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Some National Museums Beyond National Bickering

Closed.Fear not, nervous roadsiders. No matter what the politicians in Washington do to the federal government, the National Yo-Yo Museum will remain open.

Shutting down the government has thrown a spotlight onto one of the naming quirks of roadside attractions: any museum with enough moxie can slap a “National” onto its title, and it’s perfectly A-OK.

“National” is like “Natural” on a bag of corn chips: you’d like to believe it means something good, but it may mean nothing at all.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that some “National” museums really are at the whim of Beltway politicians. For example, the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, can be shut down by a squabbling Congress, while only a few blocks away the National Museum of Crime and Punishment — a private business with a National name — remains open, unhindered.

Custom and pride set some parameters on the National name, even though there may be no real rules. For example, the National Museum of Funeral History and the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum are by far the biggest of their kind in the country, worthy of a National name.

Attractions such as the National Construction Equipment Museum, the National Civil War Naval Museum, and the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame would merit their titles even if they weren’t impressive, because they have no real competition.

National Presidential Wax Museum.

Specialized interests are usually a giveaway that the National name is unofficial, such as at the National Museum of Roller Skating and the National Mustard Museum. The National Presidential Wax Museum may be skirting the standards a little — there are other waxy President attractions — but it’s just down the road from shutdown-shuttered Mount Rushmore. For the month of October you can stand in the wax museum and mouth off at famous politicians.

When in doubt during a government shutdown, it never hurts to call ahead to find out if the National museum on your itinerary is in fact unaffected by national bickering. And, of course, museums whose visions extend outside our borders, such as the International Banana Museum, are beyond the power of even the most grandstanding Washington hack.

National Mustard Museum

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February 4, 2023

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