Niche Museums

Find tiny museums near you About  this site

Monarch Bear Grove

This somewhat hidden circle of stones in Golden Gate Park has a history that incorporates druids, press barons, Spanish monasteries and the grizzly bear on the California state flag.

William Randolph Hearst spent several decades building the largest newspaper and magazine chain in the world, starting in the 1880s.

In 1889, Hearst sponsored an expedition to capture one of the last remaining grizzly bears in California. The mission was successful, and a bear was brought back alive and put on display in the city. A bear pit was designed by architect William Polk and the bear - named the Monarch Bear - lived in captivity for 22 years, during which time it was used as the model for the bear on the 1911 version the California state flag.

Following the First World War Hearst and other American industrialists competed to snap up as many of Europe's antiquities as they could get their hands on, taking advantage of that continent's urgent need for cash.

Hearst went as far as buying parts of two ruined Spanish monasteries, which he arranged to have disassembled and shipped over to the United States.

Then the Great Depression struck, and Hearst found himself unable to afford the reconstruction of his Spanish monasteries. One of them - Santa MarĂ­a de Ă“vila - was sold to the city of San Francisco on the condition that it be re-assembled into a museum in Golden Gate Park.

World War II intervened with those plans, and the monastery stones ended up scattered around the park for several decades.

At some point, somebody arranged some of the stones into circles, on the location of the old Monarch bear pit. The site is now known as Monarch Bear Grove and is cared for by members of OBOD - the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.

Most of the monastery stones were moved up to northern California and used to construct a chapter house near Redding in 2005 - but the stone circles in Monarch Bear Grove remain.

Website | Wikipedia

3 links

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California - Map

15 December 2019

Aye-Aye Island

The aye-aye is an endangered species of long-fingered lemur, and the world's largest nocturnal primate.

Aye-ayes have really interesting fingers: their third finger is used for percussive foraging, where they tap on a trunk to find hollow points. Their long hooked fourth finger is then used to pull bugs out of those hollows. They are notoriously difficult to see in the wild due to their rarity, nocturnal habits and tendency to spend most of their time in trees above the 70 meter mark.

Aye-Aye Island is a small private wildlife reserve which is home to over a dozen aye-ayes, relocated from elsewhere on Madagascar to protect them from threats that sadly include killings based on superstition. Each night guides leave coconuts wedged in trees and bring small groups to the island to watch the aye-ayes enthusiastically devouring them with their long fingers.

Tours can be booked through local hotels - we got ours via the nearby Palmarium.


1 link

Aye-Aye Island, Mananara, Madgascar - Map

14 December 2019

LA Bureau of Street Lighting Museum

Los Angeles has one of the largest and most complex street lighting networks in the world.

In 2015 the LA Bureau of Street Lighting opened a small museum in their head office dedicated to showcasing the history of street lights in the city.

The museum has examples of lighting from multiple decades throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

It opens for 30 minutes once a month, by appointment only.


1149 South Broadway #200, Los Angeles, CA 90015 - Map

13 December 2019

Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park

During World War II the city of Richmond grew from 24,000 to 100,000 people as the four Richmond shipyards ramped up production for the war effort.

Workers produced 747 Victory and Liberty ships, more than any other US industrial location. Many of those workers were women and African-Americans entering the industrial workforce for the first time.

Rosie the Riveter emerged as a cultural icon representing those women, and the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park commemorates those workers and tells their stories.

On many Fridays home front workers who worked in Richmond during WWII are available to answer your questions.

Website | Wikipedia

1 link

1414 Harbour Way South, Richmond, CA 94804 - Map

12 December 2019

London Silver Vaults

Located five storeys beneath the streets of London, the London Silver Vaults represent the largest retail selection of antique and contemporary silver in the world.

30 shops are located within this subterranean market, most of which have been owned by the same families for more than fifty years.

The complex opened as The Chancery Lane Safe Deposit in 1885, survived a direct bomb hit to the surface building during World War II and started trading in its current retail format in 1953.

Rumored to be the inspiration for the Gringotts bank in Harry Potter, today the stores in the vaults sell a bewildering array of silver items from cutlery to condiment carrying table-top sailing ships.

Entrance is free, you just need to know how to find them.

Website | Wikipedia

2 links

53-64 Chancery Lane, Holborn, London WC2A 1QS, United Kingdom - Map

11 December 2019

The Tonga Room

A 75-year-old San Francisco institution, the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar is a legendary tiki bar located in the basement of the Fairmont Hotel.

It was designed in 1945 by Mel Melvin, a leading set designer for MGM on the site of the hotel's indoor swimming pool. The pool was converted into a "lagoon" in the center of the space, and most nights a band performs from a boat in the lagoon amidst periodic artificial rain and thunder. The dance floor and bar itself is constructed from wood salvaged from the S.S. Forester, a schooner that once sailed between San Francisco and the south Pacific.

The Fairmont appear to be deeply embarassed by the continued presence of the Tonga Room but the city of San Francisco have labelled it a "historic resource", frustrating plans to replace it with something better suited to the hotel's upscale aesthetic.

Website | Wikipedia

3 links

950 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94108 - Map

10 December 2019

Museum of Dartmoor Life

Opened in 1981, this regional museum occupies three floors of a mill built in 1811 (with an attached waterwheel) and tells the story of 5,000 years of human habitation of the Dartmoor area.

