Did you know the English King Richard's body was found in a parking lot a few years ago? Or how see-through material came about? Travel Channel's "Mysteries at the Museum" season eight premieres Friday, April 3 at 9 p.m. EST, and tells the story behind these events and more.
We caught up with the host, Don Wildman, about what's in store this season, his tips for visiting museums and his favorite travel rituals.
AOL: The show premieres this Friday -- tell us a little about what we can expect this season?
DW: In general we're trying to do really varied subject matter each show. You're basically watching six different stories an episode. And they can be as varied as crime stories and military triumphs to medical anomalies.
In Friday's show I love the story about cellophane. It goes from that to England -- the story of finding King Richard's body in a parking lot a couple years ago -- to a space pen story about the Apollo mission when Buzz Aldrin had to secure a switch to get off the surface of the moon.
AOL: What is the most unusual thing you've seen commemorated in a museum?
DW: I was walking on the street in Prague and came upon a postcard museum. It really appealed to me because I love those vintage postcards. There are so many little museums that appeal to those kinds of specific interests.
[In the U.S.,] the Mercer Museum in Philadelphia is amazing. This man named Mercer created a museum for industrial artifacts before the industrial age. In other words, hand-operated tools. You see America before the mid-1800s and all this artisan craft stuff, but not in an old fashioned way -- in a way that really just was how the world was. It's a very unsentimental, very proud collection of how people did things before machines did them for us.
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AOL: You add this amazing element of intrigue to places that might otherwise seem ordinary. Do you have any tips for travelers to make museums a more exciting experience?
DW: People walk into museums as if they're a staged environment that doesn't move, like it's not dynamic, when the fact is it really is. People need to think of museums more like restaurants. You're coming in to procure something that someone's dying to give you. And what they're offering is knowledge. If you think something active is happening here, then you get more out of museums.
AOL: You do a ton of traveling. Do you have any travel traditions or things that you always seek out?
DW: I've found myself creating these rituals that feel reassuring and settle me down. And that's important even for someone who isn't going some place every week.
I set up my hotel room to be "my" place. I take an hour and set the books where I want them to be, put away the things I don't want, rearrange the furniture. Do whatever you need to do and make it your own.
The next thing I do is just walk around the city. I try to walk around the immediate area I'm in without anyone telling me what's there. So I'm just a blank slate, looking at shops and places and people and being open to the environment. It's a "less is more" approach to travel. It makes you less anxious and more open to spontaneous experiences.
AOL: What story are you most excited for people to see this season?
DW: We're doing a story I'd never heard of about Gordon Cooper in the Mercury [spacecraft] capsule realizing that he'd lost the ability to reenter the atmosphere. He figured out on his 20th orbit he would die if he went to 21. So in that 20th orbit around Earth (which is not that much time) he had to figure out a manual way to re-enter the atmosphere at exactly the right pitch and altitude or he would burn up or bounce off and be lost forever.
So he fogged up the window with his breath and drew a line on the horizon and used that as his guide to figure out how to do this. He landed four miles from the ship that was there to pick him up. It's an amazing story.
AOL: Important travel question -- aisle or window seat?
Aisle, because I hate bothering people. It's the most awkward thing about travel -- bothering other people. And it's most concentrated when you're on a plane. I like to have freedom so I don't have to bother people.