Spam Museum Has New Home in Downtown Austin, MN
by Josh Noel, Chicago Tribune
Originally published April 22, 2016
The Spam Museum has opened under the bright lights of downtown.
OK, so maybe the lights aren’t so bright in downtown Austin, Minn., but the world’s saltiest, most pork-forward museum opened Friday in a more tourist-friendly location in the southern Minnesota town of 25,000.
For 15 years, the museum lived in a not-so-tourist-friendly Hormel Foods corporate office complex. The town and Hormel agreed that moving the museum to its new home at 101 Third Ave. would benefit both parties, as well as visitors who can walk from downtown Main Street’s restaurants and shopping to its ode to pork.
The Spam Museum’s new home is slightly smaller — 14,000 square feet — than its predecessor. But the important elements remain, like “Spambassadors” circulating “Spamples” at the end of pretzel sticks. (Only two types of Spam are handed out per day, though all 15 are for sale in the gift shop — even Portuguese Sausage Spam, which is on shelves only in Hawaii.)
Nicole Behne, marketing director of Hormel’s grocery products division (though she said “Spam Expert” is also an acceptable title), said the space features a less traditional museum feel. Gone is the theater that showed a 10-minute Spam orientation film, and in its place are 19 interactive video screens peppered throughout.
Three previous galleries have been moved to the new digs; they detail the history of Spam, its rise in American culture via the military and how it is made.
And how is it made?
“It’s just six simple ingredients: pork, salt, water, potato starch, sugar and sodium nitrate,” Behne said. “We showcase what those ingredients are and show a visual on where (the meat) comes from on the pig. Six ingredients are not a lot.”
The rest of the exhibits are largely new, including an interactive game that allows a user to simulate making Spam, and a Spam ruler. (“I’m 23 Spam cans tall,” Behne said.)
“It’s more about celebrating things in pop culture and American history that have brought the Spam brand to where it is today,” she said. “It’s a fun, vibrant, updated space.”
But don’t worry: Spam still tastes exactly the same. And admission to the museum is still free.