Any science fiction fan attending the Worldcon in Los Angeles (well, Anaheim) next year who wants to experience a museum with a real sense of wonder should go to David Wilson's Museum of Jurassic Technology, 9341 Venice Boulevard, Culver City, 310-836-6131 (with a web site at http://www.mjt.org/--check for their hours, as they are somewhat limited). Mark called this a "tawdry and specious museum," but there is more to it than that. When one enters, one sees a motley assortment: a mole skeleton; a fruit stone carving; an exhibit on Geoffrey Sonnabend and his "Obliscence Theory of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter"; another exhibit on Eugene Dubois and picanthropus erectus; and a presentation on Bernard Maston, Donald R. Griffith, and the "deprong mori of the Tripsicum Plateau"; and the micromosaics of Henry Dalton. One discovers that (according to Athanaseus Kircher) the reason the Tower of Babel was destroyed was because it would have been so big that it would have made the earth tip over and move from the center of the universe. Actor and magician Ricky Jay contributed the materials for "Rotten Luck: Failing Dice from the Collection of Ricky Jay," a study of how dice decay.
So what is this place? I described it originally as part art museum, part science museum, part participatory dramatics. Lawrence Weschler wrote an entire book, MR. WILSON'S CABINET OF WONDER (ISBN 0-679-43998-6), trying to explain it. Weschler sees it more as an extension or continuation of the "Wunderkammern" of "Cabinets of Wonder" that became popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Weschler actually tried to track down the various sources cited in the Museum, and to research the types of things there. So he discovered, for example, that while he cannot see the details on the fruit stone carving on display at the Museum (because there is no magnification), there really was such an art form, and there are numerous examples in the Ashmolean and other "real" museums. And so it goes. Each exhibit first seems completely real. Then, as one examines it, it starts to dawn on the viewer that it can't possibly be real. And then you read in Weschler's book that it is real, or that at least a large part of it is real.
Unlike CLARA'S GRAND TOUR (reviewed in the 11/04/05 issue of the MT VOID), this book has a lot of illustrations scattered throughout. Weschler even refers to the endpapers at one point. (I'm not sure if these are included in the paperback edition.) Unfortunately, it has no index.
Marcia Tucker (of New York's New Museum) says of David Wilson, "He never ever breaks irony. . . . When you're in there with him, everything initially just seems self-evidently what it is. There's this fine line, though, between knowing you're experiencing something and sensing that something is wrong. There's this slight slippage, which is the essence of the place."
Weschler connects this whole phenomenon to a variety of literary and artistic imaginings, including Donald Evans's stamps and Jorge Luis Borges's "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius", and cites the same Borges line that I quoted in my comments on that story: "The metaphysicians of Tlon are not looking for truth, not even an approximation of it; they are after a kind of amazement." They would have loved David Wilson and his Museum of Jurassic Technology. [-ecl]
To order Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder from amazon.com, click here.
[My comments on "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" may be found in the 09/09/05 issue of the MT VOID. -ecl]
[For more information on the museum go to NPR's web site http://tinyurl.com/8e7a2. There is also a good description of the museum at http://www.roadtripamerica.com/places/mjt.htm.]
Evelyn C. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2005 Evelyn C. Leeper