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The Miracle of America Museum: a hidden gem

by | Destinations, USA | 36 comments

Rusty, dusty and full to the brim, the Miracle of America Museum is an Aladdin’s Cave for anyone who loves history in the raw – or exploring junk shops ( – which I do!). Please do not misunderstand though: this is not junk ( – okay, well some of it is); there is real treasure here and an abundance of  truly iconic artifacts. The museum is bursting at the seams with “stuff”, much of which sparks a memory because it is familiar from an everyday life not too far away and some of which makes you stare agog simply because it is there.

Big Boy's Tonka Toy outside Miracle of America Museum

Big Boy’s Tonka Toy stationed right outside The Miracle of America Museum

We had never heard of The Miracle of America Museum until we came across it purely by accident. We happened to be driving through Polson to Flathead Lake and saw it: a building with an ancient aeroplane on the roof and what looked like an old helicopter in the yard.  Intrigued,  we went back the following day to check it out. What a hidden gem it turned out to be!

Entry to The Miracle of America Museum

Visitors are greeted by these two statues on the way in!

The Founder

The founder of The Miracle of America Museum (MOAM) is Gil Mangels. Legend has it that he started collecting when he was 3 and, probably in his 70s now, hasn’t stopped since.

Photo of me with founder of the Miracle of America Museum

Gil Mangels, founder of The Miracle of America Museum was working in the museum grounds and stopped for a chat

But what do you do when your collection grows out of hand and is so eclectic that you cannot define it? You start a museum of course! This is exactly what Gil did in 1985. It was his passion and his hobby which  resulted in this wonderful, quirky museum. People across the area found an outlet for their own treasures and donated to the museum. I doubt if Gil has ever turned anything down.

The Miracle of America Museum: the main exhibition hall

We went inside and were greeted by a friendly lady who gave us a map and advised us about the best way to tour the museum. The entry fee was $10 and believe me, this is $10 well spent. In the main building there are four rooms, vaguely divided into themes such as military, home, bicycles, motorcycles, music, toys…..but don’t be surprised if you see a pair of roller skates from the 1960s  in a display case with guns! There are two working pianolas which will burst into life and fill the hall with music when a quarter is inserted.  Many of the notices are hand written and somewhat faded, but there are some really quirky and unusual pieces on display.

Old wicker sidecar for motorbike

Would you go in this sidecar?

 

Ancient perming machine

How about being plugged into this perming machine?

 

Lots of motorbikes on display

So many motorcycles!

A 1950s style diner

A fully kitted out 1950s diner

 

The Miracle of America Museum: the external exhibits

Outside there are more treasures. Some live outside in the elements permanently; others are housed in various shacks and shelters which have been donated over the years. In one of these sheds, which is entitled “Fridges and Freezers”, there are scores of washing machines, specimens from every decade of the Twentieth Century.

Washing machines

A dolly tub and a mangle

Washing machines in the Miracle of America Museum

Washing machines galore

And if anyone is thinking about a PhD thesis on the history of the vacuum cleaner, look no further: there are hundreds here!

Vacuum cleaner collection in The Miracle of America Museum

Vacuums of every shape and size are here

Cookers in MOAM

Cookers, stoves and every kind of kitchen gadget

In another shelter, the theme is broadly photography, cinematography and printing – although there is also a telephone booth from the last century and an ancient switchboard in the mix. There are so many old cameras of every description here that it would have been possible to set up shop and clearly, when the local cinema closed or was updated, the equipment was too precious to trash. What do you do with it? Send it to the Museum of course!

Cameras

Just a few of the hundreds of cameras on display

Typewriters and other gadgets

Typewriters and other printing paraphernalia

There are exhibits on forestry and farming and a whole warehouse full of snow mobiles. What about chains saws? Yes, rows of them! If cars are your thing, there are plenty here of all different flavours. Other forms of transport? Helicopters, aeroplanes, motorbikes, tanks, trains, tractors, fairground rides, lawn mowers, boats…..they are all here.

Snow Mobiles on display in the Miracle of America Museum

Snow Mobiles – and every other kind of snow going vehicle you can imagine

Snow vehicles

More snow vehicles

Chain saws and forestry equipment

Chain saws and other forestry equipment

Outboard motors

Outboard motor anyone?

Cars

All different kinds of cars can be found in MOAM

Cars on display

Old quirky vehicles

Not quite sure what they are, but I do know I don’t want a go in one!

Old police car

Hand-me-down police car and motorcycle from Polson PD

Military vehicles

Tanks, jeeps and all manner of military hardware….

Bombs on the ground

Including a few bombs!

Front of Phantom plane at the Miracle of America Museum

The front end of a Phantom F4  is among various bits of aeroplane lying around. And that is an A7 Corssair in the background (apparently!)

Small white plane

A Cessna Skymaster (well, bits of it…)

Old helicopter

And a helicopter

Old planes on the roof

If short on parking space for your flying machine, just leave it on the roof!

Other shelters house a school room, a barber’s shop, a dentist, a gunsmith, a blacksmith….Each is filled with the appropriate equipment and paraphernalia that you would have expected to find at the point when the particular outlet functioned.

Inside of a dentist surgery

The dental surgery

X-ray machine

An early dental x-ray machine

There is a hut full of electrical components and a ton of military stuff: uniforms, tanks, jeeps,  everything from a Corsair jet bomber to stone arrowheads, Winchester rifles to a blunderbuss.

Display with guns etc

And some early machine guns (Puckle gun and Gatling gun)

Bizarrely, there is a UFO display featuring an “alien autopsy”. There are also several sculptures dotted around which I assume have been fashioned from “left overs”. As I said, nothing is discarded here.

