Let’s start with the name. There is not, to my or anyone else’s knowledge, such a thing as jurassic technology; that geologic period ended 145 million years ago, long before the wheel or sliced bread or smartphones. This should be the first clue that something is, if not quite amiss, then certainly off-kilter about the Museum of Jurassic Technology. If its namesake quite literally doesn’t exist, then what exactly is this small museum in Los Angeles actually about?
What is Jurassic Technology?
That question, like most raised by the MJT, is more difficult to answer than you might expect. Upon entering the nondescript building and paying the suggested admission price of $10, you’ll be greeted by a scale model of Noah’s Ark. OK, you may find yourself thinking, so it’s some kind of religious thing. Well, no, not really.
Enclosed in glass a few feet away from that biblical vessel is Megolaponera foetens, described here as the “stink ant of the Cameroon of West Central Africa.” But after leaving the museum and Googling said specimen — phones are not allowed in the mostly windowless museum, which is too dark for pictures anyway — you'll learn that no such species exists. This is probably for the best, given that the display case’s fanciful description states that the poor creature’s mind is eventually subsumed by the spores of a parasitic fungus that leads it to an early death brought on by ceaseless tree-climbing. So, is the museum about dinosaurs and other species that may or may not be real? Again, not really.
Suffice to say that an African stink ant isn’t the Museum of Jurassic Technology’s only invention. The name of its exhibits are in and of themselves more compelling than some actual galleries at other museums; from “Tell The Bees: Belief, Knowledge & Hypersymbolic Cognition” to “Athanasius Kircher: The World Is Bound With Secret Knots,” everything about this place provokes curiosity and wonderment. Much of that arises from trying to figure out MJT itself, and therein lies the point.
How we think about art, history, culture, and everything in between is at the forefront of any visit to the Museum — even if those thoughts don’t fully coalesce until after you’ve left. Though lacking the cohesion of a more traditional institution, the displays are linked by their differences — think of the space as a cabinet of curiosities where esoterica reigns supreme.
"Life in the Jurassic"
Strangeness follows you from room to room. Here you'll find a piece of toast topped with dead mice, supposedly once put forth as a cure for bed-wetting; there you'll see a Pope figurine in the eye of a needle.
Which isn’t to say that it’s all heady and confusing. One exhibit, about the Soviet space dogs, is among the most deeply moving I’ve ever experienced. “The Lives of Perfect Creatures” is the most sincere, straightforward corner of the Museum, telling the tragic story of Laika and other Russian canines who unwittingly gave their lives so that man could learn more about the cosmos. The oil portraits of said pups will hit you like a gut punch, making the experience visceral in more ways than one.
(For a mid-visit palate cleanser, the adjacent Tula Tea Room is a must. Georgian black tea is served alongside cookies, and the Borzoi Kabinet Theater projects a rotating series of short films.)
There’s only one way to finish your experience: on the tranquil third-floor terrace, where you'll be joined by dozens of doves. Their quiet cooing feels both knowing and mysterious — they've been here far longer than you, but any secrets they've learned in that time will never be shared.