National Museum of the Resistance: The Most Important Museum You’ve Never Heard Of

The world is full of obscure museums, but most of them are obscure for a reason.

Typically, such places are devoted to select topics that appeal to only a select few, and frequently they are located in out of the way places. 

The National Museum of the Resistance, however, breaks the mold. Located in cosmopolitan Brussels, Belgium, the museum enshrines wartime artifacts with a particular emphasis on World War II and the Belgian Resistance to German occupation of their country.

The mainstream appeal and placement in a large and prominent city make it somewhat baffling that this museum, which opened its doors on the 28th anniversary of D-Day on June 6, 1972, isn’t more renowned.

An Historic Building

The building itself that houses the museum is historically important, as it was the site of the publication of a satirical newspaper, Faux Soir, that spoofed the Nazi propaganda publication Le Soir (which means “the evening”). At great risk of personal danger to themselves, members of the Belgian Resistance produced and distributed this publication, managing to spread tens of thousands of copies throughout Europe. Unfortunately, the Gestapo arrested fifteen of the people involved in the satire’s production and at least two of them never returned from the prison camps to which they were sent.

A Somber and Meaningful Collection

Included in the museum’s archives are items such as an original edition of Faux Soir, a radio set that the Resistance recovered from a downed allied plane, and a violin scavenged from Mauthausen Concentration Camp (it is thought that the violin was played during executions). Make no mistake, this is a sobering yet compelling and ultimately very important place to visit. After all, it is said that everyone who ignores history is doomed to repeat it.

Unfortunately, due to renovations the National Museum of the Resistance is currently closed. Hopefully it will re-open soon, because the world is always in need of reminders that freedom is never free.

There’s No Place like the Judy Garland Museum

If you’re planning a trip to Grand Rapids, MN, including a stop to the Judy Garland Museum is a must.

The museum includes the entertainer’s childhood home, the Children’s Discovery Museum, and of course, the Land of Oz exhibit. So, embrace the magic and follow the yellow brick road.

It’s No Longer Just a Dream

A walk through the modest 1920s home where Frances Ethel Gumm, a.k.a. Judy Garland began life’s journey offers a poignant glimpse into the star’s history.

The museum includes an array of memorabilia from Garland’s extensive film and musical career as well as her personal effects. Scripts, personal letters, photos, jewelry, and clothing combine to create the lasting legacy of her career.  

The most extensively memorialized aspect of the museum includes mementos of Dorothy’s heroic journey through Oz. Here, you’ll find the carriage ridden into Oz, which incidentally, once belonged to Abraham Lincoln.

Secure your own legacy and request to have a personal message engraved on the museum’s yellow brick road.

The Case of the Missing Ruby Slippers

When Dorothy’s missing ruby slippers mysteriously vanished from the museum in 2005, the case went cold. It wasn’t until a phone call in an attempt to cash in on insurance money and subsequent FBI sting operation in 2018 that the iconic slippers were returned to their rightful owners. It proves once again that, “There’s no place like home.”

The Children’s Discovery Museum

The interactive exhibits are designed for children aged 12 and younger. Included among the adventures are Treesa the Talking Tree, a dinosaur dig, and Lions and Tigers and Bears exhibit.

The Wizard of Oz Festival

The third week of June every year is set aside to participate in activities that celebrate Judy Garland’s life and career as well as the iconic production of The Wizard of Oz. The three-day festival includes memorable film clips, concerts, and dining.

History Makes Ellis Island A Stamp

Opening in 1892 Ellis Island opened as an immigration station, only remaining open for 60 years.

Nonetheless, the short amount of time made history with allowing millions of immigrants to enter into the United States and make the country their home. 

ELLIS ISLAND MUSEUM

While the National Origins Act of 1924 ultimately put an end to mass immigration and acted as a staple in Ellis Island’s close in 1954, 2.3 million immigrants were able to pass through the operation and find a fresh start in the United States. 

In honor of Ellis Island and the historical impact it made, a museum opened up in the 1990’s in the main building of the station. From 1984 until opening in the 1990s restoration took place to ensure any traces of the history made there remained intact. You can now access the immigration records, as of 2001, allowing you to discover if your own ancestors passed through the immigration process while Ellis Island was an operating immigration station. 

