Monday, November 28, 2011

The Museum of Jurassic Technology

Just got back from celebrating Thanksgiving in L.A. with Micky and friends. It was an amazing looong weekend spending time with some very fun funny people, touring a beautiful sunny city I’d never seen before. The summer after I graduated from college I had planned an epic drive cross-country with an impractically long list of odd Americana destinations (The World’s Largest Ball of Twine was definitely a highlight) I wanted to visit along the way. The Museum of Jurassic Technology had always been at the top of my agenda, but sadly, once we finally reached the West Coast we were running short on time and had to bypass the city entirely. Sigh. But this time—THIS time I was not going to let this strange little museum get away from me!

I’d read a fascinating little book about the museum a few years back called Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology by Lawrence Weschler, so I was eagerly expecting to see all of the items enumerated in the title and then some. Once inside the museum’s dim, dark warren of galleries, I was elated to discover that there was indeed oh so much more. There was a whole room devoted to oil portraits of the dogs from the Soviet Space Program, and another full of trailer park dioramas, and still another with exquisite micromosaics visible only through the narrow lens of a microscope. I may end up splitting this into a few posts so I can do the collection justice, but for now I’ll start with what I came for: the human horn.

Mounted and hung on a wall with other animal horns on display, the human horn was dark, hairy, and wonderfully repulsive.

Here’s the museum placard:

Ok, so I guess we are being led to believe that this isn’t the ACTUAL human horn from the description. 1688? It would probably be a pile of dust by now, unless they had gone to extraordinary lengths to try and preserve it. Maybe it’s just a model of the real thing. Either way, I’ll take it. 

While I do love specimens and oddities of all sorts, it is Mary Davis' story that really captivated me when I did further research. Horns and hair and hooves are all made of the same keratin protein, so it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility that one could grow on a person’s head. That I can wrap my mind around. But apparently, Mary Davis eventually had it removed only to have it grow back again a few years later. Then when she had that one removed, it happened again. Shudder to think.

I'm sure there's a cornucopia/horn of plenty joke in there somewhere. Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving!

- Cathleen

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