my favorite Cincinnati, OH attraction.  Dedicated to the art of sign making, this museum showcases the development of signmaking technology: from handpainted windows to painted ceramics to neon lights.  The most breathtaking part of the experience is the “Main Street America” attraction, featuring classic signs from many different eras.  Behind every sign is a story, and a lesson in American history.  This museum also features a working neon shop, where you can watch signs being made.

Museum of the Alphabet (Website)

ImageLocated on the grounds of the JAARS (Jungle Aviation and Radio Service) headquarters in Waxhaw, NC, the Museum of the Alphabet chronicles 2 stories.  The first is the story of the development of written scripts for languages throughout history.  The second is the story of how modern day bible translators have helped to preserve languages by developing scripts and grammars for previously unwritten languages.  While this is a relatively small museum, they have included a ton of artifacts and information.  The presentation may be overwhelming to some, but if you take your time and pace yourself, it is quite enjoyable. 

Robert C Williams Museum of Paper (Website)

ImageOn the campus of Georgia Tech University in Atlanta, GA, the Museum of paper features a number of exhibits related to the development of paper and printing technology.  There are surprisingly beautiful examples of early Asian art, watermark technology, and printed material.  An additional wing explores modern forestry and conservation, especially as it applies to present-day paper making. 




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