Museum of Salt and Pepper Shakers
Andrea Ludden and her family moved to Cosby, Tennessee, expressly to open a museum for her salt and pepper shaker collection. That building displayed 12,000 pairs, then 14,000, then 16,000. After only three years, the Luddens had to move. Andrea's collection was just too big.
Their new building, in nearby tourist mecca Gatlinburg, displays over 20,000 pairs. And Andrea frets that the collection again threatens to explode in a sneezy cloud out onto the surrounding streets.
Andrea is a trained archaeologist, born in Belgium, with a distinct French accent. When you say something correct about salt and pepper shakers, she exclaims, spontaneously, "Oui, oui, oui!" or, "Ah, voila!" In addition to her impressive collecting, she's writing a definitive anthropological study of salt and pepper shakers, an effort that she clearly feels is necessary. "Very good artists have worked on the pieces. Such creativity! And it's part of history," she tells us. Then she adds, with a dismissive flip of her hand, "Books published do not tell you anything."
Andrea designed her Museum the way that she designed museums for her excavations in South America. "When you finish a dig, you have thousands of pieces and you need to make them alive," she says, walking us past a display labeled "Chickens." She paints the hallways black so that the shakers stand out, puts helpful directional arrows on the floor with tape, and sets all of the shakers in glass-fronted rooms to keep out the dust. There's just enough space for her to slide behind the glass to stock the shelves -- which she did here in only 45 days.
"I'm very fast," she says. "I have my boxes, my trays, very organized. You become crazy!"
Overseasoning is the rule as you walk the dim halls of this Museum. The shakers are arranged mostly by visual category, with dozens of penguins, hundreds of chefs, countless variations of every vegetable on the planet. Amish farmers jostle for space with sleepy Mexicans, stoic Indians, glowing space aliens.
There are shakers honoring the Beatles, Mt. Rushmore, McDonald's menu items, and the Apollo XI moon landing. A surprising number of shakers are of things that are not normally associated with a kitchen table: skulls, witches, tombstones. Some people evidently don't mind pouring their seasoning out of a toilet, or a human foot.
The Museum of Salt and Pepper Shakers even has two familiar souvenir sets that we've encountered on our Roadside travels: Mt. St. Helens with its blown-off summit, and JFK in his rocker that we saw at the Conspiracy Museum.
The gift shop sells many of the same shakers that are in the Museum, often duplicates that were triumphant "finds" purchased by Andrea's family, unaware that she already had them.
"When you enter the world of salt and pepper shakers, is amazing," Andrea tells us. Then she conspiratorially waves us into a back room -- where there are even more shakers, stacked on shelves, on tables, and on the floor. "I need a bigger place," she says, holding up a shaker shaped like Florida. "I have no room to make my state map."