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Mishmash Museum

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"Thus ends the Greek artifact/dinosaur/big freakin' diamond exhibit."
Mike J. Nelson, RiffTrax edition of Batman & Robin

TV museums tend to be very badly organized. It is not unusual to find suits of medieval plate armor, Egyptian sarcophagi, stuffed grizzly bears, priceless cut jewels, giant cutaway models of the human body, and Tyrannosaurus skeletons all in the same room... which has, in addition, a few dozen Old Masters hanging on the walls and modern abstract sculpture in the corners. Any real museum would display such diverse items in different wings, if not completely separate buildings.

In general, the less time the characters spend in a museum, the more this trope applies. TV episodes and movies with extended museum sequences are more likely to have exhibits properly categorized, as it is more fun to have the characters racing from wing to wing in order to find what they need to defeat the artifact thieves, magically reanimated dinosaur skeletons, or whatnot.

Note that this trope can have a little basis in reality: the very first museums were created to display whatever odd objects that their patrons owned, so they placed different objects together because they were from the same owner. They were often called "cabinets of curiosities", and their intent was often to show the diversity and oddity of the whole world. There are also still small museums that embrace the mishmash because they don't have enough space or they don't know better. In addition, some museums may appear this way at first but follow a less noticeable theme, such as the history of the museum's location. Examples of these within museums that normally don't follow this could be considered an exhibit design equivelent of a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment. Compare the Museum of the Strange and Unusual, which may be this if it has a lot of strange and unusual things and isn't just, say, the World's Largest Ball of String.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The titular location in Doraemon: Nobita's Secret Gadget Museum. Every single exhibit's placements are completely random and without any proper categorization, save for "Tools" and "Robots". Even then, the latter crams robots of different sizes in a single floor - so you see Humongous Mecha to humanoid droids and toy-sized robots (like the Moodmaker Orchestra and Tin Soldier Squad) side-by-side.
  • The museum in one of the first few episodes of Futari wa Pretty Cure almost avoids this, as it's specifically an art museum with basically just realistic paintings on the walls and a few sculptures. They just couldn't help but throw in a few suits of armor, apparently.
  • Averted in Tokyo Mew Mew, where Ichigo and Masaya's first date is specifically spent in a separate wing of the museum devoted to conservation and endangered animals.
  • Justified in C.M.B., since the curator is a 12 years old cloudcuckoolander and the fact that his "museum" only consisted of one big room.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Night at the Museum:
    • The first movie avoided this, as the layout is based on the actual American Museum of Natural History. (The interiors are a replica in Vancouver, however, because they wouldn't let them shoot it in the actual museum.)
    • It was used a bit in the sequel Battle of the Smithsonian, however, as much of it was set in the interlocking storage basement of the many museums that make up the Smithsonian. Which itself would be Rule of Cool (or convenience) as the real storage and research facilities for the Smithsonian are in Suitland, Maryland (above ground), and there are no connections, underground or otherwise, between the Mall museums. Which only makes sense, given the high water table on the Mall, the existence of the Metro system, the fact that the buildings were all built decades apart, and that one of the Mall museums isn't part of the Smithsonian at all (the National Gallery of Art is an entirely separate institution.)
  • Aversion: The Da Vinci Code was filmed in the real Louvre...albeit a Louvre that a naked 80-year-old man managed to traipse around about half of while bleeding to death in order to rub graffiti behind paintings.
  • In Batman & Robin, the Gotham Museum of Art features exhibits on dinosaurs, diamonds, and Greek vases all in the same room.
  • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Smithsonian's Captain America exhibit is set in the National Air & Space Museum, which is normally exclusively for aviation-related artifacts. Then again, the Museum of American History was undergoing renovation at the time, and the Air and Space Museum is very large, making it good for at least a temporary placement. And it's entirely possible that the flying wing Cap was found in had recently been added to Air & Space's collection, thus justifying an accompanying exhibit about its last pilot.

  • Semi-averted and justified in Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum. The opening museum has all kinds of weird stuff in it, including the device of the title, but it is divided into categories. That these categories are rather arbitrary is, of course, thematic. (The periscope is the glassware section and not the optical instruments section, but surely there's some arcane reason for it...) Also justified by being Truth in Television, as that museum exists in real life.
  • The Separate Collection of the Wyrd Museum is like this, but at least there's a reason.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Seeds of Death", the TARDIS lands in a museum where displays about Yuri Gagarin, Leonardo DaVinci's flying machine, and a futuristic teleporter are all in the same room. On the other hand, this museum was pretty much the work of one person, who probably did have limited funding and space. Though it looks like a mishmash at first, it is explained that it is in fact a single exhibit about the history of transportation — which is what early flying machine designs, the first man in space, and a teleporter have in common that results in them being displayed together.
    • In "Time Heist", Karabraxos' personal vault is a disorganised collection of shiny but slightly kitschy items.
  • The educational science and nature show Eyewitness was set in one that had its walls painted white. At various times, it had a small plane, a car, and skeleton of a T. rex, an ocean, and a prism. Windows, "paintings" and wall depressions featured stock footage, and the museum had live animals running around it. If the intro is to be believed, the arrangement of its walls is also very trippy.
  • In the episode "The Waxman Cometh" on Wings, Lowell purchases a wax museum with an inheritance. After a renovation, Lowell creates a mini "Hall of Presidents", which also includes Ricardo Montalbán.
    Brian: Where's Vice President Tattoo??
  • While not actually a museum, the residence of The Addams Family was deliberately styled this way to help emphasize their strangeness. Highlights from the living room alone include a massive stuffed swordfish (with stuffed human leg sticking out of its mouth) on the walls, a giant stuffed bear in one corner (traded for an Inuit totem pole in the last episode of season 1), a polar bear-skin rug (that roared when stepped on) on the stairs, and a stuffed giant turtle with two heads.

