The Lunchbox Museum and Empire City, Columbus, GA
Not many museums are in the attic of a rather crappy antique mall. The Lunchbox Museum in Columbus, Georgia however is not your usual museum. A massive collection of lunch boxes, lunch trays and even production artwork created to adorn lunch boxes, it's a labor of love. While its home in the attic of the River Market Antiques Mall leaves much to be desired, the sheer number of collectibles will distract from their surroundings.
For this trip, the museum was my only destination. So I saw little of Columbus in getting to the River Market Antiques Mall. After arriving, a quick outside tour of the interesting clutter, which included a folk-art covered hearse, I made my way to the door. At the front entrance I was greeted with a menu of odd museum options for my enjoyment.
"WORLD FAMOUS LUNCH BOXES, Lunch Box Museum, Recognized By The Smithsonian Institute - OVER 2000 BOXES. $5.00 VIEWING FEE
WORLDS HIGHEST SKYLINE - 280 SQ FT. 27 BUILDINGS OVER 1000 FLOORS - 6.7 SQ MILES IN SQ MILES THIS CITY IS RATED 2ND IN THE NATION!! $2.00 VIEWING FEE PER PERSON - 8 YEARS IN THE MAKING
MEADERS POTTERY MUSEUM OF SOUTHERN STONEWARE - BY APOINTMENT"
Once in the door, the rather bored looking desk attendant told me when I got to the stairs, turn on the two light switches and head up to the attic. The lunchboxes on the stairs only hint at the massive collection at the top.
Once up there are lunchboxes from the plank floors to the open ceiling beams, hundreds, maybe thousands. On shelves, tables, hanging overhead and on chairs arranged as in a classroom. There are no perfect specimens, with many of the lunch boxes having dents, dings or rust. Kids are tough on everything they own and these boxes show their wear and tear.
After losing an hour in the attic, I finally got my fill and I wandered downstairs. Around the many stalls of crap and "collectibles" there was another attraction that was listed on the entrance sign. Inside a separate small room was the strangest sight in the mall.
A strange collection of compulsively-made machines and buildings, near impossible to find any purpose in their creation. "Empire City" is a massive hand-built city, imaginary in nature and the vision of Larry Hall. He started his project in Chicago and relocated to the south to give the city a home. The city is still growing and Larry works on creating more buildings.
Besides the city, shelves line the walls of the room with models of hand-carved tanks, trains and construction equipment. While I was the only visitor, I was told that I had missed Larry by an hour. So a future visit to his room may mean meeting the city's architect and model maker. I never did see the pottery museum, and compared to what I did see its hard to imagine it measuring up. Empire City and the Lunchbox Museum are such strangely personal collections.
The Lunchbox Museum and Empire City photos
More of Robert's Lunchbox Museum and Empire City photos
How to get there
The Lunchbox Museum and Larry Hall's Empire City are at River Market Antiques Mall, 3226 Hamilton Rd, Columbus, GA. Google Maps