WTF Did I Just See?

Title: Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities

One of my primary goals for my London trip, since I’m going by myself, is to see things that most people would have no desire to see. Everyone wants to go to the British Museum or to ride the London Eye.

I was looking for odd. Well, I found it when I went to Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities.

The purpose of this museum is part educational and part artistic. The exhibits are spread out over two low-roofed relatively small rooms in the basement of a bar. There really is no order at all to it. In each exhibit case is pretty much a random assortment of objects.

And what a random assortment of objects!

Are you looking for celebrity memorabilia? How about a jar containing Russell Crowe’s urine? Or how about a jar of used condoms and a Viagra package from the Rolling Stones? Both complete with a signed affidavit explaining its provenance.

There was a significant number of sexual related artifacts. There were a number of pulp paperbacks with sexually suggestive titles (eg The Naughty Nun). There was a box of condoms for those with a small penis. There were African / Asian fertility dolls, a number of stone phallus’ and vaginas and a wide variety of pornographic drawings dating back a couple of hundred years.

Wynd has a weakness for books with obscure / esoteric titles, which I found hilarious. There was a relationship book titled “If You Want Closure, Start With Your Legs”. There was another book titled “Old Tractors and the Men Who Love Them”. How about the “Toddlers Guide to the Rubber Industry”. Who would want to read “The Art of Faking Exhibition Poultry”? As a history geek, I seemed to have missed out on “The History and Social Influence of the Potato”. And finally, one I should probably read, “What to Say When You Talk to Yourself”.

Wynd is also a taxidermist (he teaches classes), so there are numerous examples, both stuffed and skeletal. There is a two-headed sheep. There is a full skeleton of a tiger. There are a number of bones and skulls spread across all of the exhibition cases. The skeleton of three mice, I’m guessing they were blind, are together in a special case of their own. My personal favorite was a stuffed, odd-looking hairy pig. According to the caption, the farmer, a religious man, was convinced that this revolting pig was some kind of punishment from God. When it died, he stuffed it and displayed it to remind his family of their sinful nature.

The piece de resistance was the skull of a Hippopotamus head. Not just any hippo’s head, but the head of a hippo that was bought by Pablo Escobar. Yes, the billionaire drug lord. Apparently he was building his own personal zoo in Colombia. He ordered four hippos. One died in route, and in truly world class drug lord behavior, had the hippo’s skull encased in gold. So, in the basement of a dingy storefront that also serves as a bar in a semi-remote part of London lies the gold plated head of a hippopotamus that was once owned by the most infamous drug lord of the twentieth century. I can only imagine the path taken to have the head end up there.

Now, of course, the question is, how much of this is bullshit? For instance, it’s a known fact that Escobar did import hippos into Colombia. In fact (I just did a quick research), they’ve run wild, are breeding, and are becoming a problem. But there’s no evidence of one of the hippos skulls ever being gold-plated. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s false; does the truth really matter as you experience and enjoy it?

Near Venice Beach, there is The Museum of Jurassic Technology. Like the Wynd, it is also a throwback to the 16th century cabinet of curiosities, which were basically unsystematic encyclopedic collections. They both jumble everything together. Some things might be real. Many things might be false. The point isn’t to worry so much about the literal truth of the item as to enjoy the feelings and thoughts as you experience them.

I believe that, for both museums, this melding of truth / falseness and how you feel about it is the artistic statement that each is trying to make and is more important than the actual specimens in the museum.

I found both to the entertaining, amusing, and though provoking.

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