Inside the Museum of Jurassic Technology – LA’s Oddest Collection of Curiosities

Featured image credit: Tore Danielsson

It’s almost become a mantra amongst those in the know: “The less you know about the Museum of Jurassic Technology going into it, the better.” So, there’s your warning. If the name alone has already sold you, turn back now, buy your tickets, and enjoy. Need a bit more information? It’s hands down the weirdest museum in Los Angeles… and that’s saying something. From here, we’re going to get a bit more specific about what to expect, but again, the less you know, the better. Fortunately, it’s a difficult place to describe. 

Advancements of the Lower Jurassic

Photo credit: Barry Mulling

Museums are typically built around a central theme. For example, the Natural History Museum focuses on the natural world throughout history (no false advertising there). The Museum of Contemporary Art sticks to modern art. Pretty much all official literature for the Museum of Jurassic Technology indicates that its myriad exhibits explore a time period known as the Lower Jurassic. 

Just for a bit of context: the Lower Jurassic began 201.3 million years ago and lasted until about 174.1 million years ago. And before you Google it; no, humans did not live during the Lower Jurassic period. Therefore, technology didn’t exist in the Lower Jurassic period; at least not by any definition other than the most abstract. 

Yet, the Museum of Jurassic Technology asserts that it is an “educational institution dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and the public appreciation of the Lower Jurassic.” So, is it a museum devoted to that which does not exist? For most visitors, the answer won’t be that simple. After all, it’s not a museum of empty glass cases. Rather, there’s quite a lot to take in while touring the 12,000-square-foot space. But whether you trust these displays as truth is up to you. 

Foundation Stones of the Museum of Jurassic Technology

Photo credit: Cory Doctorow

CalArts alum David Hildebrand Wilson, along with his wife, Diana Drake Wilson, opened the doors of the Museum of Jurassic Technology in 1988 in a simple 1,500-square-foot unit. Prior to this, Wilson took his collection on the road as a traveling cabinet of curiosities. Today, it has expanded to encompass the entire building at the same Palms neighborhood location. 

Museum of Jurassic Technology Displays

And what exactly is in that collection? It can be a challenge to summarize it in any semblance of coherence. Peer into one dimly lit magnifier and you’ll find intricate miniature mosaics unfolding before your eyes. Another room collects painted portraits of the dogs who unwillingly participated in the Soviet-era space program. Take a few turns and you’re face-to-bell wheel with a contraption designed to explore the link between the human soul and harmonic composition. 

These displays are delivered with plenty of supporting text. Ever think of inviting a bee to a funeral? The Museum of Jurassic Technology will highlight some of the potential benefits. Don’t believe people can grow horns? Let the museum regale you with the tale of Mary Davis, the horned woman of Saughall. Did you know that vintage dice crafted from celluloid actually decay? Then take a gander at the rotting dice of late actor and magician Ricky Jay. 

Photo credit: Cory Doctorow

The Curated Disorientation of the Museum

As you can see, there isn’t a clear correlation between these oddities… other than their oddity. And any connection to the Lower Jurassic would require some mental, maybe even metaphysical, gymnastics. Some displays are inspired by truth and would be at home in more conventional museums. Others seem to be conjured purely from Wilson’s imagination, though these creations are confidently presented as independent artifacts. 

Add in the labyrinthine floorplan and you can struggle to tell up from down while visiting the Museum of Jurassic Technology. It can quickly start to feel like a carnival funhouse of the mind; a hall of mirrors reflecting and distorting our thoughts with an impenetrable academic disorientation. The most absurd of exhibits is presented with such authority that an omnipresent sense of skepticism and doubt hangs precariously in the museum’s shadows. Where does the strange truth end and a creative fabrication begin? 

The Tula Tea Room

Aside from its over 30 permanent exhibits and a handful of temporary ones, the Museum of Jurassic Technology is crowned by its Tula Tea Room. Here, guests can mull over the museum’s offerings while sipping Georgian tea and nibbling cookies. Taking inspiration from Russian designs, the tea room reconstructs Tsar Nicholas II’s Winter Palace study (although obviously quite smaller). And amidst the plant life that decks the tea room, you’ll find live doves contributing to the sense of surrealism. 

Visiting the Museum

Photo credit: Sascha Pohflepp

Visiting the Museum of Jurassic Technology requires advanced online ticketing, available through their official site. Unlike pretty much any other blog we’ve produced at JohnHart, we hope this one inspires more questions than answers. Approach the Museum of Jurassic Technology with a mind as open as it is curious. 

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