Boutique museums

This item appears on page 45 of the March 2009 issue.

Here is a note we printed from Hollie Stotter of Cambria, California, in our November and December 2008 issues on page 4: “I would like to see a list of boutique (small) museums in the world compiled. Each would be a small gem of a not-so-well-known museum that can be seen in less than an hour. For instance, a favorite of mine that I often have recommended to friends is the Jacquemart-André in Paris, an 1869 home preserved with its furniture, tapestries, rugs, paintings, etc. The Benaki Museum in Athens is another. Perhaps ITN’s travelers each can suggest a small museum that has an idiosyncratic style or will open one’s eyes to a different culture.”

We asked those of you writing in to include the name of the museum; when you visited it (year/month); its location, address or contact information; its focus or what makes it special, and what you liked about it. Below are responses received.

If you have something to add, write to Boutique Museums, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail (include the address at which you receive ITN). Photos are welcome. ITN prints no items on destinations in North America or the Caribbean.

In SEVILLE, the Lebrija Palace (C/Cuna, 8, 41004 Seville, Spain; phone +34 954 21 81 83 or 954 22 78 02, www.palaciode is the home of the Countess de Lebrija, an eccentric lady who filled her palatial house with all kinds of artworks, integrating them into the structure, including Roman mosaic floors from the nearby Italica excavations and Mujedar ceilings. We visited there in February ’03 during a tour of Andalucia and Barcelona.

This museum reminded me a lot of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. As at the Gardner, the character of the woman who assembled this collection comes through as you walk through her house surrounded by both wonderful antiquities and everyday items. It’s the eclectic collection of all kinds of “neat stuff” that makes this museum so charming — and a relief from the bustle of Seville.

Open 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4:30 or 5 to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday (evening hours vary with season) and 10-1 p.m. Saturday. Admission, €3.60-€6.60 (near $5-$9.50).

• The Sorolla Museum (General Martínez Campos, 37, 28010 – Madrid, Spain; phone [00 34] 91 3101584, [Spanish only]) — located in a quiet corner of MADRID, making it a good escape from the crowds of the city and from the Renaissance art that so dominates Spanish museums.

Joaquín Sorolla Bastida was a contemporary and friend of John Singer Sargent, and this museum is his former home in Madrid. There is a large collection of Sorolla’s paintings, and if you’re familiar with Sargent, the influence these two men had on each other is very apparent.

The paintings are spectacular. A lot of them are from his visits to the seashore, but my personal favorite is the painting of his wife in a gray dress that I can just imagine was a favorite painting of them both. We visited in June ’89 (on our first trip to Spain).

9:30-8 Monday-Saturday and 10-3 Sunday. €2.40 ($3.50).

Dave Emery

Reston, VA

I spent a pleasant half hour or so in July ’08 visiting the Liszt Ferenc Memorial Museum (35 Vorosmarty utca, H-1064 Budapest, Hungary; phone [36 1] 3229 804, fax [36 1] 413 1526, www.liszt

The museum is a reconstruction of Hungarian-born pianist Frans Liszt’s last BUDAPEST flat, on the first floor of the old Academy of Music, where the composer lived between 1881 and 1886. The museum’s collection contains his original furniture, instruments, books and music scores and some personal memorabilia.

Of particular interest to me was a very elaborate music stand on one of Liszt’s grand pianos. Busts of Beethoven, Weber and Schubert, all inspirations to Liszt, are cast into this very elaborate music stand. Liszt reportedly commented, “These busts seem to command me to go on my own way and perform my task.”

The way to the museum is not well signed, but with a little perseverance one can find it. After entering 35 Vorosmarty doorway, proceed down the hallway to the stairs leading to the second level, where the museum is located. The museum offers matinee concerts every Saturday at 11 a.m.

10-6 weekdays, 9-5 Saturday. Closed Sunday, Hungarian holidays and Aug. 1-20. HUF700 (near $4).

John Ross, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Museum of Ancient Greek Technology is unusual and interesting, with a very helpful docent. On two floors and with working models, the exhibits include a replica of the alarm clock of Plato, Heron’s aeolosphere (first steam engine), a perpendicular Mycenaean loom, a catapult (first siege machine) and more.

