Presto Change-o! Founded in 1978, the American Museum of Magic has been around for more than three decades, but that’s only a blip in the history of the building in which it resides, an old Victorian structure in Calhoun County, Michigan.
Formerly a saloon, a clothing store, and a billiard parlor, the building was constructed in 1868.
Spread across three floors of the restored structure, the American Museum of Magic is filled from wall to wall, ceiling to floor, with props from all of the greatest magicians of the 19th and 20th centuries. It’s the largest magic museum in the United States that is open to the public.
Half a million pieces of memorabilia are crammed inside of the museum. Among the pieces are more than 10,000 books, 24,000 magazines, 46,000 photographs, letters, and more than 2,000 handbills. One of the highlights is an escape apparatus used by Harry Houdini: his famous Milk Can Escape.
What makes the collection most impressive is that it was almost entirely assembled by one man, the late Robert Lund. A Detroit-based writer, Lund was obsessed with magic, but learned early on that he didn’t have what it takes. Instead of embarrassing himself as a failed magician, Lund decided he would become the foremost student of magic history and collect everything related to the art that he could get his hands on.
The separate research center for aspiring magicians and historians of magic includes more than one million archived pieces, including a 50,000-volume library.