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Alternative Museums

Where to see the world’s largest popcorn machine and other oddities

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Busy Beaver
Button Co. Museum
3279 W. Armitage
Chicago, IL, 60647 // 7736453359

Busy Beaver Button Co. was founded in Chicago in 1998 when Christen Carter settled the company in its current Logan Square location. According to its website, the company has made buttons for many well-known individuals and organizations, starting with Carter’s first client Guided by Voices, to the likes of Missy Elliot and Burger King. The store is also home to the world’s first button museum, as well as the largest button vending machine — at over 6 feet tall with the ability to hold 10,000 buttons — that might be worth a trip up the Blue Line.

Jane Addams
Hull-House Museum
800 S. Halsted (M/C 051)
Chicago, IL 60607

The University of Illinois at Chicago // 3124135353

The Hull-House Museum includes tours through renovated portions of the original Hull-House facility as well as exhibitions and unique programming focused on contemporary social issues.

They also host sex+++, “a free documentary film series for people who like sex.”

Federal Reserve
Bank of Chicago
Money Museum

230 S. LaSalle St.
Chicago, IL 60604 // 3123222400

This museum has the strictest security out of any of our selections, for obvious reasons. But, once you show a valid state-issued ID and hand over any potential weapons you are carrying (including explosives and box cutters), you can have a guided tour of the historical currency selection for free!

Read/Write LibraryFormerly the Chicago
Underground Library
914 N. California
(Walton Entrance)
Chicago, IL 60607 // 7733362516

The Read/Write Library of Chicago is a collection of local, independent and small-press published stuff. It accepts all submissions that fit these criteria.

If you’ve ever read Richard Brautigan’s “The Abortion,” it’s kind of like that (minus the reclusive librarian, and, of course, the illegal abortion in Tijuana.)

Intuit: The Center for
Intuitive + Outsider Art
756 N. Milwaukee
Chicago, IL 60642

Including the Henry Darger Room // 3122439088

Intuit holds exhibitions as well as a permanent collection fully devoted to displaying “self-taught and outsider art.”

It is best known for the Henry Darger Room Collection, an installation of the living and workspace of the now-famed self-taught visionary. They also offer a film series, temporary exhibitions and various educational programs.

C. Cretors & Company
3243 N. California
Chicago, IL, 60618 // 7735881690

C. Cretors & Company (yes, it is pronounced “secretors”) boasts of founding the nation’s now multi-billion dollar concession industry and patenting the first popcorn machine. A version of the machine, which was initially designed to roast peanuts, was displayed at the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition, and the company is still run by the Cretors family.

Rumor has it that inside the North California Ave. location is the world’s largest popcorn machine. Reservations for tours of the plant can be made by calling the facility.

Sports Museum
700 E. Grang Ave.
Chicago, IL, 60611 // 3125279700

While some of us are not Chicago natives, we are aware of the sports enthusiasm that is a major part of the city’s history and spirit. Go Cubs! Right? The collection of sports memorabilia at Harry Caray’s Tavern is interesting even if you don’t follow what’s happening at Wrigley Field. The collection includes “the Bartman Ball, Sammy Sosa’s corked bat and a baseball used by Kerry Wood in his 1998 historic 20 strike-out game.”

Archives & Museum
6418 N. Greenview
Chicago, IL 60626 // 7737619200

Dedicated to “the compilation, preservation and maintenance of leather lifestyle and related lifestyles… for historical, educational and research purposes,” the Leather Archives and Museum holds art, artifacts, publications and educational materials pertaining to alternative sexualities.

The exhibit we’re most excited to see is “My Vest!” which consists of “vests from the LA&M collection and the people who wear them.” OK, maybe that is not exactly what we’re most excited to see, but it still sounds pretty interesting.

International Museum
of Surgical Science
1524 N. Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL 60610 // 3126426502

The International Museum of Surgical Science houses four floors of medical artifacts, paintings, and sculptures, a library and a manuscript collection in addition to special exhibitions.

Whether you’re interested in the history, new developments in the surgical sciences (or even if you just like odd contraptions), you’ll be able to find points of interest. Also, just a heads-up: Tuesdays are free.

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