Museum of Jurassic Technology

As the Monty Python folks would say … and now for something completely different!
Or completely strange. And completely wonderful.


Here’s some good, old-fashioned museum homage. To a 21st century Ajeeb Ghar/Wonder House. An Ajeeb Ghar to beat all Ajeeb Ghars: the odd and endlessly intriguing Museum of Jurassic Technology.

As a museum, its a unique one-off. Nothing you’ve seen or are likely to see in the 21st century American museum world quite prepares you for this. You arrive at a tiny, unprepossessing storefront off Venice Boulevard in L.A.  You look around, slightly baffled, even though the banner announces that you’re at the right place. You knock. But once you step inside, its magic. You are transported, “guided along as it were a chain of flowers into the mysteries of life” (as the opening quote from Charles Vincent Peale suggests) into a dimly lit museum space that seems oddly out of sync with the bustle outside, dedicated not to reason and certainty and what we know, but to imagination and uncertainty and what we don’t know. Continue reading

Curious Cabinets: Kunstkammer meets White Cube at the Salar Jung Museum

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K.G.Subramanyan, New Works, 2014 and How Strong the Breeze, How Precious The Flight, 2014
Parallel Exhibitions at the Salar Jung Museum, July 2014

And so it begins! Or so it began. What better place to start a museum blog titled Ajeeb Ghar/Wonder-House than in one of the strangest, most wonder-filled museums in India.. Lauded as the country’s third largest national museum, the Salar Jung museum is an idiosyncratic, one-man collection in Hyderabad that dates back three generations but achieved its current public museum form in 1951. And what better time to write about this strange museum than July 2013 when it opened its doors to two extraordinary contemporary art exhibitions: a 90th year retrospective of one of India’s most respected and beloved senior artists (K.G.Subramanyan); and a group show by graduating arts students at the other end of the career spectrum. Continue reading

So, what’s an Ajeeb Ghar anyway?

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Ajeeb Ghar, n./əʤi:b ghər/
Strange House, Wonder House, Magic House, Cabinet of Curiosity
Etymology: ajeeb < Urdu, strange, wondrous, wonderful, anomalous + ghar < Sanskri, home, residence, location.
Synonyms: Ajaib ghar, Ajeeb khana. Jadu ghar

First introduced to English-speaking readers of literary fiction through Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, the term Ajeeb Ghar continues to be used to refer to all museums in South Asia. The literal translation from the Urdu is Strange House or Wonder House.  But wonder and strange can have multiple meanings in the museum world.  The original and eponymous Ajeeb Ghar was the fabulous Lahore museum with which Kim opens, where Lockwood Kipling (Rudyard’s father) was curator. In Kim and other historical or literary accounts, Ajeeb Ghar was a magical – even wondrous – place where 18th and 19th century viewers encountered marvelous, astonishing things from around the world and across oceans, from royal palaces to everyday lives.

Continue reading