  • Radio 4's The Museum of Curiosity allows guests, often comedians, scientists, or writers, to "donate" exhibits to the eponymous museum. Exhibits donated thus far include: the pineapple, the P-51 Mustang, a book containing every joke ever told, and the Holy grail. Oh, and God, the Big Bang, the concept of privacy, and Spider-Man.
  • Also on Radio 4, The Museum of Everything. Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • In the Doctor Who Expanded Universe audio drama Hornets' Nest: The Dead Shoes, the Cromer Palace of Curios is like this:
    The Doctor: There was a delicious disorder about the place. Fossilised icthyosaurs shared the wall space with oil paintings of long-dead Victorian pets. Dolls' houses sat in cabinets beside the mummified hands of cat-burglars and murderers. Puppets and skeletons, coins and light bulbs, shoes and playbills, all lay higgledy-piggledy and quite undisturbed.

    Video Games 
  • Eyewitness Virtual Reality: The intro video taken from the Eyewitness TV show features the same highly eclectic museum seen there. Downplayed with the explorable in-game museums, which are centered on the specific theme of each game and far less hodgepodge, but which still feature oddities like the Birds museum putting an eagle-topped totem pole and a statue of a bird-headed Egyptian deity in the midst of pictures and displays of flesh-and-blood birds.
  • Averted in Ghostbusters: The Video Game, as the Aztec, Egyptian, and Civil War exhibits are kept separate.
  • Averted partially in Grand Theft Auto IV's Libertonian. The museum's lack of space gives out a mishmash appearance, but a glance of its directory shows that it clumps each of its four exhibits into dedicated segments of the building. It's also under renovation, with many artifacts in waist-high boxes.
  • Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon: While the Treacherous Mansion generally has its museum exhibits delineated in ways that make sense and reference the themes seen in all previous locations, the first floor northwest room based on the Secret Mine has an igloo and a woolly mammoth together apparently only because they're both associated with ice. Justified in-universe: according to Professor E. Gadd, the guy who built the place was rather kooky.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda: The angara museum on Aya. Probably justified since the building is freaking tiny (there's not a lot of real-estate on a planet that's 70% volcanoes), so old artifacts of significance are kept five feet from the Random Pile of Human Rubbish the Initiative supplies as an exhibit on their cultures.
  • Inverted in Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure: In this game, the Louvre, whose insides are much, much bigger than the real thing, contains numerous replicas of the same four sculptures. There is very little of anything else.
  • Soft Museum in NiGHTS into Dreams… is pretty much anything that might be in a museum placed into a pretty large structure, all of which, as the name implies, is soft to the touch. Justified, however, as this exists in a dream world, where things don't have to make sense.
  • Averted in the Splatoon series: Museum d'Alfonsino from the first game is strictly an art museum, and is quite focused on abstract art at that. Shellendorf Institute in Splatoon 2 is a completely separate structure in a different location and is strictly about natural history and the equipment and vehicles used to research it. They're also very different in look and feel: Museum d'Alfonsino has a modern urban look made of concrete, steel, and glass, and has a large courtyard in the center; meanwhile, Shellendorf Institute has a more traditional academic look with the building having Gothic-influenced architecture and built with warm tans and browns.
  • Mostly averted in Animal Crossing: The museum in the games is mostly focused on natural sciences, having an aquarium, a fossil exhibit, and a bug exhibit (in earlier games it had an observatory), but it also has an art exhibit.
  • Can happen in Civilization V and VI if a player has a museum open whose items on display don't have a coherent theme going, for example three separate art paintings that are not created from the same time period or three artifacts that aren't from the same era and different cultures. Averting this situation with artifact swaps or other means to acquire the necessary items means a museum that can get bonus tourism for being able to tell an overall story from all the items under the same roof.

    Web Animation 
  • In Dr. Havoc's Diary's "Black Superhero", we have Cardboard Box Exhibits, Exit Sign Exhibits, and (possibly) Janitor's Closet exhibits...all in the same room (maybe).

