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SATURDAY’S CHILD: Night at the museums


SATURDAY’S CHILD: Night at the museums

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“I WENT TO the museum where they had all the heads and arms from the statues that are in all the other museums,” quipped comedian Steven Wright. Offbeat author Jarod Kintz clearly is not a fan of art with a capital “A”: “I want to meet a guy named Art. I’d take him to a museum, hang him on the wall, criticise him, and leave.”  

Fortunately for Mr Kintz, there are some museums, thousands, in fact, which do not deal with art the way the highbrows determine it and we have been brought up to revere it.

There is the UFO Museum and Research Centre in Roswell, the site of a supposed flying-saucer crash in 1947, the Sex Museum in Amsterdam, which is probably where the UFO was headed when it overheated, and the International Spy Museum in Washington DC, where you have the feeling of being watched constantly by men in dark glasses and trench coats. There is also the Museum of Bad Art in Boston. The Garbage Museum in Connecticut features a dinosaur made from a ton of trash – the estimated amount that the average person generates each year. Needless to say, when visitors are asked to comment on their visit they limit their response to one word.

In Boston is the Warren Anatomical Museum, which features the “well known” skull of Phineas Gage, who lived after his skull was punctured by an iron rod. It gets weirder. The Icelandic Phallological Museum in Reykjavik is dedicated to all things penile. It houses more than 215 penises and penile parts belonging to almost all the land and sea mammals found in Iceland. It is reputedly seeking to lure as a guest exhibit the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, or his pig, but the competition is far too intense. The biggest rival might be The Museum of Broken Relationships in Croatia, which encourages visitors to donate artefacts from their own heartbreaks as “a chance to overcome an emotional collapse”.

There are also special museums devoted to crime, like the Axe Murder House, the Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum, the Museum of the American Gangster, the Black Museum where Jack the Ripper is a major attraction, and one that is seeking start-up funding in Albany, New Jersey, called the “Albany Museum of Political Scandal, Corruption, and Misconduct – or SCAM.” The motto of the museum will be, “We stand by our convictions.”

While Bruce Roter, the organiser of the Albany museum, is still seeking legitimate donations to build his museum, Thailand, which is tied with Trinidad and Tobago, Burkina Faso, Jamaica, India, Peru, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Zambia with 38 points out of 100 in the 2014 World Corruption Index, has started its own. The museum, which uses sculptures to highlight ten corruption scandals, was introduced on September 6 to mark the country’s National Anti-Corruption Day.

Media reports state that the highlights include sculptures of a man and woman standing behind a stack of rice sacks, representing the alleged corruption that took place under the rice-pledging scheme introduced by former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government. Another one shows a misshaped man swallowing building pillars, representing the alleged misappropriation of public funds for the construction of 396 police stations around the country under Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government. The exhibition does not directly name individuals involved in the ten corruption cases but urged public shaming of the alleged culprits.

The Jamaican friend who drew it to my attention obviously felt it was something that would do very well as an attraction in the Caribbean. Another Jamaican said they don’t need a mint – they just have to deal in houses and lottery tickets.

This led to the suggestion that the Trinidad and Tobago Corruption Museum should be in Panama – where at least one of its supposedly most corrupt scamsters is domiciled – or Miami or Toronto. One friend was vehement.  He claimed Calder Hart, whose name has been called in several matters but who has not been convicted of anything, is reputed to be living in Miami and we should site the museum there to draw attention to Mr Hart.

However, another said, “We have to wait until Jack Warner is extradited so our museum will be even more attractive.” I pointed out that Mr Warner has not yet been found guilty of anything so that in the meantime the appropriate place for the museum is Jack’s own “Centre of Excellence”, particularly as its name does not specifically mention the major area in which Mr Warner has undoubtedly excelled. There he could put on a nightly show of his like-minded associates. Every night will be a sellout and its “shtick” or gimmick will be that there will always be more tickets sold than available seats.

• Tony Deyal was last seen suggesting the Albany layout, which includes a Hall of Graft, Bribery and Kickbacks. In Trinidad it will be painted either a fire-engine red or a US dollar green.