Tuesday, January 18, 2022

10 South Florida Museums Worth Visiting

From the magazine: Expand your horizons and visit these 10 niche museums of South Florida

Did you know South Florida has its own museum of antique electrical technology—the kind that can literally make your hairs stand on end? Neither did we. It’s one of 10 under-the-radar museums across the tri-county area, places smaller than the Norton or the Flagler or the Science Museum but worth your time nonetheless.

MUSEUM OF POLO & HALL OF FAME

As an international capital of equestrian sports, it’s only fitting the world’s sole museum dedicated to polo would reside in the Palm Beaches. Art, historic trophies, artifacts, books, videos, recordings and memorabilia are included in its deep repository, and exhibits include Women in Polo, Best Playing Ponies and the Mallet, which traces the history of the tool “from its birth as a sprig of bamboo to a finished mallet worthy of a 10-goaler.” 9011 Lake Worth Road, Lake Worth Beach, 561/969-3210, polomuseum.com

FOGELMAN SPORTS HISTORY MUSEUM

This hidden gem tucked inside FAU’s Schmidt Family Complex for Academic and Athletic Excellence contains more than 1,200 pieces of sports memorabilia. The personal collection of former Kansas City Royals owner and Boca resident Avron B. Fogelman, the museum’s priceless library includes uniforms worn by Roger Maris, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth; a football signed by the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins; and James Naismith’s original 13 rules of basketball. 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton, fau.edu/artsandletters/fogelman-sports-museum

Antiquities at the Electro Mechanical Museum

ELECTRO MECHANICAL MUSEUM

If you get a charge out of early electric technology, this is the museum for you. From its confines inside the private business RGF Environmental Group, the Electro Mechanical Museum houses historian and curator Jeff Behary’s collection of more than 640 pieces of rare antiquities dating back to the 1700s—miracles of glass, wood and leather designed by, among others, George Westinghouse, Nikola Tesla and Benjamin Franklin. Some are even interactive: Touch the Toepler-Holtz static electric generator and watch what it does to your hair. 1101 W. 13th St., Riviera Beach, 561/267-2679, rgf.com/electro-museum

WORLD EROTIC ART MUSEUM

You won’t find a towering golden phallus at just any museum. That sort of risqué artistic expression is the domain of this longtime home of erotic art, founded by renowned collector Naomi Wilzig as a home for her comprehensive collection. The WEAM has hosted landmark exhibitions in its 16 years on South Beach, and includes work by artists ranging from Rembrandt to Dali to Bunny Yeager. The sprawling space is divided into sections such as Pin Up, Lady Godiva, Humor and Folk Art. 1205 Washington Ave., Miami Beach, 305/532-9336, weam.com

INTERNATIONAL SWIMMING HALL OF FAME MUSEUM

Johnny Weissmuller, Olympic swimmer as well as vine-swinging Tarzan, spoke at the inauguration ceremony of this swimmer’s mecca in 1965, telling attendees “It is here where I will keep my swimming memorabilia [and] tell stories of my days in swimming.” More than 50 years later, the two-story wave-shaped building features more than 40 exhibits and, reportedly, the world’s largest collection of aquatic memorabilia, including the starting block Mark Spitz used to win six of his gold medals. 1 Hall of Fame Drive, Fort Lauderdale, 954/462-6536, ishof.org

STONEWALL NATIONAL MUSEUM AND ARCHIVES

Though not technically affiliated with the Stonewall Riots—the 1969 Greenwich Village demonstrations that kicked off the modern gay-rights movement—this community space in Fort Lauderdale carries on its proud spirit. It houses the largest LGBTQ lending library in the United States, with some 28,000 books, CDs and DVDs, and its year-round exhibition schedule continues to illuminate the experience of LGBTQ individuals. 1300 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954/763-8565, stonewallmuseum.org

A protest jacket at the Stonewall National Museum

NAVAL AIR STATION FORT LAUDERDALE MUSEUM

The paranormal legend of the Bermuda Triangle owes much of its mystery to Flight 19, which departed Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale in 1945, only to disappear over that star-crossed region of the North Atlantic. This museum pays tribute to that flight and its station (where George H.W. Bush served as an ensign) with a historic flight simulator, re-created soldiers’ barracks, ship and aircraft models, a “Broward Goes to War” exhibit and more.

4000 W. Perimeter Road, Fort Lauderdale, 954/359-4400, nasflmuseum.com

A FEW MORE

WINGS OVER MIAMI AIR MUSEUM

This classic aircraft museum contains South Florida’s only Grumman F-14 Tomcat—the nonhuman star of “Top Gun.” 14710 S.W. 128th St., Miami, 305/233-5197

SALLY BENNETT BIG BAND HALL OF FAME MUSEUM

Here visitors can admire items such as a drum from Buddy Rich and a cap from Count Basie. 9067 Southern Blvd., West Palm Beach, 561/793-0333

SOUTH FLORIDA RAILWAY MUSEUM

Who can resist working model-train layouts? 1300 W. Hillsboro Blvd., Deerfield Beach, sfrm.org

This story is from the January 2022 issue of Boca magazine. For more like this, click here to subscribe to the magazine.

John Thomason
As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

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