This green door sits a few feet away from a bus stop on a Culver City, CA corner. It’s an unremarkable location for a museum, but then, to call this place a “museum” doesn’t properly describe the function of this unusual menagerie-of-the-unexpected.
You will not find quiet, sterile rooms lined with oil paintings from the old masters, nor brightly whimsical pop art from the new. No, The Museum of Jurassic Technology doesn’t really display art or important cultural relics for passive viewing; the art of this museum is you, navigating your way around the displays and deciphering your reaction to the experience itself. And before you get too worried, this is definitely not a post-modern “is this toilet art” kind of place. This is something altogether different.
Upon entrance, it is impossible to ignore the dark and unsettling nature of the first floor. So dark, in fact, that I was enormously apprehensive about inadvertently crashing into a fragile exhibit. A sound recording was echoing in from another room, which I could only identify as some sort of barking animal sound. Meanwhile, there is also opera coming from yet another unspecific location. As weird as it sounds, none of this seemed out-of-place.
There are two separate collections featuring impossibly small art. The microminiature sculptures of Hagop Sandaldjian, which are small enough to fit in the eye of a needle, require magnification to view. And the even smaller micromosaics of Henry Dalton require microscopic aid.
Other collections were harder to decipher their purpose in the grand curation of things, which I suspect might exactly be the point.
Walking up the stairway to the second floor were several dollhouse-sized, wooden models of spiral staircases, framed and mounted in shadowboxes just above the handrail. The mischievousness of it all made me smile as I ascended higher into the unknown above.
Two more small rooms were dedicated to cat’s cradle, the children’s string game. In one there were open books mounted to the walls, which included an eyepiece to look through, that would superimpose an animated video of a figure being created over the book’s page. Like nearly everything else in the museum, it very much felt like I was experiencing a kind of quaint, imperfect, futuristic technology from a hundred years ago.
The only paintings on display, turned out to be portraits made of the Dogs of the Soviet Space Program. They are somewhat cheesy, silly, and romance-novel-esque in their style… and as a pet owner, admittedly found them rather touching. There’s a lot of humanity in acknowledging the sacrifices animals have made for our benefit. I also have to quickly move on before I begin to seriously contemplate my own cat’s unfairly short lifespan-to-come.
Of course, there were more exhibits than what I’ve attempted to describe; many including video, or now-old-fashioned corded-telephone-handpieces which would play recorded audio on-demand. Some worked better than others. I presume that’s part of the experience in some way.
In the end, though, it says a lot that the one thing that seemed most out of place, was the piano in the library which had a sign requesting people to not play it. With such a large amount of crazy, weird, interesting, artistic, pointless, thought-provoking, horrifying, scientifically unscientific things packed into one little building; I would find random, amateur pianists attempting to bang out chopsticks or Miley Cyrus tunes just part of the show.
Or, maybe I just kind of wanted to play the piano.