Ellis Island’s museum offers 3 floors to explore and learn about the experience and stories from immigrants as they came through the station. During your visit, view the history through first-hand accounts and interactive exhibits that teach you about immigration from the time the station operated until the present day. 

While you explore, you may discover the hearing room, which was restored to mirror its looks from 1911. The room was often used for legal hearings to determine the status for potential immigrants. During busy seasons 50 to 100 hearings would go before the Board of Special Inquiry to hear the testimonies from the individuals. Not only does the museum showcase the immigration history, including the registration room, but you can also learn about the usage of the building during the time between Ellis Island ceasing to operate as a station and becoming a museum.

Throughout the museum, you’ll find major documentation on the processes immigrants went through during the years it operated as an immigration station and many leaps to history. You’ll learn the foundations that led to many of our ancestors becoming a stepping stone in the United States. 

Learn about Space at the Baikonur Cosmodrome

If you’re interested in space, visiting the Baikonur Cosmodrome deserves a spot on your travel bucket list.

Since NASA’s space shuttle program ended in 2011, American astronauts head to space from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. 

History of the Baikonur Cosmodrome

While the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan is now known among space enthusiasts as one of the most-used launch sites for sending astronauts, cosmonauts, and supplies to the International Space Station, it has a far more complicated past. During the Cold War era, Soviets used the location for testing a variety of missiles. At the height of the Space Race, Russian cosmonauts used the site in their attempts to land a man on the moon before the American astronauts. 

Since the end of the American space shuttle program in 2011, American astronauts have begun to use Baikonur as their primary launch point, as it is located closer to the equator than any other reasonable option. Although they are no longer able to launch shuttles out of nearby Cape Canaveral, Florida, NASA still communicates with American astronauts aboard Russian Soyuz rockets and the International Space Station from mission control in Houston, Texas.   

Visiting the Baikonur Cosmodrome

While all travelers with valid documents to enter Kazakhstan may visit the city of Baikonur, tourists can only visit the Cosmodrome as part of a guided tour. Many tours need to be booked several months in advance, and they can last for several days. Visitors will be able to see several museums filled with space artifacts, learn about the history of the Russian space program and its recent collaboration with NASA, tour other parts of Baikonur, and possibly even watch a live Soyuz launch.

Careers in Space

Although the American space shuttle program does not exist at this time, Americans may still pursue careers as astronauts with NASA. However, those chosen to travel to space will need to launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, for the foreseeable future.  

Students interested in working as astronauts, at mission control, or in other positions at NASA should take rigorous courses, attend space camps, and prioritize grades as early as possible. Very few prospective astronauts are accepted, virtually all of them go far above and beyond minimum requirements, and many have pilot or military experience. 

Visiting the Baikonur Cosmodrome introduces tourists to the latest in space travel, what lies beyond Earth, and what the future of space travel may hold. 

Movie Making 101

The first films date back to the 1800s and were often just a few seconds to a few minutes long.

With so many inventors and creatives making moving pictures, it is hard to nail down the official first movie ever made but some say it was The Horse In Motion created in 1878 by Eadweard Muybridge.

Movie making has come a long way since then, and with film equipment now more accessible to a wider base, creating movies is easier than ever. These days, anyone can make a movie, but it does take some skill and creativity to make it a good one. 

The Idea

Every creative endeavor begins with a simple idea. A good place to start is with what you already have available. You could film in your home, your place of work (with permission, of course), or out and about in a city. Even if you just want a simple vacation video, a little forethought can go a long way to making it even better. 

If you are ready for an added challenge, try your hand at a scripted film. Sound is often the most difficult aspect of creating a movie for newbies, so a silent film might be the easiest way to go. 

The Filming

Here are three simple rules that will give you an overview of some of the basic principles of filming.

1. Keep it steady.

A tri-pod or steadicam are going to be your best options for keeping your camera steady during filming. If you aren’t able to acquire either of these, do your best to keep your hands steady and your feet planted. Avoid any sudden movements.

2. Mind the light.

Much like with photography, lighting is essential for film. Open shade or an overcast day often creates the easiest light to work with for beginners, whereas evenings and direct sunlight pose challenges, but can be used to great effect in the right hands.

3. Overcompensate.

It’s better to have too much footage than too little, so film longer than you think you need to. Transitions between clips often require a bit of extra time at the beginning and end of a shot so keep it rolling, you can always trim the clips later.

