Laika's space suit. Mosaics made from butterfly wings. Superstitions brought to life. Find out what mesmerizing objects are in the strangest museum on Earth and marvel at a collection of artifacts and relics would make even Artie jealous.
Hidden in the wasteland of Culver City, CA, is the Museum of Jurassic Technology. This marvelous museum of modern antiquity perfectly blurs the line between science and fiction, displaying both the real and surreal with equal care. The MJT is a present-day version of a sixteenth-century tradition;The Wunderkammer,or Cabinet of Wonders.
There's a whole hermetic tradition of the transmission of knowledge, which is very often done through a guide, where you gain access to information at the time that you need it. At a certain point in a person's development it becomes exactly what they need to know and before that it's meaningless. I think it happens all the time to people here at the museum. It's the only way to account for the huge variety of responses that people have. Some are ready to see this material in a certain way - it brings up a certain kind of knowledge or understanding in them - whereas for others it doesn't at all.
The exhibits are, to quote Lewis Carrol's Alice, curiouser and curiouser. The Lives of Perfect Creatures salutes the canines of the Soviet space program, while Tell The Bees is an exploration of domestic superstitions. Marvel at the Micromosaics of Henry Dalton, constructed entirely of butterfly wings, and a Flemish landscape carved from an almond. Yes, an almond.
Many of the museum exhibits leave you puzzled as to how much fact lies within each fiction. Consider the evidence surrounding the Deprong Mori of the Tripiscum Pleateau, a bat which can supposedly pass through solid objects using x-ray rather than sonar. Ponder the Horn of Mary Davis of Saughall, one of supposedly several humans to sprout such appendages in the middle-ages. If such things tickle your fancy, horn earrings can be purchased in the museum gift shop.
Also available in gift shop is Lawrence Weschler's book, Mr. Wilson's Cabinet Of Wonder , which tries to unravel the mysteries of the museum and David Wilson's work. The book opens with same image that you encounter when you first step inside the Museum of Jurassic Technology, that of the Megolaponera Foetens, The Stink Ant Of Cameroon. The ant's story is true science, but seems more like science fiction than many of the museum's other oddities:
In the rain forest of the Cameroon in West Central Africa lives a floor dwelling ant known as Megaloponera foetens, or more commonly, the stink ant. This large ant - one of the very few to produce a cry audible to the human ear - lives by foraging for food among the fallen leaves and undergrowth of the extraordinarily rich rain forest floor.
On occasion one of these ants, while looking for food is infected by inhaling a microscopic spore from a fungus of the genus Tomentella. After being inhaled, the spore seats in the ant's tiny brain and begins to grow, causing changes in the ant's patterns of behavior. The Ant appears troubled and confused; for the first time in its life the ant leaves the forest floor and begins to climb. Driven on by the growth of the fungus, the ant embarks on a long and exhaustive climb. Completely spent and having reached a prescribed height, the ant impales the plant with its mandibles. Thus affixed, the ant waits to die. Ants that have met their ends in this fashion are quite common in some sections of the forest.
The fungus continues to consume first the nerve cells and finally all the soft tissue that remains of the ant. After approximately two weeks a spike appears from what had been the head of the ant. This spike is about an inch and a half in length and has a bright orange tip heavy with spores which rain down onto the rain forest floor for other unsuspecting ants to inhale.
This story, and the ant, has come to be seen as a mascot of the museum, a morbid metaphor of the transmission of knowledge, and a perfect example of truth being far stranger than fiction.