    Web Comics 
  • In the world of Gifts of Wandering Ice cave dwellers have a museum on their main island where they keep most of the "ice gifts" which vary from airplanes to dinosaur bones.
  • In Ozy and Millie, when the characters are asked what they learned on a school museum trip, Ozy's answer is that "the museum here has no particularly coherent theme".

    Western Animation 
  • In the first Kim Possible movie, A Sitch in Time, a primitive monkey idol is kept in the same room as an Egyptian sarcophagus and at least one dinosaur skeleton... and a giant fishbowl.
  • Springfield Museum of Natural History from The Simpsons. In the season 17 episode "The Monkey Suit", they have the Women's Weaving Show next to the History of Weapons and an exhibition on Darwin's theories.

    Real Life 
  • Under the terms of Henry Clay Frick's will, his New York mansion was made a museum (the Frick Collection on East 70th Street), but none of the paintings were moved or removed (nor were labels added); thus the works are arranged according to the robber baron's aesthetic sense.
  • The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles, California.
  • The Science Museum of Minnesota has an entire exhibit designed this way on purpose. It contains a traditional Hmong house, an Egyptian mummy, a phrenology machine, a giant dead polar bear, and many prehistoric tools, among other things.
  • The Redpath Museum in Montreal is home to several stuffed animals, fully articulated skeletons of Gorgosaurus and Dromaeosaurus, an Egyptian mummy, a seashell collection, a mineral collection, some trilobite fossils, a samurai suit of armour, a fossil of an aquatic lizard, Chinese shoes made for bound feet, charts showing the dinosaur family tree and the phylogenetic tree of all life on Earth, an anaconda skeleton, a Triceratops skull, a banner made out of human teeth, skeletons of two whales, a sea lion and a turtle and a giant origami pterosaur, all in about two and a half floors of space. In other words, it looks exactly, inside and out, like every natural history museum stereotype ever. It's awesome.note 
  • The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts down the road is a marginal example. In most ways, a fine art museum as the name describes, but also has an extensive collection of archaeological finds and antiquities from around the world. This actually applies to many other art museums around the world, with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the Louvre being the most famous examples.
  • The Pitt Rivers Museum Oxford is a Victorian Anthropology museum with its exhibits grouped by function, so the cases of 'things used as currency' are next to the 'Things used as Armour', the Chinese pigeon whistles are near the Hawaiian feather cloaks, and the whole place is dominated by a totem pole.
  • Ripley's Odditorium located on Hollywood Boulevard of Ripley's Believe It or Not! fame.
  • The Greybull Museum out in Wyoming fits this trope perfectly. it has taxidermied animals, historical artifacts, and fossils scattered all over the museums with no sense of organization whatsoever. A fossilized turtle shell is on the exact opposite side of the section with Coryphodon tusks and belimnite shells, both of which are opposite the corner with the sauropod femurs.
  • Hungarian Count Istvan Szechenyi once commented that the National Museum features his father's portrait between a snake and a crocodile - mainly because that's pretty much how the museum worked back then: mainly halls filled with random stuff, without any logic in how they were arranged.
  • Sir John Soane's Museum in London is another excellent example of the 1800s urge to collect all sorts of anything (medieval objects, large and small sculpture, books, stained glass, Egyptian scarabs, various gems et al.) and then just bequeath your whole house to the city of London to remain a museum in perpetuity. Sir John further distinguished himself by creating a catalogue of his holdings on three separate occasions (1830, 1832 & 1835). Thus, the building and its collection are amongst the best documented in the world. And most importantly: the deal includes leaving all of the objects exactly where Soane placed them when he acquired them.
  • Sometimes happens in special exhibits even when the permanent collections are well-organized; if a patron loans or wills his collection to the museum, it will be displayed together in a "collection of Rich Donor So-and-So" room, rather than separated out by where the art/artifacts came from. Depending on the collector's taste, such exhibits can sometimes be confined to one type of object, but can also be Mishmash Museums.
    • The Art Gallery of Ontario is an example of this: by and large a conventional art museum...until you go down to the basement level and find a donor's collection of ship models.
  • The Walters Art Musum in Baltimore has everything from mummies to suits of armor to Impressionist art.
  • The Royal British Columbia Museum contains everything from fossils and a mammoth to a life-sized replica of 19th century Victoria and John Lennon's Rolls Royce.
  • The Museum of Bad Art can have art of any style in it and can potentially be anywhere in the building. The only thing the art pieces have in common is that they're badly done. This was arguably intentional, as it only makes sense that a museum dedicated to bad art should also have disorganized placement for its artwork.
  • The National Museum of Brazil was one of these, with exhibits on everything from dinosaurs and meteorites to Egyptian mummies and native artworks, before it was tragically destroyed in a fire in September 2018.
  • Lampshaded in the description of one item in the London Transport Museum, a 1950s Ford Transit fish and chip van inexplicably placed right in the middle of an exhibit about the history of rail freight. It makes sense when you realise vehicles like this could only operate in central London thanks to the railway network bringing in frozen fish from seaports on the coast.