The Editing

If you’re just starting out, your computer’s built-in editing program may be the easiest way to go for editing your film. If you are looking for a little upgrade, there are some inexpensive and even free software options. DaVinci Resolve and HitFilm Express are just two examples of free programs that offer a lot more options than iMovie or Windows Movie Maker, and can really make your movie pop!

If you have a little competitive streak or just want to show your film to a wider audience, you can enter your film into a competition or festival. There are even festivals for movies created exclusively with mobile phones, so get out there and start filming!

Gippsland Lakes Bioluminescence

Located in Victoria, Australia, the Gippsland Lakes are a network of connected inland waterways that stretch over 250 square miles.

The three main lakes in the network are Lake King, Lake Victoria, and Lake Wellington. Everything you could ever want to do on a lake can be done here from fishing and boating, to swimming and kayaking.

However, in 2008 something really spectacular occurred here: a bright blue bioluminescent bloom.

What is Bioluminescence?

Bioluminescence is a quite simply light created naturally in a living organism. Fireflies are an example bioluminescence found on land, however most bioluminescent organisms live in the sea or in brackish water. Bioluminescence can be found primarily in jellies, bacteria, and fish.

Curious travelers can find bioluminescent kayaking and boating tours in areas where bioluminescent algae blooms occur regularly. Kayaking is a great option for seeing bioluminescence because the rowing of the oars activates the algae, surrounding you with a brilliant blue glow. Clear kayaks are especially popular for these experiences for obvious reasons. 

Bioluminescence at Gippsland Lakes

According to the reports of travel blogger and photographer Phil Hart, in the summer of 2008 something peculiar and wonderful occurred at the Gippsland Lakes. Due to a series of events including raging brush fires and extensive flooding, a mix of soil nutrients and an excess of salt water entered the lakes. These additions created just the right conditions for the bloom, or population surge, of Noctiluca scintillans. These organisms emit a blue light that are every photographer’s dream. 

Unfortunately, bioluminescence sightings are unpredictable and the blooms at the Gippsland Lakes are no exception. An updated post by Hart revealed that the blooms had returned in 2013 but to a lesser degree than the previous blooms.

Though the lakes themselves are worth the visit, it would be best to check with local experts before planning your whole trip around a chance at seeing this rare phenomenon.

Visit Your Local City Garbage Dump

Most people don’t give much thought to where the trash goes after it leaves your house.

Paying a visit to your local city garbage dump will give you a fresh perspective, and possibly some buried treasures. 

The History of the Dump

According to the Association of Science-Technology Centers, New Amsterdam (Manhattan) passed a law in 1657 preventing residents from throwing their waste into the streets. Since that point, the question as to what to do with trash has been a real problem. In the 1860s, pigs, rats, and insects roamed the streets of Washington D.C. eating the trash. In 1885, the first garbage incinerator was created, but it wasn’t until 1937 when the Fresno Sanitary Landfill opened that the modern “garbage dump” was born. 

Artistic Materials and More

A major genre in the art world uses discarded materials for works of art. This YouTube video from the NRDCflix channel shows how these artists find their materials at local garbage dumps. It’s amazing what people will throw away, giving true meaning to the phrase “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” While dumpster diving is a beloved past time for people to find treasures before they hit the city dump, the dump itself has many treasures worth quite a bit of money. The Yellowknife city dump in the Northwest Territories of Canada is one of the biggest gold mines for discarded treasure in North America. The amount of furniture, electronics, and other items in fantastic shape at the Yellowknife dump is astounding. Because shipping these materials is so expensive, many people discard them before they move and purchase new items at their new home city. 

Digging on Old Landfills

Visiting the sites of old landfills can also be a worthy endeavor. The Relic Recoverist channel on YouTube showed how exploring old landfill sights can yield some pretty interesting antiques. Taking the time to snoop around those areas will give you lots of opportunities to find valuable items. All you need to get started is an adventurous spirit and a willingness to get a little dirty. 

Visiting Museums On Your Trip

Museums are perfect for learning about the history and culture of a country, region, or city.

Modern museums have evolved from being repositories of dusty collections to state-of-the-art buildings that feature socially significant artifacts. Some museums even provide immersive experiences so you can see a historical event unfold before your eyes.

