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The Top Five US Museum Exhibits to Add to Your Bucket List

BY: Sarah Gorr | Nov 19, 2014
The Top Five US Museum Exhibits to Add to Your Bucket List

There are more than 35,000 museums in the United States, each with its own collection of prized artifacts, artworks, or arthropod fossils. So how does one decide which museums—let alone which exhibits—are worth checking out?

In the hopes of making your life a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of some of the country’s top museum exhibits. Each of these offers an exclusive glimpse into the past, whether in the form of a world-famous painting or a massive quarry filled with dinosaur bones.


American Gothic   Grand Wood

American Gothic at the Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago, IL

Parodied by everyone from Beavis and Butthead to Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie, American Gothic is among the most recognizable pieces of art, American or otherwise. Grant Wood painted the masterpiece in 1930, and it was exhibited publicly for the first time at the Art Institute of Chicago, which remains its home to this day.

Berlin Wall segment   Newseum

The Berlin Wall at the Newseum | Washington, DC

The tearing down of the Berlin Wall was one of the largest cultural touchstones of the 20th century, covered by reporters from around the world. It’s only fitting, then, that visitors can see a portion of it at the Newseum, a museum dedicated exclusively to the world of journalism. The 12-foot-high portions of the wall are the largest on display outside Germany, and the surrounding gallery tells the story of the fall of an oppressive society.

National Civil Rights Museum

King's Last Hours at the National Civil Rights Museum | Memphis, TN

Housed inside the former Lorraine Motel, the National Civil Rights Museum offers visitors the sobering opportunity to see the balcony where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Room 306 and its infamous balcony have been perfectly preserved in King’s honor, making this a somber but unforgettable stop for Memphis tourists.

Quarry Exhibit Hall  Dinosaur National Monument

Quarry Exhibit Hall at Dinosaur National Monument | Jensen, UT

Stride through the Quarry Exhibit Hall at Dinosaur National Monument, and you might start to feel like a bona fide paleontologist. Here, you won’t find carefully reconstructed skeletons propped up in lifelike poses. Instead, there’s a massive quarry wall containing more than 1,500 fossils—all appearing almost exactly as they looked the day they were discovered.

Einstein s Brain  Mutter Museum

Albert Einstein's Brain at the Mütter Museum | Philadelphia, PA

Albert Einstein’s brain is considered one of the greatest the world has ever known. So who wouldn’t want to take a peek inside? At Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, you can do just that. The Mütter is actually one of only two museums in the world with pieces of Einstein’s actual brain, which are displayed on slides 20 microns thick. Look closely, and you might just discover the secret to Einstein’s genius.

Images courtesy of: The Art Institute of Chicago (Wood, Grant. American Gothic, 1930. Oil on beaverboard. The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago.); The Newseum (Berlin Wall); National Civil Rights Museum (King's Last Hours); Dinosaur National Monument (Quarry Exhibit Hall); The Mütter Museum (Einstein's brain).

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