Sure, you can take in the classics at the MFA, or contemporary art at the ICA. But why stop there? In these parts, museums come in all shapes and sizes and appeal to all sorts of interests. Birds, toilets, cars, snowmobiles, bad art, great medicine — these are just a few of the subjects that have entire museums dedicated to them. We rounded up a slew of them for your learning pleasure.
PAUL S. RUSSELL, MD MUSEUM OF MEDICAL HISTORY AND INNOVATION Massachusetts General Hospital main campus, 2 North Grove St., Boston, 617-724-8009, www.massgeneral.org/museum
Features past and present tools used in surgeries such as amputations. Artifacts include an incubator made out of automobile parts, an ether inhaler, 19th-century surgical kits, and machines used to generate electric shocks.
MUSEUM OF AMERICAN BIRD ART AT MASS AUDUBON
963 Washington St., Canton, 781-821-8853, email@example.com
The only conservation organization that has a museum of bird art and is dedicated fully to bird art, this place includes an Arthur Morris photography exhibit and a small gallery on the art of Elmer Crowell, the most famous American decoy carver (1862-1952).
CHARLES RIVER MUSEUM OF INDUSTRY AND INNOVATION Watches and Clocks Exhibit 154 Moody St., Waltham, 781-893-5410, www.crmi.org
The Watches and Clocks Exhibit has the largest public collection of Waltham watches in the world. It also has a few working machines and a watchmaker’s bench.
LARZ ANDERSON AUTO MUSEUM 15 Newton St., Brookline, 617-522-6547, www.larzanderson.org
This beautiful 64-acre park holds 24 lawn events each year, often featuring gorgeous German, Italian, and British automobiles from years and decades past.
IRELAND’S GREAT HUNGER MUSEUM AT QUINNIPIAC
UNIVERSITY 3011 Whitney Ave., Hamden, 203-582-6500, www.ighm.org
This museum not only showcases first-rate Irish art, but also tells the whole story of the Great Hunger, which lasted from 1845-53. The potato blight was only a small part of the famine.
THE MUSEUM OF PRINTING800 Massachusetts Ave., North Andover, 978-686-0450, www.museumofprinting.org
It has the largest collection of rare printing presses in the country, according to Frank Romano, president of the museum. There are also woodcuts by Mark Fowler and Anna Hogan, and a collection of rare typewriters.
DESIGN MUSEUM BOSTON Factory 63 — 63 Melcher St., Boston, 617-600-8204, www.designmuseumboston.org
This museum isn’t in just one location but three. Aside from Factory 63, there’s the “Street Seats’’ exhibition at Fort Point Channel. The third component, “Getting There: Design for Travel in the Modern Age,’’ is located at Logan Airport.
THE DAVISTOWN MUSEUM OF REGIONAL HISTORY, TOOLS, AND ART 58 Main St, Liberty, Maine, 207-288-5126, www.davistownmuseum.org
This museum is the largest edge tool museum in the country. It unites tools and their history and incorporates tools into art — tools that come from all around New England.
THE WEST END MUSEUM Current exhibition: The Parkman–Webster Murder Case
150 Staniford St., Suite 7, Boston, 617-723-2125, www.thewestendmuseum.org
The Parkman-Webster Murder Case Exhibition follows the 19th-century trial of John White Webster, a professor of chemistry and geology at Harvard Medical College, who was accused of murdering Dr. George Parkman, a wealthy Beacon Hill businessman.
NEW BEDFORD WHALING MUSEUM 18 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford, 508-997-0046, www.whalingmuseum.org
The New Bedford Whaling Museum has the largest collection of scrimshaw in the world as well as the largest ship model. It also has five fully articulated whale skeletons, including a skeleton of a highly endangered North Atlantic right whale that was pregnant, along with the fetus’s skeleton. Wear sneakers, this museum takes up a whole city block.
AMERICAN TEXTILE HISTORY MUSEUM 491 Dutton St., Lowell, 978-441-0400, www.athm.org
The textile museum has a popular exhibit pertaining to baseballs. Huh? What do baseballs have to do with a textile museum? Baseballs are made with wool. Wool helps the baseball keep its shape after Big Papi hits it against the Green Monster.
MUSEUM OF BAD ART Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville; Brookline Access Television, 46 Tappan St., Brookline; Brookline Village Station, 2 Brookline Place, Brookline; 781-444-6757, www.museumofbadart.org
Don’t get caught up with the name of this museum. It may be about bad art but it stands for something deeper. The art this museum showcases was made with good intentions even if the end result was not a masterpiece in the classic sense. Not everybody can be Monet, after all.
THE AMERICAN SANITARY PLUMBING MUSEUM 80 Rosedale Road, Watertown, 617-926-2111, www.theplumbingmuseum.org
This museum is quite unique with its antiques. One new artifact is a $5,000 toilet that includes an iPod dock, a heated seat, a self-cleaning system, and a remote control. Naturally.
NEW HAMPSHIRE SNOWMOBILE MUSEUM ASSOCIATION Bear Brook State Park, Allenstown, 603-809-8700, www.nhsnowmobilemuseum.com
There are 33 different brands of machines for over-the-snow transportation and about 90 sleds on display. The oldest sled is from 1953. And it has the very first Ski-Doo, which is not only the very first one sold in New Hampshire but also the 10th one ever made.