A cloudy sunrise in the Italian Dolomites (Pepe50)

The world's 10 most adventurous museums

21st September 2010

Scaling above the clouds over the Dolomites, braving the cold in South Georgia… who said museums were dull? Lucy McGuire finds the world's extreme exhibitions

Lucy McGuire

1. Museum in the Clouds, Dolomites, Italy

Over 2000 metres above sea level, the Dolomites' Museum in the Clouds is an ambitious exercise in mountaineering and unique landscape art.

Part of the ongoing Messner Mountain Museum project, the site exhibits paintings and sculptures of the Dolomite range. All collections are from the private memorabilia of pioneering climber Reinhold Messner – and are a celebration of the thrills and challenges that adventurers face on the range.

Three other Messner museums can be found in Bolzano, Juval Castle and South Tyrol's highest peak – with a fifth opening later this year in the village of Bruncio. 

www.messner-mountain-museum.it

(German/Italian only)

2. Museo Subaquático de Arte, Moilinere Bay, Grenada

The clue's in the name: entry to Museo Subaquático de Arte requires a wetsuit...and a full air tank.

Art knows no boundaries for British sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor – his exhibition of 65 lifesize sculptures lies in the Caribbean Sea, accessible only by boat from mainland Grenada.

Visitors must scuba dive to the site, which lies up to 25 metres below sea level. It's hoped that the installation will encourage marine life to develop, and encourage travellers to reflect upon their impact on the coast.

Taylor's work continues with 'Silent Evolution', a set of 400 sculptures off the coast of Mexico.

www.underwatersculpture.com


3. Chichu Art Museum, Naoshima, Japan

Japan's Chichu Art Museum is worth visiting for its adventurous architecture alone: its entire collection is exhibited below ground.

Dubbed the 'art museum in the earth', the venue displays artwork by the likes of Claude Monet, Walter De Maria and James Turrell – and is lit only by strategic pools of natural light.

A 400 sq metre Chichu garden has been planted above ground, and it's hoped that the overall experience will encourage visitors to explore man's relationship with nature.

Access the island museum by ferry from Japan's Okayama region or the island of Shikoku

www.benesse-artsite.jp

4. South Georgia Museum, Grytviken, South Georgia

Perched on the lonely South Georgia island in the Southern Atlantic Ocean, this former whaling manager's house holds authentic whaling artefacts, bones, and tales from the island's maritime history.

South Georgia is known for its resilient wildlife, and is a favourite stop-off for many intrepid birdwatchers. Expedition cruise ships heading to Antarctica often drop in before venturing into the Southern Ocean, but it's unlikely that there'll be a queue at reception.

www.sgmuseum.gs/mediawiki/index.php/South_Georgia_Museum

5. George Waterston Memorial Centre and Museum, Fair Isle, Shetland

For an intrepid museum trip a little closer to home, head to Fair Isle's George Waterston Memorial Centre – accessible only by light plane or mail boat.

The museum pays homage to the late Director of the RSPB, George Waterston, and celebrates the island's diverse birdlife – and love of woolly jumpers. Fair Isle knitwear has been à la mode on the island since the early 1900s, so look out for some particularly bobbly items among the natural history collections.

Hop onto the local mail boat for two and a half hours or charter a small plane from Shetland or Orkney, but phone ahead to warn of your arrival – impromptu visits are off the agenda!

www.shetlandheritageassociation.com



6. Villa Whitaker Museum, Mozia, Stagnone Islands, Sicily

Wine lovers will go to the ends of the earth for a tasty drop of plonk, so a short hop across the Mediterranean Sea is no match for travellers with a taste for the good stuff.

The tiny island of Mozia, just off the coast of Sicily, is the home of the 19th century villa of Giuseppe Whitaker, a celebrated Marsala wine-maker.

Decorated in Renaissance style, the house features a valuable collection of paintings, tapestries and furniture, with frescoes by Ettore De Maria Bergler and an impressive garden designed by Emilio Kunzmann.

Regular ferries run from Marsala to Mozia.

7. Pitcairn Island Museum, Pitcairn Island, South Pacific

A visit to Pitcairn Island, a volcanic outcrop stranded in the South Pacific between New Zealand and South America, is not for the faint-hearted.

It's a 30-hour, $4,000 boat trip from the island of Mangareva in the French Polynesian Gambier Islands, but should you find yourself there on a wet afternoon, be sure to pay the island's museum a visit.

You'll find Polynesian artefacts and relics from the wreck of the Bounty seafarers, and probably encounter most of Pitcairn's residents – the descendants of the Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian 'companions'. A recent headcount reported a population of just 50.

www.visitpitcairn.pn

8. Aksum, Ethiopia

Yes, it's a city, but Aksum is also a Unesco World Heritage Site – and it boasts such vast archaeological sites that it may as well be a museum in its own right.

Located on the northern tip of Ethiopia, visitors need an intrepid spirit just to make it to Aksum, but the sheer amount of relics and ruins demand stamina and a sense of adventure to boot.

From stelae monoliths and ancient Aksumite tombs to the supposed home of the Ark of the Covenant (in the closely guarded St Mary of Zion chapel), the city is steeped in ancient legends and is a site of pilgrimage for Christians the world over.

Marvel at the baffling architecture of the field tombs, explore the Tomb of the False Door, and wonder if the Queen of Sheba ever really did bathe in the Mai Shum 'bath'.

9. Angkor Borei Museum, Takeo Province, Cambodia

You may have to check the weather conditions before visiting the Angkor Borei Museum – during the wet season, it can only be reached by boat.

Hosting a collection of artefacts from Cambodia's Neolithic residents, the museum showcases artefacts that have been unearthed on archaeological digs throughout the town – some of which date back over 2,500 years.

During the wet season boats will also drop you at the temple ruins on the nearby hill of Phnom Da – but if it's dry, you'll have to get your hiking shoes on.

www.tourismcambodia.com

10. National Museum of Cinema, Turin, Italy

At 167 metres tall, the adventure at this museum starts from the front door – when you take a glass elevator up through the collection.

Housed in the majestic Mole Antonelliana, a former synagogue, the National Museum of Cinema boasts one of the largest installations of movie memorabilia. The pieces are displayed in the lower levels of the building, but a glass lift rises to 85 metres for a full panoramic view of the city's skyline – perfect for film buffs with a head for heights.

www.museonazionaledelcinema.it

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