It’s no secret that Austin is known as one of the weirdest cities in America, and our indelible “Keep Austin Weird” culture is reflected in several original museums and galleries throughout the city. If you’re looking for a real look into the bizarre side of Austin, you have to check out these great museums that showcase all that is unique in our eclectic town. From funky knickknacks to folksy paintings, here’s some great museums where you can find all things Austin:
Museum of Natural and Artificial Ephemerata
Perhaps one of the most interesting exhibits in Austin, The Museum of Natural and Artificial Ephemerata is home to some of the strangest collections you’ve ever seen. Built inside an old single-story home, this museum is dedicated to preserving endangered and antique modes of collection that tell the story of our colorful past.
The Museum of Natural and Artificial Ephemerata has several rotating themed exhibits ranging from Wonderous Instruments, with exotic tools and gadgets, to Monstrosities like the two headed cow and Fiji Mermaid! Their most popular exhibition, “The Impermanent Collection“, uses relics, talismans and other ephemera to map out the histories and traditions of collecting and “track the process known as disenchantment”.
Located in the heart of downtown Austin, The Mexic-Arte Museum embodies the rich cultural background and heritage of Hispanic Texas using various Mexican-based exhibitions from local artists and creative talent. This cultural gallery features everything from Icons and Symbols of the Borderland to artworks from young millennials with Chicano roots.
The Mexic-Arte Museum aims to provide young aspiring artists and art appreciators with the tools and education they need to appreciate and create original art that reflects their generation and heritage. Their permanent collection boasts over 1500 works of both historic and contemporary Latin American art and material culture, including The Ernesto F. de Soto collection, popular Mexican dance masks and rare books.
This tiny hip museum just off South Lamar is dedicated to preserving and exhibiting the history of Austin’s immortal music scene through band memorabilia, vintage posters and live music ephemera. Everyone knows that music is the heart of this city, and the South Austin Popular Culture Center is a celebration of that soul, highlighting the best of Austin’s live music culture.
Whether you’re a blues lover or a rock & roller, this gallery has an exhibition for just about every music fan, including artist focused exhibitions with photos and interviews, and poster art collections from iconic pop artists like Austin native Bill Narum and the creator of our original SXSW logo: Nels Jacobson. Each exhibition tells a distinct story about Austin’s diverse music scene and gives us a real appreciation for the original minds that helped shape our city.
Just in case you needed a reminder of Austin’s perpetual weirdness, this museum is just one more thing that proves how bizarre Austin really is. As you might have guessed, the Museum of Weird is an all out freak show of strange, unusual and downright freaky characters. It doesn’t get any weirder than the Museum of the Weird, and this museum works hard to live up to its name.
Some strange things on display here include the Minnesota Iceman, Big Foot, voodoo items, and mutant farm animals…and you can also catch regular shows and ghostly séances, if you’re into that sorta thing. Fortune tellers, snake charmers, bearded ladies, this museum has it all. Although the authenticity of some of their ‘artifacts’ is questionable, there’s one thing you can’t deny: the Museum of Weird is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
LBJ Presidental Library
If you’re a history buff and a Texan at heart, then you need to visit the LBJ Presidential Library, dedicated to the history of our former president and the zeitgeist of the 1960’s. Situated on a 30-acre site on the UT campus, this museum showcases photos, recreations and other memorabilia that highlight the life and times of Texas native Lyndon Baynes Johnson.
Running exhibits range from The White House Years, which shows various items from the Johnson Presidency, to the Vietnam conflict and aftermath. And Permanent installations include a Civil Rights exhibit, Social Justice Gallery and LBJ’s presidential limousine. They even have a 7/8 scale replica of the Oval Office during Johnson’s presidency!
Austin Toy Museum
For all the closet cosplayers and game geeks, the Austin Toy Museum has all things toy-related to captivate your inner child and recreate a part of your past you’d almost forgotten. Who doesn’t remember Rock em’ Sock em’ Robots? Ot the original Green Army Men and Monkeys in a Barrel, all the toys that shaped our childhood. At the Austin Toy Museum, you can forget you’re a grown up and remember a simpler time when a slinky was all you needed and etch-a-sketch was as entertaining as the iPhone.
The museum also hosts fun toy and game events like the Perler Power! Pixel Art workshop where you can BYOB and make your own wearables, and Mortal Kombat game-off, where you can battle it out for cool vintage toys and prizes. And as an added bonus, each admission comes with free vintage arcade game play!