Los Angeles’ Most Provocative Museums

Scott S. Smith

Thursday, July 21, 2016
Microscopy Hall at the Museum of Jurassic Technology
Microscopy Hall at the Museum of Jurassic Technology
- photo by Jennifer Bastian

London and Los Angeles are tied at 300 for having the most museums in the world. But London’s tend to be along the respectable lines of the Victoria and Albert (decorative arts), British Museum (historical artifacts), and the War Rooms (Churchill’s underground headquarters). L.A. has collections with very special interest appeal, such as those devoted to stuffed bunnies, neon art, India’s sacred scripture, and the former East Germany (alas, one about circus sideshows went out of business and the International Banana Museum moved away). We recently reviewed some of the region’s most controversial:

Museum of Jurassic Technology, 9341 Venice Blvd., Culver City www.MJT.org 310/836-6131

The name should be a clue, but many visitors can’t seem to grasp that this place blends parodies of exhibits on Ph.D.-worthy subjects with displays about superstitions that were once taken seriously. In the first category you can find an in-depth study of the lifestyles of trailer parks, while in the second would be the examination of a bat that could allegedly fly through walls. Yet others will make you marvel, such as the sculptures of Napoleon and Pope John Paul II built into the eyes of needles and viewed through a microscope.  The MJT earned founder David Wilson a MacArthur Genius Grant and the museum was the subject of the bestseller “Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder.”

Museum of Broken Relationships, 6751 Hollywood Blvd., L.A. http://Brokenships.la 323/892-1200

Opened in June 2016, this addresses the topic of the lessons learned from difficulties with spouses and lovers, family members, business partners, religions, cities, and every other kind of relationship. As the city of dreams, broken and otherwise, L.A. turns out to be the right place and the museum is conveniently located in the epicenter of tourism, where the Walk of Fame starts. The objects anonymously donated for exhibition have flooded in because the process of telling their stories is therapeutic. They were once associated with good memories and the owners couldn’t bear to throw them away, coming from as far as Russia and Australia and ranging from a text message with emojis to a sail boat.

Psychiatry: An Industry of Death, 6616 Sunset Blvd, L.A. www.CCHR.org 800/869-2247

As someone who has benefited from psychotherapy, I was puzzled by what would energize people to create an organization, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights International, which is devoted to attacking psychiatry. As it turns out, its museum does a good job of illuminating the dark history of the profession, from lobotomies to Nazi experiments. The major current issue is the ever-expanding manual of supposed mental-emotional diseases (such as Adolescent Rebellion Disorder) that is closing in on 400, for which there is always a drug with serious side effects at a high price. Some psychiatrists and healthcare professionals have supported the museum, which does discuss alternatives.

Museum of Death, 6031 Hollywood Blvd., L.A. www.MuseumofDeath.net 323/466-8011

It isn’t for the faint of heart, but is cheaper quicker than psychotherapy to help you appreciate every day you have left to live. As befits the city where Evelyn Waugh’s novel “The Loved One” and HBO’s “Six Feet Under” were set and where celebrity-filled cemeteries are tourist attractions, its collection is to die for. This includes letters from serial killers, autopsy photos of President Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, pictures of cannibals feasting, Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s advice on suicide, and rooms devoted to Charlie Manson and the Black Dahlia murders, and instructional films made to scare teens into driving safely. Fortunately, you can ignore anything you want (just as you don’t have to watch all those popular TV series on murder). 

Museum of Death
Museum of Death

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