Welcome to Austin, MN and the home of the SPAM Museum. As stated on my Midwest Adventures blog post, we had been in Des Moines, IA for their State Fair and headed north toward Minneapolis the next morning. We were looking forward to touring Target Field as well as the Minneapolis State Capitil in St. Paul. On our way north we stoppied in Austin, a cute little town just a few files off I-35, to visit the SPAM Museum. We had no idea what to expect, and were happily surprised.
Before I share our visit to the SPAM Museum, I want to share a little bit about its history. Spam is a type of salty processed canned pork and ham made by Hormel Foods Corporation. It was first introduced in 1937 and gained popularity worldwide after its use during World War II. Since then it has been in 41 countries on 6 continents. Here in the US, Hawaii is the state with the largest per capita consumption of the product. It is even sold is such fast food restaurants as McDonalds and Burger King. Crazy, but they love it out there. They even make Spam musubi which Gene had a couple times on our last visit to Oahu. Today it is available in many different flavors, as well as lite and lower sodium versions.
When Spam was first introduced on July 5, 1937, it was intended to increase the sale of pork shoulder which was a cut of meat which did not sell well. However, the product sold very well, and during World War II it became a standard part of a soldiers’ diet. Due to its long shelf life and low cost, Spam became a staple not only in the US, but across the globe. As I said earlier, it is now available in 41 countries on 6 continents.
The first SPAM Museum was opened in September, 2001 in a 16,500 foot space building. It included a theater, historical displays, family activities and games, and a gift shop. The lobby of the museum featured a wall of Spam with more than 3,300 Spam cans and, for many years, the theatre showed a short film entitled “SPAM: A Love Story.” In September of 2014 the museum temporarily closed to move to its new downtown location.
On April 22, 2016 the new SPAM Museum reopened in its current location in Austin. The new building it about 14,000 square feet in size and comprises seven main galleries. These include Can Central, “the heart of the museum”; the World Market, where visitors can learn about the advertising and use of Spam and Spam recipes from 44 different nations; a World War II-themed exhibit explaining the importance of Spam as a staple for American troops; “Spam Products Around the World”, an interactive map; the “Can Chronicles” showing the evolution of the Spam can; and Spam Brand 101, an interactive exhibit where visitors learn about 15 varieties of Spam and families are able to compete in the “assembly” of mock cans of Spam. Many of the exhibits include games, interactive videos, and hands-on activities.
We made our way into Austin and easily found the museum. Parking was easy and we were in the lobby in no time. You can’t help but notice the HUGE can of Spam as well as the displays with a bunch of different types of Spam products they have made through the years. We also experienced some of the first interactive exhibits.
After exploring this area we continued on our way through the museum and were quite impressed with how they had displays on different countries and learned when Spam came to that particular county and how they used it to make family meals.
Along with the multiple county displays, they also had one set up for Hawaii specifically. Since Gene was born in Hawaii, this was quite interesting to him, plus the horrible fire in Lanai had just happened, so it was touching for both of us. Eventually we moved on and had to be silly and take our picture in front of another huge can of Spam. Why not, Right? Maybe silly, but we had fun.
Speaking of fun, there was also an interactive exhibit where you could put together a can of Spam. There were cans, pieces of Spam, lids, and labels. There was a timer and you had to see if you could put the can together in under 30 seconds! It was fun and I was able to do it in less than 30, so yay for me, lol.
We both had fun playing around in their kitchen area, and then we checked out the factory section which included white smocks and hard hats that guests could put on if they felt the notion. We didn’t partake in that part of the tour, lol.
The one part we did partake in was the free samples! I was not a huge fan of Spam before our trip due to how it was served to me the first and only time I was given Spam to try. It was barely cooked and I like my meat usually medium well, thus it was not my cup of tea so to speak. However, the samples were cooked well and were so tasty. Whether they do free samples all the time, we do not know, but I am so glad they did the day we visited. Happily, I now really like Spam and we even bought 5 or 6 cans in the museum store to bring home. I am so pleased we went and Gene is happy that Spam is now another meal we can both enjoy and share.
Another great display is called How It’s Made and shows the ingredients and process of how Spam is made. It was interesting to find that they used two different cuts from a pig in the process, the pork shoulder and the ham pork from the rear which apparently is thick and flavorful. They also use water, salt, potato starch, sugar and sodium nitrate. It was an interesting display.
One display that a lot of people enjoy and have to stand in front of is a display called “How many Spam cans tall are you? There are a bunch of Spam cans on top of each other and as you can see that Gene is about 21 cans tall, lol. I won’t say how many cans I am, but it was many less, lol. A silly display, but fun.
The last thing I want to share before I end this post, is the Spam train. It is 780 cans long and run through the museum. I am not sure of the history behind it, and forgot to ask someone, but it was imaginative, and fun for the kids walking through the museum.
If you couldn’t tell, we had a wonderful time at the SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota. I am so thankful that I heard about this museum from several YouTube Vloggers I follow. We would probably have missed it if we weren’t looking for it. I will share links to their vlogs if you are interested. Please just leave a comment and I will get back to you asap. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed learning a little about Spam and seeing some pictures from our visit. BTW, if I didn’t say it before, the museum is FREE! Yep, free. How can you go wrong? Here is a link to their website if you are interested in visiting this unique museum on your own MidWest Adventure. Happy travels!
SPAM Museum Visitor Information
101 3rd Ave. Austin, MN
Monday – Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Monday – Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
SPAM Museum is wheelchair accessible.
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