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What is a Wax Museum?

Niki Acker
Updated: May 17, 2024

A wax museum features a collection of lifelike wax figures typically representing celebrities. Many wax museums also feature a "Chamber of Horrors" depicting famous criminals in the act and other gruesome scenes. Guests to a wax museum are usually allowed to take photographs of themselves with the wax figures.

Marie Tussaud is credited with the invention of the wax museum. She learned the art of wax modeling from her employer, Dr. Philippe Curtius, and became a celebrity in late 18th century Paris, sculpting such famous figures of the day as Voltaire and Marie Antoinette. Though she was imprisoned and scheduled for execution, she was released because of her skill as a wax sculptor.

Marie Tussaud opened her first permanent wax museum, including a Chamber of Horrors depicting the excesses of the French Revolution that she narrowly escaped, on Baker Street in London in 1835. In 1884, it moved to Marylebone Road, where it remains today. Madame Tussaud's wax museum has been a popular tourist attraction since it opened, and it now has branches in Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Shanghai, New York City, and Las Vegas. Additional locations in Hollywood and Washington, D. C. are planned.

In addition to Madame Tussauds, there are many independent wax museums, usually located in tourist areas. The Movieland Wax Museum, opened in 1962 in Buena Park, California, was the largest wax museum in the United States until it closed in 2005. Other notable wax museums include the Fisherman's Wharf Wax Museum in San Francisco, California and the Royal London Wax Museum in Victoria, British Columbia.

Some wax museums portray a particular theme. The Hollywood Wax Museum in Hollywood, California offers a collection of wax figures depicting movie stars and movie monsters. The National Great Blacks Wax Museum in Baltimore, Maryland is a tribute to African American history, depicting notable black figures throughout U.S. history as well as the horrors of slavery. The Castle of Diósgyőr wax museum in Hungary depicts a number of scenes from medieval life. It is also common for wax museums to depict important figures and moments in the history of the country or town where they are located.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Niki Acker
By Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a WiseGeek editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of interesting and unusual topics to gather ideas for her own articles. A graduate of UCLA with a double major in Linguistics and Anthropology, Niki's diverse academic background and curiosity make her well-suited to create engaging content for WiseGeekreaders. "
Discussion Comments
By DinoLeash — On Jan 12, 2011

@alex94: @alex94: Madam Tussauds in Hollywood holds wax figures of Jane Lynch, Lady Gaga and many more. Lady Gaga is one of the most popular wax figures as there is one of her in all of Madam Tussauds museums.

By SnowyWinter — On Jan 12, 2011

@alex94: The Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in New York City includes wax figures of Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, the Jonas Brothers, Carrie Underwood, and Lady Gaga to name a few. In London, they host wax figures of famous people such as Cheryl Cole, Helen Mirren, Zac Efron, and Lady Gaga.

Vegas offers figures of Gwen Stefani, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and many others.

By alex94 — On Jan 09, 2011

Who are some famous people that have wax figures of themselves at Madam Tussauds wax museum?

Niki Acker
Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a WiseGeek editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of...
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