Space ship models

Flying saucers and spaceships!

Should you visit The Miracle of America Museum?

We spent two and a half hours wandering around The Miracle of America Museum and barely scratched the surface. Sometimes, because of the layout, we had to backtrack through an area we had already explored. It did not matter though: there was always something else to see that we had missed the first time round. And frankly, it was fascinating! It was the best ten bucks we have spent in a while and if you are anywhere near Flathead Lake and Polson, it is definitely worth checking out this hidden gem. But do not expect a neat, polished, curated display. The Miracle of America Museum is a symbol of America itself: a veritable melting pot. Everything, absolutely everything, is in there, all rubbing up together.

You can find directions to the museum here

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36 Comments

  1. I still remember being subjected to a dental surgery like that one, complete with the spitoon. This one still looks functional – I wonder why they donated it…

    Reply
    • I know. The stuff of nightmares for me! I suppose they bring out new versions and the old ones are obsolete.Might as well put them in a museum!

      Reply
  2. I love finding those little offbeat gems like this place. So many cool things. I love the flying saucers!!

    Reply
    • Yes, there are some really bizarre things there!

      Reply
  3. Oh my. That perming machine looks terrifying. The whole place looks so interesting, looking at how things, objects, have evolved over the years. Would be interested to visit one day.

    Reply
    • I can really recommend it. There are some really quirky things in there.

      Reply
  4. A real hidden gem.. hadn’t heard of this place Jane thx for sharing ..That perm machine is epic???? I love exploring places like these !!
    Zee

    Reply
    • Thanks Zee. We came across it by chance and loved it.

      Reply
  5. This is a hidden gem. The collection that has been built up is quite the credit to its owner, its amazing how he could gather so much. Ok I understand its taken a lifetime, but everything is so diverse. That perm machine was great, looks like it would give you electro shock treatment. Great find Jane.

    Reply
    • I cannot imagine allowing myself to be plugged into that contraption. They were brave souls in those days!Thank you for reading, John.

      Reply
  6. This is fantastic!! I love weird places like this haha. Looks like you can find pretty much anything in there!

    Reply
    • Anything any more! There are some really bizarre things in there.

      Reply
  7. Wow! That is a huge collection. A life time of passion.
    So great he is sharing it with the world through the museum.
    Love the photos, feels like we have had a small tour. Cheers.

    Reply
    • Thank you Oli. It was a joy to visit – and to be able to share!

      Reply
  8. Will be in Helena, Mt in 3.5 hours. This museum is just 3 hours from where we will be staying,n

    Reply
  9. I love it how some people’s collecting madness unearths a treasure trove of memories. Some people would see this type of collection as a junkyard but it’s very representative of America’s post-war history. I’m a little confused as to where this interesting museum is, it’s not clear in your post.

    Reply
    • Hi Delphine. It’s in Polson near Flathead Lake in Montana. It is mentioned in the second paragraph and then again (with links) at the end.

      Reply
  10. The Miracle of America Museum looks so fascinating. I can relate to your finding his gem of a place by accident. Have experienced similar incidents too and that is the serendipity of travel in action. The Museum seems to be one man’s labour of love. And what a huge and interesting collection he has amassed.

    Reply
    • A labour of love indeed.

      Reply
  11. This museum is a true treasure! The array of items and the length of time covered here are really impressive. Just crazy! That dental machine though – gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

    Reply
    • I’m with you there Patricia. Looks like an instrument of torture!

      Reply
  12. Oh my! How fun that you just happened to pass by this place! I would have stopped too as I love visiting places like this. So cool that the owner has been collecting since he was 3 years old. I can’t stop thinking about that old school perm machine. It looks crazy!

    Reply
    • I know. The things women used to put themselves through!

      Reply
  13. The Miracle of America Museum looks like such a quirky attraction. A truly one of a kind hidden gem. I love sorting through “junk” too and all the photos really signify how diverse and weird the collection is. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Reply
  14. Ahhh, I had never heard of the The Miracle of America Museum! I love finding hidden gems, especially in the U.S. This place looks awesome, my husband would especially love it!

    Reply
    • Mine certainly did!

      Reply
  15. The Miracle of America Museum is truly a gem as it has so many rustic items. I love junk and antique rustic stuff and so I am sold for this place. Thanks for sharing it.

    Reply
  16. A hidden gem is right, Jane! The Miracle of America Museum is just so darn cool! I would absolutely LOVE this place. One of my uncles had a good start going on such a museum 😉

    Reply
    • Thanks Cynthia. I think I could have a good go at starting one of these myself!

      Reply
  17. What an incredible find! Stumbling upon something like this is such luck, but it reminds us how things were done before guidebooks and the internet… you just wandered into places that caught your eye! Love the pictures, Jane. Especially the one with the owner 🙂

    Reply
    • Yes, it is quite refreshing to have an old-fashioned voyage of discovery sometimes!Thank you for reading Lynn.

      Reply
  18. What a collection! You find the most amazing places to explore. I am so glad to be back and catching up on reading about your amazing travels.

    Reply
    • Helloooo! Lovely to hear from you. Wondered where you were. Welcome back! I’ll try to catch you on Twitter.

      Reply
  19. I love finding little places like this! I can’t believe all the airplanes and helicopters there. Incredible that he’s collected so much stuff. My husband would be able to spend all day here I think haha.

    Reply
    • Peter loved it, looking at all these bits of machinery from way back!

      Reply
  20. What a quirky place! My husband would love to visit. That 50s diner was super cool!

    Reply

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Hello

Hello!  I’m Jane. I live in the Lake District in the north of England with my husband, Peter. We love to travel, but this is a great place to call home.

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