Culver City’s Museum of Jurassic Technology defies easy explanation.
The quirky, windowless establishment is so nondescript, I initially drove past its modest exterior in my search for its front door. Nestled alongside a body shop and a Thai restaurant on Venice Boulevard, the faded gray-blue building offers no indication of its interior treasures, which are nothing short of eccentric.
A brass buzzer and laminated paper sign beckoned visitors to enter its closed door and I couldn’t help but feel as though I were entering the set of a horror movie when I stepped inside and paid for my entrance at a candle-lit desk.
The museum only continued to provoke utter confusion. However, it seemed as though this was just the type of response intended.
The Museum of Jurassic Technology, which was opened in 1987 by David Hildebrande Wilson and Diana Drake Wilson, is something like “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!” meets the eerie basement of a mad scientist. But frankly, it’s a museum in its very own category of subject matter.
To call its collection bizarre is an understatement.
Low-lit glass cases of every oddity are on display, complete with detailed glowing plaques and corded phones with warbled narrations of each items’ significance.
Exhibits range from “Garden of Eden on Wheels,” a collection of trailer park relics, to “Eye of the Needle: The Unique World of Microminiatures of Hagop Sandaldjian,” featuring fanciful sculptures smaller than pin heads, to my personal favorite from the permanent collection, an audibly growling taxidermic fox only further enhanced by a look through its accompanying spectacles to reveal a hologram image of a man barking from within the creature.
According to an introductory video manifesto, the museum is modeled after the first great museums of the United States, calling itself an educational institution “dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and the public appreciation of the Lower Jurassic.” However, just what exactly the Lower Jurassic entails is never elaborated upon.
The more time I spent in the museum, the further convinced I was that I’d walked into an all-too-clever practical joke.
Though from its outward appearance the museum appears small, a surprising amount of relics are densely housed within dark curtained nooks. Upstairs rooms include the Borzoi Kabinet Theater and the Tula Tea Room, which is lit by incense burning candles and serves complimentary tea and cookies.
In accordance with the sheer madness of the museum, other upper rooms include a gallery featuring portraits of the entire fleet of early Soviet space dogs to first venture into space, while other rooms are devoted to the history of Cat’s Cradle.
I at last understood my friend’s efforts to explain the museum when she described it as something only understood when experienced.
And on my rainy day visit, the museum was surprisingly filled with those ready to embrace the museum’s odd charm.
Exhibits follow absolutely no narrative. Attempting to make sense of them will only induce headaches. But by the end of my experience, I stopped trying to analyze objects’ validity and instead learned to laugh at the downright weird displays of supposed natural history and science.
I’m still not exactly sure what comprises the “Lower Jurassic,” but I suppose it’s alright to revel in utter confusion every now and then.
Email Roberts at [email protected] if you’re a fan of Los Angeles’ less conventional history. “Artscapes” runs every Wednesday.