Hammer Museum – Haines, Alaska - Atlas Obscura

Hammer Museum

A museum devoted entirely to hammers has more than 1,400 items on display dating back to the Romans. 


This might not be so hard to believe, but it must be said: The Hammer Museum in Haines, Alaska, is one of the only museums in the whole world that is devoted entirely to hammers. Hammers, hammers, everywhere. There are more than 1,400 of them on display in this unique museum, which is very easy to spot if you’re in the area and looking because of the very large hammer that stands out in front of the building.

The collection inside of the museum, which was opened in 2001 by Dave Pahl, a collector and restorer of various types of hand tools, features hammers that date back to the ancient Romans.

Pahl moved all the way to Alaska from Cleveland, Ohio, because, like many people who move to Alaska, he wanted to be self-sufficient and learn to live off of the land and with his own two hands. He became a blacksmith by teaching himself the trade and started collecting hand tools. After his collection grew to a respectable size, Pahl purchased the 100-year-old structure that his museum is housed in.

One thing you’ll learn while touring the museum is that the hammer isn’t—and wasn’t—just used by carpenters. It has also served bankers, nightclubgoers of the 1920s and 1930s, barristers, cobblers, and musicians, as well as those in the medical profession. Pahl obviously knows his stuff.

While this might seem like a goofy obsession that was turned into a museum only because there is little else to do with a collection of this size, the Smithsonian Institution headquartered in Washington, D.C., has recognized Pahl’s know-how. When he was visiting, he took a backstage tour of the American History Museum and was able to help the professional staff of archivists and curators identify several of the pieces in their collection; in exchange for his help, the Smithsonian gave Pahl five pieces to take back to his museum in Alaska.

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January 5, 2011

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