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BEST OBSCURE MUSEUM Minneapolis 2001 - The Bakken

The Bakken

The Bakken

3537 Zenith Ave. S.

Minneapolis, MN 55416

612-926-3878

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As a child growing up in Minneapolis in the 1930s, Earl Bakken was fascinated by electricity. Ensconced in the family garage, he invented all sorts of odd contraptions that relied on battery power to turn levers and cranks, creating bright arcs of light that wowed neighboring kids and his family. But what may have looked like boyhood science fiction eventually became his life's work. In 1949 Bakken co-founded Medtronic, a local manufacturer of medical equipment. And, at the age of 33, he and a University of Minnesota cardiac surgeon developed the first wearable battery-powered pacemaker. Bakken's work kept him busy, but he managed to stick with his favorite hobby of collecting antique medical-electrical devices and all the books and other electricity-related odds and ends he could find. Today the Bakken is home to his collection. Education is the main focus of this museum where visitors can observe electric eels, see the latest in magnetic healing therapies, and turn cranks to generate their own hair-raising jolt. Or, if you really want a scare, head for the new Mary Shelley's Frankenstein exhibit in the spooky rathskeller. If you look carefully at everything, you'll need a couple of hours to get through the whole museum, which is housed in an English Tudor mansion across the street from Lake Calhoun. It's a huge place that could seemingly display considerably more than what is now on view. But according to the Bakken's director David Rhees, there are some things in the museum's collection that are fated never to find their way out of the basement. Among them: eleven electromechanical vibrators dating back to the Victorian era, which doctors used to relieve their "hysterical" female patients. Shocking, indeed.

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