“The Museum of Jurassic Technology is an educational institution dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and the public appreciation of the lower jurassic. Located at 9341 Venice Boulevard in the Palms district of Los Angeles, California, the Museum holds a specialized repository of relics and artifacts evoking some of the more obscure and poetic aspects of natural history, the history of technology and science, and their entwined realizations in human artistry and ingenuity. It was founded by David Hildebrand Wilson and Diana Drake Wilson (husband and wife) in 1987.
The Museum of Jurassic Technology traces its origins to the earliest days of the institution of the museum, which it dates back to Noah’s Ark, the first and most complete Museum of Natural History known to man. The Museum’s catalog includes a mixture of artistic, scientific as well as some unclassifiable exhibits, and evokes the cabinets of curiosities that were the 18th century predecessors of modern natural history museums. The factual claims of many of the Museum’s exhibits strain credibility, provoking a rich array of interpretations from commentators. The Museum was the subject of a book by Lawrence Weschler in 1995 entitled “Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder,” and the Museum’s founder David Wilson received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship in 2001.
The Museum maintains over 30 permanent exhibits including:
The Delani/Sonnabend Halls – recalling the intertwining story of an ill-fated opera singer, Madalena Delani, with a theoretician of memory, Geoffrey Sonnabend, whose 3-part work Obliscence: Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter suggests that memory is an elaborate construction that humankind has created, “to buffer ourselves against the intolerable knowledge of the irreversible passage of time and the irretrievability of its moments and events.” There is only experience and the decay of experience, an idea he illustrates with a complex diagram of a plane intersecting a cone.
Tell the Bees: Belief, Knowledge, and Hypersymbolic Cognition: An exhibit of pre-scientific cures and remedies
The Garden of Eden on Wheels: Collections from Los Angeles Area Trailer Parks.”
The Museum of Jurassic Technology, in other words, is simultaneously utterly serious, utterly tongue-in-cheek, and a kind of elaborate gift/puzzle/hoax. When I first moved to town, I lived right around the corner from the place and the first time I wandered in, I knew I’d stumbled into an alternate world.
An ordinary Victorian tea set was exhibited with grave, respectful, “museum-type” commentary. A horn, supposedly cut a century or two ago from the forehead of a woman, was mounted like a pair of stag’s horns on a heraldic board. Four and twenty moldy blackbirds were baked into a plaster-of-Paris pie–but maybe I’m mixing that up with the “mice on toast” diorama. For someone like me, whose central belief is that the mundane is also utterly transcendent, I felt like I’d wandered into a part of my psyche I’d always known existed but had never quite yet met in the flesh.
“One of the things that we are greatly interested in is helping people to achieve states of wonder,” observes curator David Wilson. In Dr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, writer Lawrence Weschler describes the effect of the museum on one such person:
“One day, for instance, when I was talking with David at his front desk, a visitor emerged from the maze-like alcoves stupefied. He stopped for a moment and gazed on the rotary pencil sharpener on David’s desk. He stared at it, manipulated the rotor, dumbfounded. Like he’d never seen anything like it in his life. It was just an ordinary pencil sharpener.”