Marvin Johnson's Gourd Collection
Angier, North Carolina
Marvin Johnson and his wife, Mary, started the Gourd Museum in 1965 because they had too many gourds lying around the house. Marvin is considered a world authority on gourds (his license plate reads "GOURD") and he probably cares more about these hard, funny-looking vegetables than anyone, ever. "I've made lots of friends through gourds," he said, smiling.
The museum is in the town of Angier in a small, musty building, nestled in the woods behind Johnson's home. Displays are mostly of gourd art: a rendition of the Last Supper made out of gourd seeds, a gourd "Shamu" executed by Brenda Pawlak of Cleveland (awarded first place, Jr. Gourd Class, at the 1971 Gourd Show in Mt. Giliad, OH), a gourd Popeye and a gourd xylophone, and lots and lots of gourd penguins, snakes, alligators, raccoons, sharks, dinosaurs and elephants.
The place is illuminated with gourd lamps. "Please turn off the lights when you leave," says a sign.
Marvin was 91 in 1996, but he and his museum were still going strong. "Doin' fine. No medication," Marvin reported. "I'm a little weak but I still drive around. Havin' me a good time."
Update - January 2006: Reports that the complete gourd collection has been moved to the municipal building in Angiers and is now on display.
July 2005: Dean Jeffrey confirms: "The Johnson family land has been sold and is being turned into a housing development. A new road is being cut through the property, and some of the buildings that used to be there have been demolished. The museum (complete with all its displays) still stands, but the doors are padlocked, and I assume it'll be bulldozed as well. I hope the gourds are going to be rescued and transferred to a new home, but even if they are, I can't imagine that their new locale will be as cool as Marvin and Mary's museum."
June 2005: The museum is reported closed.
April 2003: Marvin's museum is now run by nephew Mark Johnson. It is reported to be tidy and well-kept, and visitors can conduct self-tours and leave a donation.