What's up with Los Angeles' Museum of Jurassic Technology?
May 10, 2004 12:10 PM   Subscribe

LA area MeFis: Anyone ever visit the Museum of Jurassic Technology?

I've checked out their web site over the years, but have never made it down to LA. And I just can't figure out if the place is for real or not... Has someone gone? What in the world is it all about?

The Tula Tea Room offers light refreshments, and the Borzoi Kabinet Theater screens the film Levsha, the Cross-Eyed Lefty from Tula and the Steel Flea at hourly intervals.
posted by jasper411 to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, LA (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't been, but I'm planning a trip when a friend from out of town comes next month.

Basically, everybody I met when I first moved here said "You have to go."

To which I replied "Why?, what is it?"

and Invariably they would say something to the effect of "I can't tell you, you just have to go."

Now I have found out (via Ricky Jay) what it is and I've gotta say it really does sound like the coolest thing ever. Sorry this isn't very helpful in terms of personal experience, but I though the 'word on the street' might be of help.
posted by shotsy at 12:17 PM on May 10, 2004

I have been a few times, it's great. It's small and it's basically a bunch of exhibits of what could best be called random stuff. But it's crazy/interesting/bizarre/pointless random stuff and it's displayed in a really nice way.

You know when you go to a museum for the first time when you're a kid, like a natural history museum? It's all interesting because you've never seen stuff like that before (like rocks under UV light that glow). This is like that, except for people who've already seen all the 'normal' weird stuff created by nature and man.

It is a pretty small building though, so take it for what it is. A gem.
posted by chaz at 12:45 PM on May 10, 2004

Yes, I've been several times and love it. The question as to whether or not it's "for real" is, in a way, part of the intrigue of the entire enterprise. The way you answer depends on what your presumption of what the function of a museum is and, even further, what your presumptions about science and demonstrable truth are. It may be a brilliantly elaborate hoax, or a subversive epitemological critique, or the workings of a mad genius (David Wilson, the MJT's founder, received a MacArthur grant a few years ago). It may be some combination of all three; it may be none of the above.

Worth reading is Lawrence Weschler's Dr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder. It doesn't neccessarily solve the puzzle, but Weschler has fun going through the layers of mystery and history behind it.
posted by scody at 12:56 PM on May 10, 2004

Ok now I'm confused. Reading through the web site, some things didn't make sense. Like the "stink ant" and then definitely the bat who emits ultraviolet -> x-ray light? Somehow using the wave powers of light? When I looked up the scientific name of the bat (which is just a common brown bat), I felt confused and flustered.

Then I found this Dr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder review and kind of became more confused. Way too over my head thought. What I gather the whole museum is a message on how we view and perceive information... or something. I don't get LA.
posted by geoff. at 1:14 PM on May 10, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for the insights, all. I just love the whole idea of stretching the concept of a museum so that visitors have something like a theatrical experience, rather than just being passive spongers of information.

Shotsy - what's the Ricky Jay angle? Does he have something to do with the museum? Also, I'd never heard of David Wilson before this - what else has he done?

If I ever make it down there, I'll be visiting. And I'm going to pick up the Weschler book ASAP.
posted by jasper411 at 1:23 PM on May 10, 2004

I've been there. It's pretty cool. A lot of it is what I would just call "pseudoscience"...so many common assumptions are challenged inherently in many of the exhibits, that it's hard to know even where to begin a discussion of whether or not they're "fake."

One interesting part, for me, was the positing of inositol as a medicine...some sort of brain-food, I think. And the same substance was once prescribed to me, for a similar purpose, by a naturopath. I don't know what that means, but it's cool. I thought so, anyway.
posted by bingo at 1:29 PM on May 10, 2004

Ricky Jay's collection of decomposing dice is currently on display.

The museum can be enjoyed apart from any perceived metacommentary-- it's really not about being "clever." True or not, it's fascinating, one-of-a-kind, a rare example of one person's mad vision come to life. Not to be missed.
posted by samh23 at 1:35 PM on May 10, 2004

Jasper - run, don't walk. Best thing in LA.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:46 PM on May 10, 2004

In addition to what samh23 says, Ricky and the museum's curator are friends and share a taste for the esoteric.

For some reason his website is not loading up for me right now, but there you can read a New Yorker article where he mentions the museum, which is how I know of the connection.
posted by shotsy at 4:29 PM on May 10, 2004

My SO and I wandered in there one day sort of by accident, neither of us had heard of it before. Some exhibits were educational, some bizarre, some beautiful. All very interesting and whimsical. It's definitely worth a visit.
posted by kamikazegopher at 6:45 PM on May 10, 2004

WARNING: a lot of the exhibits are often not working or missing. Last two times I went almost half the exhibits were in some degree of disarray.
posted by thebigpoop at 8:30 PM on May 10, 2004

There are some that seem never to have been working as long as I've been going, so I wonder if that's all part of the crazy grand design as well...?
posted by scody at 11:15 AM on May 11, 2004

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