Natural history museums are filled with fossils. Railway museums have trains. Local history museums have pioneer clothing. It's good to know what to expect; it makes sense.
Plus, predictability makes finding the unexpected so much more fun.
So, what kind of oddities can be found in our Top of Utah museums?
The mayor's leg
Inside a glass case at the Brigham City Museum of Art and History is the prosthetic leg of former Mayor Jonah Mathias.
According to newspaper clippings and books in the museum's collection, Mathias was born in 1843 in Wales, and his family settled in Brigham City when he was 10 years old. His right foot was damaged in a threshing machine accident in 1870, and the leg was amputated four inches above the knee 13 days later. Nine days later, another half-inch of bone was removed. About a year later, the bone was removed to the hip.
"The wooden leg is about 30 inches high, and about 5 inches across at the top ... then it gets smaller at the bottom," said Mary Alice Hobbs, heritage writer for the museum. Straps attached the leg to Mathias' body.
In spite of his injury, Mathias led a busy life, serving as mayor of Brigham City from 1895 to 1897. He died in 1928, and the leg was donated to the museum by his descendants.
Open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, at 24 N. 300 West. Admission is free. 435-723-6769.
The Farmington Historical Museum has a pair of giant metal heads, folk art created in 1964 and 1965 by Melvin Held.
Held, a resident of Farmington who has since passed away, loved antique cars. "For several years, he even had some old cars parked in line out on his property," said Annette Tidwell, executive director of the museum.
He made the 5-foot-tall heads out of car parts. "In the museum, we have a list of what part of the head is made out of what part of what car," she said.
One of the heads is a sculpture of entertainer Will Rogers. The other sculpture is meant to look like an Etruscan soldier; Held named it Tin Chen.
"They're real classics -- one of a kind," said Tidwell.
The museum is open 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, and by appointment, at 110 N. Main St. Admission is free. 801-451-2357.
An exhibit at the Golden Spike National Historic Site includes drug paraphernalia -- an opium pipe, to be specific.
"At one time there was a label in there that said it was a tobacco pipe," said Tammy Benson, chief of operations at the site. "We relabeled it this year."
The opium pipe is smaller in diameter than a traditional tobacco pipe, she said, and made of white clay. It's part of a display about the lives of Chinese workers building the transcontinental railroad.
"Opium was regarded as a medicinal and probably recreational drug and its use (generally in moderation) seems to have been rather common among Chinese laborers," Benson added in an email.
The museum is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Take Interstate 15 (Exit 365) and state roads 13 and 83 to Promontory Summit. $7/vehicle. 435-471-2209, ext. 29.
Heads and tails
Two heads are not always better than one.
A calf was born in Syracuse with two heads, and died shortly after. The unusual animal was stuffed, and is now in a glass case at the Syracuse Museum & Cultural Center.
"We're kind of noted for that," said museum volunteer Bev Gooch. "A lot of Scouts and schoolkids want to see that."
Another oddity is the outhouse. It's a single-seater, and it's at the museum to show kids what life was like in the past.
The museum is open 2-5 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, at 1891 W. 1700 South. Admission is free. 801-825-3633.
The Weber State University Museum of Natural Science is filled with the mandatory dinosaur bones, African masks and wild animal exhibits.
But there is one display that Adam Johnston finds a little odd. It's a cow skeleton. These aren't the bones of a large, prehistoric forerunner of the cow, but a regular cow.
"I kind of enjoy the enigma of having a cow in the Museum of Natural Science," said Johnston, a physics professor at WSU. "The great irony is that we have this placard that describes the stomach, and why that's specialized for a cow, but the display is just the skeleton, so you have to imagine the rest of it yourself."
The museum is in the Lind Lecture Hall on the Ogden campus, 3848 Harrison Blvd., Ogden. It's open 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. Admission is free. 801-626-6160.
The North Ogden Historical Museum has a medicine display with dragon's blood and kangaroo tendons.
The items were part of a medicine kit donated to the museum. Obviously, the dragon's blood isn't from a dragon. According to WebMD, dragon's blood is a tree resin that has been used as a supplement to treat digestive tract problems.
"The kangaroo tendons were used to sew people up, like cat gut or sinew," said LaVern Cottrell, president of the museum.
The North Ogden Historical Museum is open 4-7 p.m. Mondays, 4-6 p.m. Thursdays, and noon-3 p.m. Saturdays, at 545 E. 2750 North. Appointments for tours during other hours can be made at 801-782-4458. Admission is free.
Packing a punch
A puppetry museum is itself pretty unusual. Inside the World of Puppetry Museum are puppets ranging from basic sock puppets to complex Bross marionettes with joints that mimic the natural movements of people.
The most surprising puppet in the museum may be Mr. Punch, of "Punch and Judy" fame. Punch puppets have been around since about the 1500s, when the character first appeared in Italy, according to Susan Neidert, who runs the museum. What's odd about The World of Puppetry Museum's Mr. Punch is his size -- he's 12 feet tall.
"It's a parade puppet, and takes three people to work it," said Neidert.
Open 2-5 p.m. the first and third Saturday of the month, inside Brigham City's Fine Arts Center, 58 S. 100 West. Free. 435-723-0740.
The Heritage Museum of Layton proudly displays a dog license. James L. Whitesides paid $1 to Kaysville on Jan. 1, 1881, to register his dog. It was described on the certificate as a two-year-old "large black dog, tip of tail, feet and belly white," named "George."
A dog registration is a bit of a surprise in any museum, but this one is symbolic of Layton's birth.
Layton and Kaysville were originally part of the same community, known as Kays Ward and then as Kaysville.
In 1869, Kaysville leaders wanted revenue for city projects, and decided to raise it through taxes. They also limited the number of dogs per home to two, and required payment for licenses. That didn't sit well with the farmers and sheep ranchers to the north of the main town site.
"They just rose up in rebellion," said Bill Sanders, director of the Heritage Museum of Layton. "They said, 'My dog's never on the streets of Kaysville.' "
The conflict came to a head in 1889, when plans were announced to build a city hall in Kaysville.
Tensions were particularly high between Kaysville leaders and Ephraim P. Ellison, a leader of the rebellion, according to a 1985 book published by the Kaysville-Layton Historical Society. Ellison refused to pay taxes, and his wagon was seized and sold. Later, Ellison and Rufus Adams were arrested for refusing to pay business license fees to Kaysville.
The community was officially separated in 1902.
"The stigma of that is still around -- you talk to old-time Layton people, and there's something passed down in their families about this separation," said Sanders. "When I started working here, old-timers in Kaysville said to me, 'Bill, you're from Kaysville. ... How could you go to work in Layton City?"
The museum is open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 1-6 p.m. Saturdays, at 403 N. Wasatch Drive. Admission is free. 801-336-3930.