Thirty-One Thresholds – Discoveries at the National Mustard Museum? Indeed!


Mustard Suit © 2014 Bo Mackison

Yesterday I created  Thirty-One Thresholds, a self-challenge to “cross the thresholds” of area museums, galleries, gardens, etc. — in an attempt to convince my brain that activity is good for what ails me.

Then I visited the National Mustard Museum in Middleton, Wisconsin, just a few miles from my home.

The Mustard Museum was my first threshold I crossed on my Thirty-One Thresholds challenge. It wasn’t the most exciting choice on my list nor the most cultural nor even the tastiest place to explore. (I don’t even like mustard!) But it was one of my more successful forays into the outside world after weeks of struggling to get out of the house.

The Mustard Museum did have two things going for it. One, it was the closest place to home. And two, it was indoors, important because my thermometer was blinking a chilly 6˚F.

Truth be told, I added the Mustard Museum to my list of places to visit because it was so close and I feared I would lose all motivation one day and not want to go out. Turns out, it was a good plan to get me started.


Keen’s Mustard Display

Once I arrived, I was rather taken with the place. I still wasn’t sure what my “discovery” might be, but I enjoyed exploring the two-floor museum and mustard store.


Arizona Mustards at Mustard Museum © 2014 Bo Mackison

In the basement museum, there are over 5400 kinds of mustard from 79 countries, mustard costumes, a “Mustard Piece Theatre” showing mustard documentaries, old photographs of mustard factories, exhibits on the history of mustard, mustard “art” posters and artifacts.

Plus more…so much more.


Hot Dog Boy at National Mustard Museum © 2014 Bo Mackison

There was much kitsch and mustard-themed comics and puns where ever I looked, I grinned in spite of myself. So, maybe a visit to the mustard museum was just the place to provide some laughs.


Hot Dog Sculpture © 2014 Bo Mackison

Then I read an article about the museum’s owner, Barry Levenson, a former assistant Wisconsin attorney general (who once argued a case in front of the U. S. Supreme Court and Justices Felix Frankfurter and Warren Burger.)

And I discovered THE discovery, a quote about Levenson and his unusual museum from a local newspaper, the Journal Times:

“…why leave a successful law practice to collect mustard, with a business card that calls him a curator and Chief Mustard Officer? It all started with baseball when the Red Sox blew the 1986 World Series.

“Depressed beyond words and unable to sleep,” Levinson said, “I walked the aisles of an all-night grocery store, searching for the meaning of life.”

He figured he needed a hobby to distract him…he insists that he heard a voice from the mustard aisle saying: “If you collect us, they will come.””

Levenson began collecting mustard and mustard memorabilia. His collection eventually became the museum part of the National Mustard Museum. Apparently he followed his bliss, which ended up being mustard.


National Mustard Museum © 2014 Bo Mackison

Hmmm. I don’t think I’ll walk the aisles of the 24/7 grocery store looking for the answer to the meaning of life. But I certainly appreciated his message.

Crossing the first threshold proved more interesting than anticipated. (lesson #1 – Just try it. You might like it.)

I discovered some unusual mustard philosophy in the condiment aisle. (lesson #2 – Follow your passion.)

And a little humor, no matter how little, is good for a laugh. (lesson #3 – Laugh out loud.)

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. How absolutely COOL!!! WHEN I visit I want to go to the Mustard Museum! (National, no less!) I do happen to like mustard so it’d be a win-win for me. You know what I thought about while reading your post, looking at your bright photos? It’s a SUNNY place to be, the National Mustard Museum! Another WIN!

  2. I love the Frankfurter and Burger notes. I wonder if either or both Justices liked Mustard?

  3. I think that was a great start to your series. And it even provided some laughter too! How much better can it get than that?


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