Thursday, August 29, 2013

Austin, Minnesota: Spam Museum

Just mention that you've been to the Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota, and you get the same reaction from most people - a giggle.

Spam - the name was thought up as something of a contraction of spiced ham - is a soft meat-like product known mostly because it doesn't spoil. It was introudced in 1936, and first became popular as war rations in World War II. Millions and millions of cans have been sold over the years. (Production now tops out at 44,000 cans per hour.)

Museums are associated with items worthy of deep historical study, so it almost seems like a contradiction in terms to have a Spam Museum. But here it is. Since Hormel Foods is based in Austin, this is the logical place for it, and it's become the town's top tourist attraction after its opening in 1991.

And deservedly so. The museum is put together with a great sense of fun. Visitors are greeted with a great wall of spam cans and a video on the food. Then there's a self-guided tour that shows how spam is made, how it is used, its history, marketing, etc. Along the way, people serve samples - excuse me, "spamples" - of the various types of spam. I had the turkey.

Like any good museum, there's a gift shop at the end of the tour. It's a big one - filled with Spam-related products. T-shirts? Key chains? Post cards? Bowling shirts? Toques? Cookbooks? They got 'em. I heard about someone who spent $180 there on a recent visit.

It's not easy to be a fun company when you are killing almost 20,000 hogs per day just down the street. Hormel has pulled it off nicely.

Here's a video on the place:


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