Arcola museum mentioned on Trib's Web site

Local residents know it's for realArcola's Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum garnered a mention in today's Chicago Tribune in a news quiz on knowing your unusual museums.

It joins the ranks of an actual museum, along with St. Paul's Museum of Questionable Medical Devices and Burlingame, California's Museum of Pez Memorabilia. I aced the part about Arcola's favorite raggedy storybook characters but didn't realize the others existed. (Although, honestly, I wish the scratch-and-sniff museum was real.)

Tom Wannamaker, who founded the Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum with his wife, Joni Gruelle Wannamaker (granddaughter of R. Ann and Andy's creator), called me this afternoon to chat about what it's like to be known as an odd museum.

Turns out, unless someone's branding the museum as a bizarre attraction, Tom doesn't mind too much.

"Any publicity is good publicity," he told me.

He's guessing the awareness is coming from advertising posters that hung in every Chicago train and bus stop. Those had slogans he and his wife didn't care for - "So cute, it's scary" and "Almost a century of cuddly cuteness." But they didn't mind that the ads brought visitors from Chicago downstate.

In Tom's opinion, the biggest battle the museum faces is the common idea that it's a doll museum or shop. About 20 percent of its material is dolls, while the rest focuses on the life and works of author, illustrator and political cartoonist Johnny Gruelle. Tom sees it as a slice of Americana - and wouldn't want people to expect something like the Arcola Museum of Art.

The museum's been added to lots of lists of small, out-of-the-way museums, sort of like the Trib's list. The Wannamakers are used to it.

"I'm not insulted yet," Tom said.

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