When I think of a museum, I usually think of large flowing landscapes, giant replicas of extinct species, airplanes or artifacts. I think of stark white rooms, bright marble hallways, large arching ceilings and glass enclosed cases. I don’t usually think of a glowing projection of John Lennon on a bathroom floor. But, that’s the kind of thing you get at the O Museum, in Washington, DC, if you go into the John Lennon themed room.
The O Museum is best described as an antique store on steroids. I can honestly say that I’ve never been to any place like it before. It isn’t even really a museum, it’s an experience. Oh (no pun intended), it’s also a hotel and music venue.
First you walk up to a normal looking series of townhouses and through a large brown door. After buzzing the bell, you walk through a small entryway and into a large, ornate room for a brief introduction and tutorial. Here, a guide informs you that the museum is five townhouses long and 4 levels high and has over 70 secret passages. They’re so well hidden, they say finding even two or three means you’re above average.
The museum feels a little like you’ve stepped outside the space-time continuum and into a space where every place and time period has converged and left a little piece of itself behind. It’s sort of like the house of an immortal collector.
You walk through a doorway framed with a set of lips into a a room filled with American History, including a portrait of Frederick Douglass and a poster calling for the murder of President Lincoln, where there is also a kissing booth.
Rosa Parks also once lived in the house and they’ve preserved her room. You can even stay in it. In fact, you can stay in any of the bedrooms in the house because the museum is also a hotel.
There is so much to see it’s nearly impossible absorb it all in one visit, especially since you’re also constantly trying to find some sort of a hidden passageway. It all feels very random and somehow also randomly cohesive. Each room has a theme, even if that theme is somehow loosely connected. The little ventriloquist doll seemed appropriate in the same room as a Jukebox shaped like a Yellow Submarine and a billiard table topped by an enormous, golden chandelier.
The museum isn’t all random, oddness. It also has sweet, quiet moments to stop and reflect, such as this.
While other rooms are filled with richness and glamour, like this.
It’s also filled with music. Music pumps through the rooms. There are signed guitars from famous musicians, like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, among many others.
And did I mention the books? Stacks and stacks of them in every room. Bookshelves piled high to the ceilings. So many books. I want to go back and spend a visit just looking at all the books.
Of course my book, The Travelers, came along for the visit.
At the end of our visit, we were all exhausted, in a good way.
I can’t wait to go back again because I know that there is so much I missed. I can’t wait to discover it. Plus, between the 5 of us who went on this excursion, we only found 5 secret passageways. I’ve got 65 more to find!