I’m starting a new series to celebrate museums around the world that are special in some way: perhaps because they focus on an unexpected topic, or offer a different approach ito a familiar subject or are small and quirky and march to a different drum beat.
I have fond memories of spending a wet Sunday afternoon with two small sons in the Camembert Museum in Normandy many years ago. It has stayed with me where visits to other, more sophisticated, museums have faded. When I moved home recently (surely the umpteenth house move since that damp Sunday) I found the packs of camembert labels that the indulgent receptionist gave to my children for being good.
So, here is the first in the series: The American Prohibition Museum in Savannah, Georgia USA
I associate Prohibition with wide lapels, speakeasys and the great city of Chicago, although the 18th Amendment to the US constitution applied to the entire country. Apparently, Savannah was known as the bootleg spigot of the South in the 1920s and 1930s, when alcohol was illegal and gangsters and rum-runners exploited a nation’s thirst. (Spigot, by the way, is the small plug inserted into a cask just in case you didn’t know, because I wasn’t sure, but that makes for an interresting metaphor.)
Savannah is a small, subtropical city, famed for its Southern-style hospitality and being the home town of Flannery O’Connor (and if you haven’t read her, you should, you should.) It’s sited about 20 miles from the Atlantic coast and attracts millions of visitors every year.
You can learn how to make white lightning at the moonshine exhibit, although more people died from the effects of illegal alcohol than from gangster bullets.
There is also a chance to get to know the formidable Cary Nation, a 6 foot tall hatchet-swirling campaigner who was against corsets and alcohol. She broke up saloons in the early years of the 20th century and was part of the Temperance movemnt that eventally led to Prohbition.
Visit a Speakeasy
One of the most popular exhibitions is the authentic Speakeasy, complete with tin punch ceiling and parquet floors, period music and costumed bartenders. You need a password to enter and a bartender will reveal how to make classic Prohibition cocktails whilst relating the history behind every pour.
If you’re over 21, you can come back in the evening on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and sample the cocktails for real. (You are advised to dress to impress.) All the cocktails, wines, and beers served can trace their origins back to Prohibition.