The Museum of Jurassic Technology is at 9341 Venice Boulevard in the Palms district of Los Angeles, California, next to the Center for Land Use Interpretation. It has a Culver City address (zip code 90232). It was founded by David Hildebrand Wilson and Diana Wilson in 1989. A small branch of the museum is inside the Karl Ernst Osthaus-Museum in Hagen, Germany.
In his 1995 book Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder, author Lawrence Weschler portrays the museum, and David Wilson's curatorial role, as a work of conceptual art. Wilson received a MacArthur Foundation grant in 2003.
The museum claims to have a "specialized repository of relics and artifacts from the Lower Jurassic
, with an emphasis on those that demonstrate unusual or curious technological qualities." This explains the museum's name and also suggests its puzzling nature, since the Lower Jurassic ended more than 150 million years before the appearance of hominoids
and in particular before anything that could be called technology
(see geologic time scale
Its catalog includes a mixture of artistic and scientific exhibits that evokes the cabinets of curiosities that were the 18th century predecessors of modern natural history museums. The museum claims to attract around 6,000 visitors per year.
Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder claimed the exhibits were riddled with factual errors and peculiar attributions. Nevertheless, many exhibits that initially seemed to Weschler to be fabricated turned out, he discovered, to have a factual basis. Wechsler saw the museum as a commentary on the authoritarian character of most public museums and upon the trust that patrons place in those authorities. The museum, he said, was a reminder of such historical periods as the beginning of the Renaissance and the turn of the 20th century, times when increased world travel and rapid scientific progress resulted in artifacts that blurred the boundaries between what was considered possible and impossible.
The museum’s leaflets and books about museum exhibits include The Eye of the Needle: The Unique World of Microminiatures of Hagop Sandaldjian, by art critic and curator Ralph Rugoff and Bernard Maston, Donald R. Griffith and the Deprong Mori of the Tripsicum Plateau, which purports to describe the discovery of a bat that can fly through solid objects using X-rays instead of sound waves as a navigational tool. Many of these books are published in conjunction with the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Information.
The museum maintains a number of permanent exhibits including:
- An exhibit on household myths of years past (for example, if a child holds a dying creature in his or her hands, he or she will develop a tremor in the hands as an adult).
- A collection devoted to trailer park culture, entitled "Garden of Eden On Wheels."
- A collection of micro-miniature sculptures and paintings, such as a sculpture of Pope John Paul II carved from a single human hair and placed within the eye of a needle.
- Microscopic collages depicting flowers and other objects, made entirely from individual butterfly wing scales.
- A collection of stereographic X-ray photographs of flowers.
- A collection of decomposing antique dice once owned by magician Ricky Jay and documented in his book Dice: Deception, Fate, and Rotten Luck (ISBN 0-9714548-1-7).
- A small room dedicated to unusual letters and theories received by the Mount Wilson Observatory circa 1915–1935. These letters were also collected in the book No One May Ever Have the Same Knowledge Again: Letters to Mt. Wilson Observatory, 1915-1935 (ISBN 0-9647215-0-3).
The museum gift shop sells booklets devoted to all these exhibits. In 2004, a 35-minute documentary about the museum was produced entitled Inhaling the Spore.
In 2005, the museum was expanded with the addition of a tea room and a small theater for presenting special video productions.
- "… The public museum as understood today, is a collection of specimens and other objects of interest to the scholar, the man of science as well as the more casual visitor, arranged and displayed in accordance with the scientific method. In its original sense, the term 'museum' meant a spot dedicated to the muses — 'a place where man's mind could attain a mood of aloofness above everyday affairs.' " — Museum of Jurassic Technology, Introduction & Background, p.2
- "Confusion can be a very creative state of mind; in fact, confusion can act as a vehicle to open people's minds. The hard shell of certainty can be shattered…" — David Wilson in an interview with author Lawrence Weschler, originally aired on NPR, October 27, 2001.
- "The rarest and most precious knowledge is not that which is imposed, but rather, that which is absorbed, inhaled almost, from the ephemeral substance of the world in which we are contained." - from the Charter of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Information.
Lawrence Weschler, Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder
(1995) ISBN 0-679-76489-5