Travelers and locals alike have been visiting museums since Babylonian times. The oldest surviving museum is the Capitoline complex in Rome. It was established in 1471 and opened to the public in 1734. In the United States, the museum of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia dates back to 1743, making it the oldest museum in the United States.

Meanwhile, the Charleston Museum in South Carolina was established in 1773, the first museum in the Southern United States. It has been open to the public since 1824.

Immerse Yourself in the Treasures of the Big Apple

According to TripAdvisor, the most popular museums in America include New York City’s Metropolitan Museum and the American Museum of Natural History. The 145-year-old Metropolitan (known as “The Met”) features everything from Ancient Egypt’s tombs, mummies, and artifacts to modern art collections. The Costume Institute at The Met showcases 33,000 costumes spanning seven centuries of fashionable clothing. 

Just a bus ride away and still a part of The Met, The Cloisters is devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe. The building incorporates elements of medieval architecture and combines both ecclesiastical and secular spaces in perfect harmony. The exterior of the building looks like a monastery, while the interior boasts a cloister filled with herbs and flowers. Meanwhile, gleaming suits of armor and medieval stained glass windows take us back into the past. The museum overlooks the Hudson River and is a pleasant escape from the city. 

The American Museum of Natural History is perfect for dinosaur lovers. You’ll see a giant T-Rex skeleton above a major hall. However, the museum also displays more than dinosaur bones. Often called “A Field Guide to the Planet,” it shows wildlife from all over the world in dioramas of their native habitats. The Cosmic Pathway is a 360-foot long walk through the 13 billion year history of the universe. Each step along the walk is said to represent millions of years.

Headed to the Windy City?

The Art Institute of Chicago has a wing dedicated to modern and contemporary art, including the works of Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock. The Old Masters are well represented as well as Impressionists like Monet and Van Gogh. The museum is located next to Chicago’s famous Millennium Park. You may enjoy taking a stroll in the park after your time at the museum.

Of Chicago’s many museums, two outstanding ones aren’t featured on the TripAdvisor list. Therefore, you will likely avoid large crowds. The Richard H. Driehaus Museum at 40 East Erie Street is a 1880s mansion that features the art and architecture of the Gilded Age. Furnishings from the period decorate every room in the mansion. Visitors can also venture downstairs to see how the servants lived. The museum has an extensive collection of Tiffany glass covering the glassmaker’s sixty years of artistry. 

The Chicago History Museum at 1601 N. Clark Street shares stories of the Windy City through exhibitions, programs, publications, and digital media. A room of dioramas illustrates the city from its founding through the Great Chicago Fire and beyond. Here, you can find the definitive example of a Chicago hot dog (hold the catsup), climb aboard an L car,  visit a jazz club, window shop long-ago fashions in a Marshall Field’s store window, and learn what makes Chicago one of the world’s greatest cities.

Experience a Museum the New Way

Today, many museums are experiential in nature, where visitors become immersed in the cultural scenes of the era portrayed. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, is one of the first and finest examples of this type of museum. It combines scholarship and showmanship to connect visitors to Abraham Lincoln’s life and times. Interactive exhibits and sound effects give visitors a feeling of immediacy. Meanwhile, a Holavision presentation portrays the ghosts of historical figures interacting with live actors. 

In Memphis, Tennessee, The National Civil Rights Museum4 at 50 Mulberry Street presents a complete picture of slavery from the Triangle Trade through the Civil Rights Movement. You can crouch into the crowded spaces allocated to captured slaves on their ocean journey to America.

You can also visit the church where children were murdered at the height of the Civil Rights protests. Sit at the back of the bus and imagine what Rosa Parks must have felt prior to the Civil Rights era. Perhaps the most significant area is Martin Luther King Jr.’s room at the Lorraine Motel, which looks exactly as it did when he was murdered — right down to plates of half-eaten chicken and overflowing ashtrays.

You’ll see a few cars from the late ’60s in the parking lot outside of the hotel room. Across the street, you can visit the assassin’s room and peer out the window.

Information About Special Exhibits

Special exhibits are often a museum’s greatest draw, so check the museum’s website before your visit. In this way, you’ll get advance notice when a particular artist or era in history is being featured. Before visiting a city or a region, see what museums are nearby. TripAdvisor has insightful information about many locations, and you can also post questions there. Meanwhile, Art Geek is an excellent online resource for museums and historic homes and gardens. You can search by city or state.