Library collections, archives and other information that aren't accessible online, and how to find them. Use the links at top right to ask a question or submit a post. Contact: jacquelinekbarlow [at] gmail [dot] com or tweet @thatsnotonline

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Read the Printed Word!

The Museum of Jurassic Technology, Culver City, California

Image of the Idol of ‘Fombum’ courtesy The Museum of Jurassic Technology.

The dissonance created by the juxtaposition of “Jurassic” and “Technology” seems to be representative of the experience of visiting this museum. Firsthand accounts include a questioning of sanity and the assertion that “[t]he museum was larger inside than out”.

As noted in the Introduction to the Museum’s website, “[i]n its original sense, the term “museum” meant a spot dedicated to the muses - ‘a place where man’s mind could attain a mood of aloofness above everyday affairs.’” The Museum claims to trace its roots to the nineteenth century and to stand today “in a unique position among the institutions in the country,” a statement which is certainly true - one would have difficulty finding any other exhibit devoted to, for instance, the Deprong Mori, a bat native to “the Tripiscum Plateau of the Circum-Caribbean region of Northern South America” which is reputed to have the ability to fly through walls, or a collection of the works of violinist and microminiaturist Hagop Sandaldjian, including a Little Red Riding Hood tableau carved into the eye of a needle and the figure of a woman carved on a strand of the artist’s white hair, or a series of letters to the Mount Wilson observatory from individuals claiming to be in posession of “the key to all existance” [sic].*

According to Roadside America, the Museum of Jurassic Technology was founded in 1989 by artists David and Diana Wilson as an “educational institution dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and public appreciation of the Lower Jurassic.” This 1996 story from National Public Radio on the Museum comments on the authoritative tone of the displays: “that voice of unassailable institutional authority — you know: the voice from every museum acoustic guide and nature special”. In an interview with David Wilson called “The Museum museum,” Frieze magazine notes that while touring the MJT “one may begin to doubt the veracity of this particular museum, and this doubt may spill over to museums in general.” It is still unclear to us, however, whether this is a museum of fictions, or a collection of authentic artifacts presented in an unfamiliar way. What is clear is that the Museum of Jurassic Technology provides not just an assembly of arcane “facts” but a multisensory user experience - that its physical location may be just as important as any information contained therein.

Click here for a list of the Museum’s Collections and Exhibitions, and here for visitor information including location and visiting hours. We reblogged another review of the Museum of Jurassic Technology last week.

*I am really not sure how many, if any, of these are hoaxes.

Computerspielemuseum, Berlin

Image courtesy The Next Web.

The Computerspielemuseum (computer game museum) in Berlin has in its collections more than 22,000 computer games and applications, more than 300 computer game consoles, and more than 10,000 journal issues (on the topic of computer games, one would assume). This same collection has been deteriorating ever since it began in 1997. Most historic computer games are stored on magnetic drives, and as The Next Web notes,

Magnetic drives fail quickly, and the data carriers that hold the information we’d like to preserve begin to demagnetize about ten years into their existence. Once they’re demagnetized, the data is gone and lost… In the digital world, only a few bits lost through demagnetization could render the source wholly uninterpretable.

It is possible to preserve games that are stored on magnetic drives, by using an emulator: “hardware or software or both that duplicates (or emulates) the functions of a first computer system (the guest) in a different second computer system (the host).” Unfortunately for the Computerspielemuseum, emulating a computer game involves copying code, and doing so is prohibited by US and European copyright law. There is no exemption for preservation.

Two associations that aim to change that are KEEP (Keeping Emulation Environments Portable), which aims to “to facilitate universal access to our cultural heritage by developing flexible tools for accessing and storing a wide range of digital objects” and “will also consider legal issues” relating to this, and EFGAMP, the European Federation of Games Archives, Museums, and Preservation Projects, founded on 18th April of this year. EFGAMP is a federation of 13 organisations across Europe. Computerspielemuseum is a partner in both organisations.

The museum’s permanent exhibition consists of a life-size Lara Croft to greet you on the main staircase, “top-performing” arcade games like Pong Machine, Nimrod and PainStation, a “wall of hardware” with over 50 consoles, the first 3D simulator, and more. Special exhibitions include an artistic approach to Streetfighter II, playable original consoles, and an homage to the “Computing Revolution” of the 1970s and 80s.

The Computerspielemuseum can be found at Karl-Marx-Allee 93a, 10243 Berlin, a five-minute tube ride from Alexanderplatz. They may also be contacted on +49 30 6098 8577 or emailed here.

Tattooed Human Skin at the Wellcome Collection

Image courtesy Wellcome Library/Wellcome Images.

At the first-ever Museums Showoff on 25th April 2012, Gemma Angel made a brief (9-minute maximum!) presentation on the subject of her doctoral research - a collection of tattooed human skin found at the Wellcome Collection in London. This particular collection consists of about 300 pieces of human skin, probably French in origin, created between 1850-1920 (as little is known about the collection, we must assume all dates are approximate). This collection is Angel’s research subject as a PhD student at University College London.

