International Banana Museum
International Banana Museum (40260472904).jpg
Museum interior, July 2017
Established1976; 46 years ago (1976)
LocationMecca, California
Coordinates33°31′42″N 115°56′36″W / 33.528350°N 115.943433°W / 33.528350; -115.943433Coordinates: 33°31′42″N 115°56′36″W / 33.528350°N 115.943433°W / 33.528350; -115.943433
CuratorFred Garbutt
Websiteinternationalbananamuseum.com
Ken Bannister with his banana collection in 1976
Ken Bannister with his banana collection in 1976

The International Banana Museum is a museum located in Mecca, California, dedicated to the banana.[1] The one-room museum contains more than 20,000 items related to bananas.[1][2] In 1999, the museum set a Guinness World Record as the largest museum devoted to a single fruit.

History

The museum was conceived by Ken Bannister, who founded it in 1976.[1] In 1972, Bannister was a president of a photographic equipment manufacturing company, and at a manufacturers' conference, he handed out thousands of Chiquita banana stickers.[1][3][4] His joke was that since the banana was shaped like a smile, it might encourage people to do so.[1]

Encouraged by the positive response, Bannister created the International Banana Club and was designated as the "Top Banana".[1] He started receiving banana-related items in the mail, but began to run out of room for all of them.[3][4] The International Banana Club and Museum subsequently began to operate in Altadena in a rented building.[1][3][4][5]

The Banana Club would eventually grow to 35,000 members in 17 different countries.[3] Donating a banana-related item to the museum would enable one to join the Banana Club, with a nickname and ability to earn "banana merit points", and obtain a degree in "Bananistry".[2] President Ronald Reagan was a member of the club.[1][2]

In 2005, Bannister relocated the museum to a rent-free city-owned space in Hesperia.[3][5] However, in 2010, the Hesperia Recreation and Park District wanted the museum to move out to make room for a new exhibit.[5] Bannister placed the entire collection on eBay for $45,000.[3][5] Eventually he had to lower the price to $7,500.[3] In 2010, Fred Garbutt bought the collection for an undisclosed amount, moving it to Mecca and becoming the new curator; it was reported that Bannister had agreed to a purchase price below $7,500.[1][4]

Description

In 1999, the museum won a Guinness World Record as the largest museum devoted to a single fruit. At the time, it held a collection of 17,000 items.[2][3][5][6][7]

The collection includes "banana phones, clocks, coloring books, toys, record players, costumes, golf clubs, stuffed animals, and ... ceiling fans".[2] Kitschy items include a "banana couch, banana soda, gold-plated banana, banana boogie board, and banana ears".[4] The museum houses the only petrified banana in the world, which came from the closet of a girl in Kentucky.[1][5] The museum is family-friendly, despite a history of people sending in lewd objects.[1][3][4]

There is also a Banana Bar that serves banana-related food and drinks.[1][6]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Tibballs, G. (2016). The World's 100 Weirdest Museums: From the Moist Towelette Museum in Michigan to the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb. Little, Brown Book Group. p. 186. ISBN 978-1-4721-3696-1.
  2. ^ a b c d e Seeley, M.H. (2016). America's Oddest Museums. Weird America. Gareth Stevens Publishing LLLP. p. 12. ISBN 978-1-4824-5762-9.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Pilon, Mary (2010-03-23). "In California, the Banana Museum Has Lost Its Appeal". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2019-03-24.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Kelly, David (2010-06-10). "Bunches of banana stuff to occupy new museum". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2019-03-24.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "World's Largest Banana Museum Forced To Split". NPR.org. 2010-03-31. Retrieved 2019-03-24.
  6. ^ a b Lonely Planet Experience USA. Travel Guide. Lonely Planet Global Limited. 2018. p. 49. ISBN 978-1-78701-963-8.
  7. ^ "Largest collection of banana-related memorabilia". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 2019-03-24.