LA's Diamond in the Rough
LA’s Museum of Jurassic Technology opened its doors in 1989 and a cult following soon developed amongst artists and academics across southern California due in large part to its more subversive qualities. The museum did more than merely introduce visitors to interesting objects and curious bits of minutiae; unique among contemporary museums, the MJT modeled alternative modes of memory and history, both in regards to collective groups and the individuals who populated them. This new model of the museum-going experience was largely predicated upon a startling twist: visitors were exposed to narratives both genuine and fabricated, often presented in adjacent displays and with no indication as to which was which. In blending the fictional with the factual, the museum follows the tradition of 18th century curiosity cabinets, Victorian flea circuses, and turn-of-the-century dime museums, where the patron, in many ways, would play the willing fool. One of the museum’s significant accomplishments was that it undermined the reliability of memory while drawing attention to the fact that knowledge is always mediated. This paper will explore these aspects of the visitor experience, and others, to shed light upon this testament to the wonder and joy of acquiring knowledge.