The exact origin of the specimens in the collection remains something of a mystery; all 300 pieces were obtained from a “Dr. La Valette” in Paris in 1929. The purchasing agent wrote of the transaction:

These skins date from the first quarter of last century down to the present time; many of them are very curious and extremely interesting, consisting of skins of sailors, soldiers, murderers and criminals of all nationalities … Lavalette told me that the skins are unique, that no more could now be got under any circumstances and that each skin had taken him a long time and cost him a certain amount to cure and prepare for his permanent collection.

Quoted in “Current Research”, Life & 6 Months.

Little is known about La Valette, but why would anyone feel the need to assemble such a seemingly macabre collection? The reason was likely scientific: as Angel pointed out at Museums Showoff (and in this 2010 blog post), tattoos were of interest to some nineteenth-century criminologists as examples of “signs of atavism, criminal proclivity, or dangerous ‘degeneration’” within European society. The collection of actual skin, however, as opposed to sketches or photographs, certainly gives one pause.

Two pieces are on permanent display as part of Wellcome’s Medicine Man exhibit, and seven more were available for public viewing in Wellcome’s 2010 exhibition, Skin. A number of photos of the pieces can be found on Gemma’s blog and elsewhere - so why claim that these aren’t online? First, because the digital images represent only a fraction of the collection, and second, as with most museum artifacts, surely nothing can replace the handling of the actual thing. Especially when the artifact is made of a substance, which, according to some, is unmistakable.

Smell, part five: Musée international de la parfumerie, Grasse, France

Image courtesy Vanity Fair.

The Musée international de la parfumerie, in Grasse, birthplace of the luxury perfume trade, boasts 50,000 items related to the history of perfume. Since its 2009 renovation the museum offers olfactory tours, allowing participants to sample various scents in the perfumery’s collection. Also available are interactive exhibits for children, a contemporary art collection, and a garden of sweet-smelling plants such as centifolia rose, jasmine, and orange blossom.

The collections of the Musée may be searched here, along with those of the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Provence and the Villa-Musée Jean-Honoré Fragonard (search facility in French only).

The Musee received much attention when it reopened in 2009, after a four-year renovation. You can watch a report from France 24 on the Museum’s 2009 reopening, listen to this NPR story, or read an article from Vanity Fair.

Click here to download a guide and schedule of exhibitions at the Musée, and for contact information.

Click here to see previous posts in That’s Not Online’s series on smell.

Smell, part four: Perfume Strips and Scratch ‘n’ Sniff

Image via Bubbledog’s Scratch ‘n’ Sniff Stickers.

One of our first really popular posts on That’s Not Online! was this one about old magazine and journal advertisements falling victim to digitisation. For the fourth installment of our series on smell (brought to you by watchful reader Vassiliki Veros), I would like to call your attention to two more casualties of the decline of print journalism: perfume samples and scratch and sniff technology.

According to Answers.com, the technology behind Scratch ‘n’ Sniff was invented in 1965 by an organic chemist working for 3M who was trying to make carbonless paper. The chemist, Gale Matson, succeeded in his goal, but the marketing department at 3M was tasked with coming up for some alternate uses for the patented micro-encapsulation technology, and Scratch ‘n’ Sniff was born. See HowStuffWorks for a more detailed explanation of the science behind this. Pull-apart perfume strips, another 3M brainchild, followed in either 1981 (as per Answers.com) or 1984 (says The New York Review of Magazines).

Scratch and sniff in popular culture, from Wikipedia’s entry on scratch and sniff, lists some unusual uses of scratch and sniff technology, such as scratch ‘n’ sniff inserts in video games or music albums, and the 1981 John Waters film Polyester, which was released with Odorama — a card containing 10 scent samples to be scratched at intervals throughout the movie. The most popular use of scratch ‘n’ sniff technology was for scented stickers, though it would seem these are not produced as often as they once were and have in fact become a collector’s item. Mad Magazine included scratch ‘n’ sniffs for many years (if they still do, please let us know).

Perfume samples are still being included in magazines, of course, and this recent Forbes article reports that the technology is now also used for household cleaning products, hygiene and health products, and medicines and other remedies. The catch? They’re not available on the iPad edition.

Smell, part three: Museu del Perfum / Museo del Perfume, Barcelona

While the Osmothèque in Versailles covers the history of perfumery as a science, Barcelona’s Museo del Perfume (site in Spanish and Catalan) takes it a bit farther than that. With the very grand claim that “la historia de la perfumería es tan antigua como la historia de la humanidad" (the history of perfumery is as old as the history of humanity), the Museo lays claim to over 5000 bottles, miniatures, catalogues, labels, and old advertising relating to the history of perfume from prehistory to the present day, including Mesopotamia, Egypt, Israel, Greece, the Phoenicians and Carthage, Rome, Islamic civilizations, and the Renaissance. All this is organized into two parts: one containing flasks, bottles and jars from ancient civilisations and the Modern era, and the other containing relics from the current, industrialized era of perfumes.