Located in the Ilia region of the Peloponnese Archipelago of Greece, the museum can be found in KATÁKOLO, the port call for cruise ship day trips to Olympia, site of the original Olympic Games.

The museum is opposite the last tram stop by the dock used by Holland America Line (on the inland side from the tram, where the main street changes from commercial to residential).

The entrance fee was very little (€2, or $2.50), so we tipped the docent. We visited in September ’08.

Merrill Sarty

Los Angeles, CA

During our stay in Japan in May ’07, my husband, Bernd, and I went to MATSUSHIMA, a couple hundred miles north of Tokyo, for two reasons: 1) Matsushima National Park there is one of the three scenic beauties in Japan and 2) we wanted to visit the Matsushima Orgel (music box) Museum, which we had heard about.

The Matsushima Orgel Museum (33-3 Fugendo, Matsushima, Matsushima-cho, Miyagi-gun, Miyagi, Japan; phone 022 353-3600) has the largest collection of “automatic music boxes” in Japan. But don’t be fooled by the words “music box”; mostly, each is the size of an upright piano or larger.

These European music boxes, all of them over 100 years old, were purchased from the National Museum of Belgium and are of great cultural and historical significance and very enjoyable. They are not for display only but are actually played.

The most outstanding organ in the collection is one of the largest concert organs in the world, measuring 21 feet high and 27 feet wide. It has 619 wooden pipes plus drums, trumpets and xylophones that play various tunes.

They have a store downstairs where you can buy music boxes of any kind and any size and with any music. The museum is upstairs, and it is just stunning to see those old music boxes on display. It takes about 40 minutes to see them.

Usually, there are two uniformed young ladies with white gloves who demonstrate the antique, 18th- and 19th-century music boxes. It is so fascinating and exciting to see and listen to them at close range; we stayed for the second round at no extra charge.

It is so simple to find the museum and you don’t need to speak Japanese to find it. From Tokyo, take the Shinkansen from Tohoku Hensen north to Sendai, switch to the Senseki line and depart at Matsushima Kaigan (beach) station. When you get off, highway 45 is right in front; turn left on the 45 and walk about 10 minutes along the bay and you will see the museum to your right.

Open 9-5:30 April-October and 9-5 November-March. ¥1,000 (near $10) adult or ¥500 ($5.25) child.

Besides the museum, visiting Matsushima National Park is something similar to cruising the Li River in Guilin or Ha Long Bay in northern Vietnam. There are many boats making bay cruises, and most of the hotels and Japanese inns in the area have discount coupons for both attractions.

Miyako Storch

Santa Barbara, CA

In SALTA, Argentina, El Museo Arqueología de Alta Montaña, or MAAM (Mitre 77 [4400], Salta, Argentina; phone/fax +54 387 437 0499, [Spanish only]), is a perfect treasure and well worth an hour or more of your time.

In 1999, Johan Reinhard, who had been searching for many years for an intact Inca burial site, finally found one on the Argentine/Chilean border, on top of Mt. Llullaillaco at 22,058 feet — the world’s highest tomb. An account of this excavation was featured in the November ’99 issue of National Geographic.

Remarkable mummies of the three children and the 146 artifacts that were found with them are respectfully and carefully displayed in this tiny museum. Only one mummy at a time is on view and, even after 500 years in their mountain aerie, they are quite beautiful. Their skin is soft and supple, the nails, hair and clothing well preserved by the cold and dryness of the high Andes.

The peace and quiet of the rooms gave me a wonderful sense of well-being. I visited in March ‘07.

Located on Miter Street, it’s open 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4-9 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. Admission, about $3.30.

Ellen Jacobson

Centennial, CO

I recommend the following museums. Each can easily be seen in an hour or so. I believe there will be little interest in visiting the Balawayo Railroad Museum in Zimbabwe at this time of crisis, however it was the largest and most fascinating of the three. Let’s hope for a resolution of Zimbabwe’s problems soon.

• In RIO DE JANEIRO, the Museu Carmen Miranda, or Carmen Miranda Museum (Av. Rui Barbosa s/n {at No. 560], Flamengo Park, Rio de Janeiro 22250, Brazil; phone 55 21 2299 5586), is located in an unprepossessing building.

