Saturday, December 1, 2007

Museum of Jurassic Technology

The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, California, is a curio cabinet of obscure relics and extinct beliefs. "Jurassic" is metaphorical; no dinosaurs here.

We wandered in late on a drizzly day. No one else was there. A bearded attendant finally appeared from nowhere. He apologized for the smell of a dog-doo and incense (a dog had just had an accident). He directed us to watch an introductory slide show in a shrine-like alcove.

A voice began in sonorous tones describing how the word “museum” should be a place dedicated to the muses. We explored the dark, narrow rooms and hallways, passing through doorways framed with heavy Victorian curtains. The displays included.
  • Micromosaics made from the scales of butterly wings.
  • Stereo floral radiographs of Albert Richard.
  • Vectography (an obscure 1940s technique for overlapping 3-D images)
  • Microminiature figures carved by Hagop Sandaldjian, figures so small they easily fit inside the eye of a needle.
  • A bell wheel, known as an arca musarithmica,
  • And displays of forgotten folk cures, like two dead mice on a piece of toast given to a child to cure stuttering.
The strange exposition that the museum offered had its desired effect, and roused the muses.

“Teaching,” quoting 18th Century museum pioneer Charles Willson Peale, “is a sublime ministry inseparable from human happiness. The learner must be led always from familiar objects toward the unfamiliar - guided along, as it were, a chain of flowers into the mysteries of life.”
Fodor's Review of the Museum


Dan Gurney said...

Peale's quote about teaching is lovely.

Those who have contributed the most to the world -- Gandhi, Jesus, Buddha come immediately to mind -- were basically teachers.

James Gurney said...

Yes, Dan, so true.

Everybody: Dan Gurney, "Mr. Kindergarten," is my older brother. (Yeah, I know——he looks younger, but that's because he's around kids all the time.) He also happens to be one of America's leading kindergarten teachers.

He just started a fabulous blog about his experiences and insights in the classroom (check out his recent post about his puppet Archy).

Michael D. Barton, FCD said...

Hi James, nice post. I grew up in outside of LA until I moved to Montana in '04. I never visited, really never knew of, this museum. Recently I read Weschler's book, "Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder."

stacey said...

I have a 7 year old boy named Colby who has Aspergers Syndrome.He is our Dinosaur exspert. He has your book Dinotopia and He loves it.I have been looking on your web site for tour dates and none are close to Boise,Idaho. If you are ever close by we would love to meet you.Thank you for the wonderful book.