Slice of History: First Pizza Museum to Open in Philadelphia

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It hardly seems possible, considering the national appetite for pizza — according to one study, the average American consumes 46 slices a year — but there is no museum dedicated solely to America’s favorite food. Philadelphian entrepreneur and pizza fanatic Brian Dwyer plans to change that.

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By the end of the month, Dwyer and his associates plan to open Pizza Brain, a pizzeria and museum dedicated to the Italian-American foodstuff, which will house what the Guinness Book of World Records has named the largest collection of pizza memorabilia in the world. (It’ll also have an ice cream parlor.)

Only about 18 months ago, Dwyer and his friends dreamed up a pizza-themed art show, called “Give Pizza Chance,” which showcased a collection of truly unique items made in the image of pizza.

After roughly 300 people showed up to take a bite out of pizza culture, it hit Dwyer “like a ton of bricks: pizza is the great equalizer,” he says. “I started dreaming up weird concepts about a pizza shop that’s self-aware enough to really go for it. Really be a lightning rod for this cultural pizza movement.”

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That idea turned into Pizza Brain, a venture whose progress has been documented by NPR and the Huffington Post. Dwyer credits his success to “an incredible group of dedicated, talented weirdos involved from the get-go that have believed in the vision since the day it was spoken into existence.” It’s also thanks to a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, which raised $15,687 in 41 days.

Housed in a gutted and retrofitted 19th century building, the museum is intended to be a real destination, not just a kitschy display. But the “intrinsically weird” collection, which includes hundreds of LPs and 45s dedicated to pizza songs and pizza-themed comic books (Dwyer’s personal favorite), will be part of an ever-evolving art installation.

As his collection grows, so will the museum. “The space will change over time, and with it, the collection will too,” Dwyer says. “I usually won’t buy something unless I see a specific use for it in the museum down the road.” High on Dwyer’s wish list is a a chunk of ‘Pizza the Hutt’ — the Jabba the Hutt-like character from the Mel Brooks movie Space Balls.

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The venture is a leap of faith for Dwyer, 27, whose college career ended after one year as a film student. After sampling a variety of jobs he wound up on one path that surprises even him.

“Making a career out of pizza. Who’d a thunk it?” he says. “I never could have imagined I’d end up doing this, but I have. And it was my lack of qualification that made it possible.”

“I guess what I’m trying to say is, myself and everybody involved in this project is approaching it from a purely passionate and totally authentic point of view. There’s a beauty in that naivete which I think is why so many people have gotten behind us – they can tell it’s coming from a real place.”

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