Museum of Jurassic Technology
Culver City, California
It's clever. Cryptic. Other-worldly. It may cause eye strain. And at some point, as you move through the darkened rooms of the Museum of Jurassic Technology, you might wonder if you've gone insane.
There's Pope John Paul II carved out of flecks of dust and a single human hair and perched in the eye of a needle. It's one of the works on display of obscure micro-miniaturist sculptor Hagop Sandaldjian.
There are Eskimo dog slippers, and a "piercing devil" bat stuck in a lead wall. An American grey fox yelps every few moments from a display of its decapitated head -- special glasses allow visitors to view the head...through special glasses.
Visitors enter the one-story building via a door near a bus stop. From the museum gift shop, narrow exhibit rooms offer a tidy arrangement of dioramas, strange machines, spot-lit oddities, and mysterious photography.
MJT was founded in 1989 by artists David Wilson and Diana Wilson as an "educational institution dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and public appreciation of the Lower Jurassic." That geologic period ended 145 million years ago, before the appearance of any "technology" as we know it (unless there's some gap in our knowledge).
Knowledge gaps seem to be the sticky amber binding the artifacts, miniatures and interpretive labels in the museum's labyrinth of galleries. It's a "Collection of specimens and other objects of interest...displayed in accordance with the scientific method," according to the institution's Jubilee Catalogue.
Part of the scientific method appears to be viewing photos and artifacts through mounted stereo viewers or peering into microscopes.
One exhibit shows the apparatus designs of inventor Athanasius Kircher, a 17th-century Jesuit priest. For Magnetic Hydromancy, "small wax figures, embedded with magnets and suspended in water-filled globes, could be made to spell out specific messages or forecasts from symbols and letters printed on the surface of their vessels." Whitish blob creatures float in fluid-filled spheres. A hand-cranked, rotating central magnet powered the "divination device."
In a section on old wives' tales and household myths, a pair of dead mice top a piece of toast, next to a "Mouse Pie," believed to cure certain afflictions. A model of a child's hand holds a dying bird. Holding any small creature at its moment of passing was said to later result in a lifelong tremor in the hand.
A duck's head is lip-locked with the head of a boy in a display of Duck's Breath. "Children afflicted with thrush and other fungeous mouth or throat disorders can be cured by placing the bill of a duck or goose in the mouth of the afflicted child for a period of time," the sign explained. "The cold breath of the fowl will be inhaled by the child and the complaint will disappear."
"Garden of Eden on Wheels, Collections from Los Angeles Mobile Homes and Trailer Parks" is a gallery devoted to the evolution of mobile homes and items accumulated by their inhabitants. A scattering of lit dots on a global map shows "Trailer Manufacturers" and "Park Distribution 1938."
Judging from the beautiful miniatures on display, these travel trailers dwelt in a world of perpetual gloom, balanced on the crust of the hollow Earth.
"Rotten Luck: An Exhibit of Failing Dice from the Collections of Ricky Jay" (a magician) displays sets of crumbling and corroding antique dice. The audio narration informs, in Jay's own words: "they come from many sources: generous friends, dealers of collectibles, distraught gamblers ready to embrace a new calling...."
New exhibits are painstakingly designed and added over time. We were assured by a spokesperson that the Museum of Jurassic Technology wasn't a conceptual art installation pretending to be a museum (of course, that's what someone who was part of the art installation would say).
There is much more to see and misinterpret, and we left feeling like we'd missed a room or two along the way. Reason to return soon....