Scent itself is not the focus of this collection, founded in 1961, but rather the receptacles that have held the various ointments, oils and other liquids with which people have perfumed themselves throughout the ages. These containers tell us something about the centrality of perfume in human history, as Ramon Planas, the Museum’s founder, explains:

El perfume, en todos los tiempos ha sido y es, un producto apreciado y valioso, por lo que, los frascos y demás recipientes que los han contenido, han destacado, desde siempre, por ser originales en sus formas, o valiosos en los materiales empleados, o ambas cosas a la vez.

(Throughout history perfume has been and is a valued and valuable product, inasmuch as the bottles and other receptacles that have contained it have always been designed to be original in form, or valuable in the materials used, or both at once.)

For those who cannot visit the museum, una mini visita has been constructed consisting of photographs and information on selected pieces, as well as some information on the perfumes contained within. It is not clear what percentage of the collection may be viewed online. This gallery, like the museum itself, is divided into precommercial and commercial collections. 

Although (according to this reviewer) it does not provide samples of historical perfumes, El Museo del Perfume has been included in our series on smell as a reminder of the importance of smells and perfumes — which, so far, can’t be transmitted via the internet — to the human experience. But the museum has been criticised for “turning the olfactory art into a visual one, which is more familiar and therefore less challenging”: see this 2011 interview with Chandler Burr, former perfume critic for the New York Times and current director and curator of the Center of Olfactory Art in New York City. (Watch this space for more on the COA!)

El Museo del Perfume is located in the back of the Perfumería Regia in the centre of Barcelona. Click here for their location and opening hours, or check their list of useful links for more information on perfumes and perfumery.

Smell, part one: L’Osmothèque

That’s Not Online! reader and idea-generator Vassiliki Veros (@VaVeros, shallowreader.wordpress.com) has suggested a post on the olfactory sense. We’ll take it, since we haven’t gone wrong with her suggestions yet: previous posts inspired by Vassiliki were those on Wood and Meteora Monasteries. And of course, smells can’t be transmitted online (yet). As it turns out, though, there is more than one institution worldwide dedicated to preserving the history of scent. One such is the Osmothèque in Versailles (website in French only).

The Osmothèque takes its name from the ancient Greek words osme, meaning smell, and theke, meaning repository or receptacle. True to its name, then, the Osmothèque’s mission is to “protège le patrimoine mondial de la parfumerie" (protect the world heritage of perfumery). The brainchild of the Commission technique de la Société française des Parfumeurs and founded with the support of the Comité du Parfum and the Versailles Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Osmothèque was inaugurated on 26 April 1990. At the time, the perfume enthusiasts and devotees who founded the institution had in their possession 400 perfumes, 70 of which were no longer in production. Today that collection has grown to 2300 perfumes, of which 400 are no longer being produced. Frangrantica (page in English) reports that the Osmothèque is in possession of 170 formulae for historical perfumes. According to the Versailles Office of Tourism, the Osmothèque played a key role in recreating Marie Antoinette’s perfume in 2007. Read more about the Osmothèque’s collection; see France Today for a brief history in English.

A team of “osmothècaires” delivers olfactory training and conferences in Versailles, on the campus of the Institut Supérieur International du Parfum de la Cosmétique et de l’Aromatique Alimentaire (ISIPCA). Through a partnership with the Academy of Perfumery and Aromatics, “Osmothèque-based presentations" are also available in New York City.

The Osmothèque is supported by the Société des Amis de l’Osmothèque; to become un ami, follow the joining instructions. To learn more, try a conference, visit, or cultural activity, where you will be able to sniff scented mouillettes of many perfumes. By appointment only.

Contact:

36 rue du parc de Clagny
78 000 VERSAILLES
FRANCE
Tel : 01.39.55.46.99
email: osmotheque@wanadoo.fr

Ashington Group collection at the Woodhorn Museum

"Pit Yard" by W Crichton courtesy of Woodhorn Museum.

The Ashington Group was an amateur art group founded by miners in the Northumberland town of Ashington in 1934. They originally came together for an art appreciation class; when they became dissatisfied with the class, the instructor suggested they make their own art. The group gained some renown, and their work was exhibited in Newscastle and London, as well as composing the first exhibition of Western art in China after the Cultural Revolution.

Much of the group’s appeal had to do with their relatively humble origins:

…it represented a true development of documentary culture. These men painted their own lives, testified to experiences that no one else, from trained art backgrounds, could truly understand. When the war came, the men painted the building of shelters, the arrangements for gas masks, for evacuation, for extra shifts and Dig for Victory.

The current exhibition at the Woodhorn Museum is comprised of what were considered to be the best pieces produced by the group, some others having been sold for fundraising back when the group was operating out of a hut in Ashington. The remaining collection of eight-six paintings now occupies a purpose-built gallery at Woodhorn. It is not available online, save for eighteen small representative images on the gallery’s website.

The story of the Ashington Group was recently dramatized by playwright Lee Hall and is currently on at London’s Duchess Theatre. The play is based on the book by William Feaver.

Group Members