The City Museum

I’m in St. Louis for the Strange Loop conference, and the conference kicked off last night with a party at the City Museum. I didn’t bother to look into the museum much before I came. A few friends told me a bit about it, but it wasn’t enough for me to really understand what the museum was; the City Museum isn’t a museum, its a mad amusement park.

I heard from another conference attendee who’d been there before that the museum was the product of a single person’s desire to make something out of an abandoned building. A mad genius. I describe exploring the museum like going through someone else’s code… you’re always finding things that make no sense. Why is there an airplane on scaffolding outside? Why are there two? Why is the only way to get to the plane through a maze of metal steps and tunnels? Why is the basement built to look like an underground cave? From the insect display to the collection of Italian movie posters to the human-sized hamster wheel, the City Museum makes no sense. It’s an eclectic collection of amusing things. Five stories of collected randomness.

My friend fulfilled a lifelong dream of falling into a ball pool. There was a live band playing on the first floor, board games on the second, food and drinks on the third, and mazes everywhere. There are two massive bank vault doors connected to a hall of mirrors that leads back to the hamster wheel. There are statues of whales, gorgon heads in a fountain, HO scale model train with flying dragons breathing fire, stairs that don’t lead anywhere and slides that go for several stories.

I’m not sure how “safe” the museum is, or how it manages insurance. The structures I climbed on all seemed sturdy enough, but I did wonder at times how old they were, or when the last time they were inspected was. My original plan was to walk to the museum, grab some food for dinner, and walk back to the hotel, mainly ignoring the festivities and the museum. I’m glad I stayed for a few hours.