The Spam — Not the Computer Variety — Museum

Julie Royce's picture
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Somehow, somewhere, at sometime, my husband, Bob, heard about the Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota. He came by this knowledge so long ago that he no longer remembers the exact source. He believes it was a 60 Minutes story, but I can find no evidence that Steve Kroft, Morley Safer, Lesley Stahl or Scott Pelley investigated this quirky tourist attraction.

Monty Python, however, did some funny parodies of Spam. Here's one:

For years, when we discuss vacations, my husband has said, “I think this is the year I’ll take you to the Spam Museum.”

The Spam Museum

The Spam Museum

For an equal number of years, I’ve replied, “Great. When we get home I can tell our friends that we went to the Spam Museum. When they give me pitying looks, I can blame it on you.” It became our running joke. We may be the only travelers who ever put it on our bucket list. This year, on a cross country trip from Michigan to California, we realized our dream.

Bob was raised on Spam. I, on the other hand, am not a fan of the pork delicacy. I don’t eat anything mottled pink with a gelatinous coating. I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted Spam. If I have, it was too long ago to remember, or it was so well-hidden in other ingredients I didn’t recognize it. Still, I had to admit, a Spam Museum was an outrageously funny idea.

Love Story or Not, a Fun Film Prepares Visitors for the Museum

Love Story or Not, a Fun Film Prepares Visitors for the Museum

A Lard Wagon; Spam Museum

A Lard Wagon

It was obvious from our first steps inside that the employees of Spam (Hormel) love their jobs and have tremendous respect for the company.

SPAM - A Family Grown Business

SPAM - A Family Grown Business

Spam Through the Decades

Spam Through the Decades

We were greeted by Spambassadors, mid-Westerners who couldn’t contain their pride in the business. A mascot named Spammy suggested the company didn’t take itself too seriously. The museum was history seasoned with lightheartedness. Consider the first paragraph of their website:

“Few experiences in life are as meaningful and meaty-filled as those you'll have at the magnificent SPAM® Museum. Referred to by some meat historians as The Guggenham, Porkopolis or M.O.M.A. (Museum Of Meat-Themed Awesomeness), the SPAM® Museum is home to the world's most comprehensive collection of spiced pork artifacts.”

My goal was to find out what went into SPAM. I believed it was a concoction of things too weird to comprehend. To my surprise, the list of ingredients was short and unintimidating: pork shoulder, ham, spices, sugar and preservatives. I developed a newfound respect for Spam.

 Overhead Conveyor of Spam

 Overhead Conveyor of Spam

The blue tins of canned meat became famous during WWII when it was a staple of army rations, and stuffed in every backpack.
Spam is available in 41 countries. In Australia they barbeque it. Hawaiians chunk it along with pineapple to make kabobs, and they also use it for sushi. Citizens of Guam can’t seem to get enough Spam. Brits make it into fritters and Koreans use it for Kimchi. Edging up to its 100th birthday, Spam may be more popular today than ever before in its long history.

Bob Trying His Skill at Packaging Spam

Bob Trying His Skill at Packaging Spam

The smiling faces of the kids racing through the museum demonstrated their appreciation for the non-stuffy, interactive challenges.

Bob Trying on the Steel Mesh Safety Gloves. Spam Museum

Bob Trying on the Steel Mesh Safety Gloves

Spam isn’t Hormel's only product. One exhibit was set up like a grocery store; its shelves stocked with company specialties. There was Spam of course, but also frozen foods, olive oil and a variety of other foodstuff.

Spam Museum - Grocery Store Exhibit

Spam Museum - Grocery Store Exhibit

And Yes, There Will Be a Test at the End!

And Yes, There Will Be a Test at the End!

I still haven’t eaten Spam, but I can unflinchingly recommend a visit to the Spam Museum.

 

The Museum is free and located at 1101 N. Main Street, Austin, Minnesota.

Hours: Monday to Saturday 10-5 and Sunday 12-5. Closed major holidays.

 

 

 

Julie Albrecht Royce, Travel Adventures Editor, is the author of Traveling Michigan's Sunset Coast and Traveling Michigan's Thumb, both published by Thunder Bay Press. 

 

 

Log on to www.jkroyce.com/blog to follow along.

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Julie and Bob Royce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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