When we first set out to discover the button museums of the world, we thought it would be a short list. We were proven wrong, and we discovered that the tiny button is hugely sought after by collectors and revered by artisans everywhere. Since some of our readers may not be able to get to each of these fascinating places, we’ve included video snippets that show a little of what each museum holds. Travel with us, if only virtually, through the wide world of buttons!
Keep Homestead Museum—Monson, Massachusetts
Home to one of the largest collections of vintage and antique buttons in the United States. They’re rotated frequently to allow visitors to view the extensive collection that once belonged to avid collector Myra Keep Lovell Moulton. While you’re there, they have quilts that were part of the Massachusetts Quilt Documentation Project on display, too!
See a snippet of what it’s like inside:
The Button Museum—Bishopville, South Carolina
Housed in a hangar, the Button Museum in Bishopville showcases the extensive button collection of Dalton Stevens, dubbed “The Button King.” His obsession with the tiny trinket came from a need to deal with his insomnia by sewing and glueing buttons to every imaginable surface, including several suits, a guitar and a car! Stevens sadly passed away in 2016, but his collection lives on, having garnered him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Here’s a look at The Button Museum and its colorful curator :
The National Pearl Button Museum—Muscatine, Iowa
Muscatine, Iowa, was famous as the Pearl Button Capital of The World in the early 1900s. It became the site of button manufacturing companies because of the abundant mussels and special shells in the Mississippi. The museum there tells the history of how the luxury pearl-button industry was born in the town, employing almost all the townspeople — immigrants, laborers, businessmen — at the height of demand from the rest of the world.
Here’s just a little of that museum’s backstory:
Waterbury Button Museum at the Mattatuck—Waterbury, Connecticut
Waterbury has become synonymous with military and uniform buttons, with companies there having manufactured them since 1812. The Waterbury Button Company continues to make buttons for all the branches of the U.S. Armed forces today, as well as for fashion designers and uniform sewists. The Button Gallery at the Mattatuck Museum boasts more than 10,000 buttons — including glass, marquisette and historical military buttons, and even some that used to be on George Washington’s coat!
Here’s a look at the Mattatuck Museum exhibits, including the Button Gallery:
Museo de Botones Destro—Panama
Housed in a private home, this small but interesting museum’s claim to fame is that it’s the only button collection in South America. It promotes button collecting for recreation, the importance of buttons as historical artifacts and also showcases local artisans’ work with natural materials.
Curious to see what it’s like? Here’s a short video on the Museo’s collection of wooden buttons and those fashioned from coconuts:
Henry B. Plant Museum—Tampa, Florida
An extensive collection of historical buttons, from those worn by women who donned Victorian and Edwardian-era gowns to buttons divided by subject. Interesting categories include buttons with insects on them, horse/equestrian and even roosters! Another cool feature: The button showcase is inside an old bank vault!
Peek inside here:
The German Button Museum (Deutschen Knopfmuseum)—Bärnau
Bärnau is home to many button companies that have manufactured buttons since as early as 1895. At its busiest, there were 32 active button companies, employing many who lived in the region. Today, you can visit the German Button Museum in an old brewery, and explore close to 18,500 buttons made from 26 different materials. Also on display are historical button-making tools and machines.
The museum also has galleries dedicated to button art! Here’s a peek at those beauties:
Museo del Bottone—Santarcangelo di Romagna, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
An interesting detour in the Rimini region of Italy, this museum is the lifelong project of avid collector and historian Giorgio Gallavotti, whose passion is telling the stories behind these treasures. Among the special buttons in his collection are those from papal vestments, Pablo Picasso and one that’s been authenticated by NASA to have gone into space.
Here’s a look at this fascinating collection:
Iris Button Museum—Hamacho, Nihonbashi, Tokyo
Far from the beaten path in Tokyo, the museum organized and operated by the Iris Button Company is a beautiful space to explore. Its collection includes everything from German toggle buttons to intricate silver buttons made in Turkey to beautiful mosaic buttons painstakingly assembled by hand. While weren’t able to find any videos of how the museum looks, we were treated to this image of its clean, modern displays from their Facebook page. Now, we want to visit in person!