In Independence, MO there is a museum that may be one of its kind in the United States. It is a hair museum. You won’t find an assortment of hairstyles, as you might expect. Leila Cohoon’s museum houses over 2,000 pieces of jewelry containing or made of human hair and 300 hair wreaths.
That’s right, every piece is either made of locks of hair or contains human hair. Visitors touring the museum will see Leila’s most unusual piece, a hatpin made of blonde and brown hair, in the form of woven hair to be worn over your own hair and the oldest piece of hair art, a brooch made in 1680. There are Sepia brooches from the 1700’s containing scenes were painted with paint mixed with pulverized hair.
Leila has always been intrigued by hair. She began a as a hairdresser in 1949, opened her own salon in 1956 and the Independence College of Cosmetology in 1960. It was in 1956 that she found her first piece of hair art. With her second piece, the hobby became an obsession. Now her deepest desire is to collect every piece of hair art she can find to preserve it for future generations.
The museum is a labor of love for Leila, who considers each piece special. She says,
”The hair in each piece came from a person who lived on this earth at one time and the hair is the only part of that person that is still here. I feel very special that I am the chosen one who is the keeper of that person’s hair.”
Mrs. Cohoon discovered the steps in making wreaths by taking one apart and putting it back together. Now she is passing the art on to future generations by writing a book on the directions of how hair wreaths were made. A second book is for teachers to share with young children. She suggests that children learn how to preserve pieces of their parents’ and sibling’s hair. In doing so they can also learn about families DNA. A third book will be called Hair/Genealogy and have pictures of the 300 wreaths along with the family history of each one.
This fascinating museum is located at 1333 S. Noland Road, Independence, MO. The website is here: Leila’s Hair Museum