For those of us of a certain age, visiting this museum brings back many memories of mid-20th century Hollywood. It contains her costumes and headdresses, jewelry, shoes, movie posters, photos, etc. In addition, film clips of some of her movies are shown. I visited in 1998.

Open 1-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 1-5 weekends (closed Monday). The museum has no website, but there is more info at

Musée Historique et des Porcelaines (Place du Château, CH-1260 Nyon, Switzerland; phone ++ 41 22 363 83 51, fax 83 79, [Swiss/French only]) occupies six floors of a château in NYON, Switzerland. On display are pottery, glassware, Nyon porcelain and silver. I visited in 1995.

Open 10-noon and 2-5 Tuesday-Saturday and 10-5 Sunday, April-October. . . and 2-5 Tuesday-Saturday and 10-5 Sunday, November-March. CHF8 (near $8).

Bulawayo Railroad Museum is behind the railway station in the Raylton district of BULAWAYO in western Zimbabwe.

When I visited in 2002, there was an amazing collection of railway equipment, primarily from the Rhodesian railway system. Included throughout the buildings and yards were some 24 steam and diesel locomotives and a fascinating collection of coaches, the most interesting of which was Cecil Rhoades’ private saloon built in 1896.

Info at

Bill Silver

San Rafael, CA

We visited Museum Engiadinais St. Moritz, or the Engadine Museum (Via dal Bagn 39, CH-7500 St. Moritz, Switzerland; phone 0041 81 833 43 33), while traveling in Switzerland during August and September ’08.

Located between the village of ST. MORITZ and the spa, this restored house museum has antique furniture and other objects collected in the canton of Grison and the Engadine Valley. It’s a nice museum that can be seen in a short time.

10-noon and 2-5 Monday-Friday and 10-noon Sunday. CHF2.50-5 (near $2.40-$4.75).

Phyllis Mueller

San Jose, CA

Musée Cognacq-Jay (8 rue Elzévir, 75003 Paris, France; phone 01 40 27 07 21, fax 01 40 27 89 44, can be found in PARIS’ 3rd arrondissement (Métro: Saint-Paul [1] or Chemin Vert [8]). Take Métro La Muette and walk across the park; it’s just off the Bois de Boulogne, 10 steps from the 4th arrondissement.

This is a townhouse full of lovely 18th-century art, and the exhibits are very well presented. It can easily be seen in an hour and is well worth a visit.

The Cognacq-Jay is located in the museum district in the Marais. There are at least nine museums in this area, including Musée Carnavalet (showing the history of Paris) and Maison de Victor Hugo (with his drawings, mementos, furniture, etc.).

Open daily (except Monday) 10-5:40.

• Another boutique museum in PARIS is Musée Marmottan Monet (2, rue Louis-Boilly, 75016 Paris, France; phone 01 44 96 50 33, fax 01 40 50 65 84,, with Impressionist art plus a wonderful room with illuminated manuscripts. It contains many magnificent Monet paintings (the world’s largest collection of Monets, in fact) plus others.

Open daily (except Monday) 11-6 and Tuesday till 9 p.m.

Abbie Salny

Wayne, NJ

Rachel Kaplan has authored several books on boutique museums in Europe. She is extremely knowledgeable and helpful. I have personally used her recommendations in PARIS for boutique museums and was delighted with what I found.

A few of her books are “Little Known Museums In and Around Paris” (ISBN 9780810926769), “Little Known Museums In and Around London” (ISBN 9780810926998), “Little Known Museums In and Around Berlin” (ISBN 9780810929036) and “Little Known Museums In and Around Rome” (ISBN 9780810929142). Each is published by Harry Abrams and retails for $19.95.

Rachel owns a tour company, French Links Tours (38 rue de Bassano, 75008 Paris, France; phone +331 45 77 01 63, e-mail or visit, which she established in Paris more than 12 years ago.

She and her staff are available for private tours. For one to four people and including VAT, half-day tours with driver start at $900 and full-day tours with driver start at $1,340.

David A. Samson

Deerfield, IL