Exhibits include recreations of a Bronze Age hut and a Victorian kitchen, plus information on Dartmoor’s geology, industries and use by the military.

The bottom floor hosts a rebuilt blacksmith's forge and and a collection of historic farming implements and vehicles. The museum also hosts an infestation of Dartmoor Piskies.

Website | Wikipedia

1 link

3 West Street, Okehampton, EX20 1HQ, United Kingdom - Map

9 December 2019


For 220 years between 1633 and 1853 Japan adopted a strictly isolationist foreign policy, with severely limited trade between Japan and other countries. One of the only exceptions was trade with the Dutch through a trading post on the artificial island of Dejima, first built in 1634 to house Portuguese traders but then repurposed for trade with the Dutch East India Company in 1641.

Isolation ended with the Treaty of Kanagawa in 1858 and Dejima merged into Nagasaki through land reclamation, but in 1922 it was designated a national historic site and intermittent efforts began to restore the island.

Today Dejima serves as a museum: many historic buildings have been restored, and the island hosts a scale model illustrating how it was laid out during the Edo period.

Website | Wikipedia

2 links

6-1 Dejimamachi, Nagasaki, 850-0862, Japan - Map

8 December 2019

The Centennial Light

Burning since 1901, this bulb holds the record for the longest burning lightbulb. The Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department maintains the bulb in LPFD Station 6. The bulb was manufactured by the Shelby Electric Company in the late 1890s.

The bulb has been moved at least three times, most recently in 1976 when it was offline for 22 minutes before being installed in its current location.

Website | Wikipedia

2 links

Fire Station #6, 4550 East Avenue, Livermore, CA - Map

7 December 2019

Teddy Bear Kingdom

One of five museums within Huis Ten Bosch, Japan’s 375 acre Netherlands-themed theme park near Nagasaki, Teddy Bear Kingdom celebrates the glamour of teddy bears.

Over 700 bears from all over the world are on display, including a Steiff bear made by the company that first popularized the toy in the early 1900s.

Did you know the teddy bear moniker was in honor President Theodore Roosevelt? He features in a sequence of dioramas that tell the history of the teddy bear.


1 link

1-1 Huis Ten Bosch Machi, Sasebo, Nagasaki 859-3292, Japan - Map

6 December 2019


Founded in 1946 by actor Dick Curtis - famous for playing the villain in a host of early westerns - as an 1880s themed living movie set. Hundreds of television shows and movies have been filmed here since.

The town has a population of 420 and it's occasionally possible to stay overnight (check Airbnb). Pappy & Harriet's Pioneertown Palace is a popular music venue on the edge of town that occasionally attracts surprise performances by big name stars.

Website | Wikipedia

1 link

Pioneertown, CA - Map

5 December 2019

Clouds Hill

T. E. Lawrence earned international fame thanks to the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, a dramatization of his World War I activities during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign and the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire.

Clouds Hill is his cottage in Dorset, bought in 1925 for use as a holiday home. Lawrence was fatally injured in a motorcycle accident near Clouds Hill in 1935, just two months after retiring from the army. Today the cottage is managed as a museum by the National Trust.

Website | Wikipedia

2 links

Clouds Hill, King George V Road, Bovington BH20 7NQ, United Kingdom - Map

4 December 2019

Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway

In continuous use since opening in 1890, this water-powered railway joins the two towns of Lynton (at the top) and Lynmouth (at the bottom). The 862 foot track covers an elevation of 500 feet making it highest and steepest of the three remaining water railways in the world - and the only one in the UK.

The two carriages are joined by a cable and act as counter-weights to each other, with the carriage at the top of the line filling up with water sourced from the nearby Lyn Valley to power the railway. The railway won the bronze award in Devon's Large Attraction of the Year 2018.

Website | Wikipedia

2 links

Lee Road, Lynton EX35 6HW, United Kingdom - Map

3 December 2019

Bourton-on-the-Water Model Village

The only grade II listed model village in the UK. Opened in 1937, this one-ninth scale replica of Bourton-on-the-Water features miniature bonsai-style trees and bridges you can cross.

Stand close enough to the two churches to hear their choirs singing. Most satisfyingly, the model village includes a model of the model village, which itself includes a model of the model of the model village.

Website | Wikipedia

2 links

The Old New Inn, Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire GL54 2AF - Map

2 December 2019

Maison des Johnnies et de l’Oignon de Roscoff

Starting in the 1820s, farmers from the area around Roscoff in Brittany started crossing the channel to sell onions in Wales and England. Known as Onion Johnnies, they became the stereotypical image of the French to the English, riding bicycles hung with onions and wearing berets and striped shirts. Their activity peaked in 1929 when over 9000 tonnes of onions were imported by nearly 1400 Johnnies.

Their golden age was ended by Import restrictions following World War II, but the trading relationship between Brittany and the UK was a key factor in the founding of Brittany Ferries operating out of Roscoff in the 1970s.

Today they are commemorated by the Onion Johnny museum in Roscoff, which hosts an annual Onion Festival (FĂŞte de l'Oignon) every summer.


1 link

48, rue Brizeux, 29680 Roscoff, France - Map

1 December 2019

Next page