As the local art scene continues to flourish, many of L.A.’s major museums are finally getting the attention — and praise — they deserve. But there’s plenty more to this scene than the Getty, the Broad and LACMA.
In fact, L.A. is home to a rich landscape of offbeat museums for more niche interests. From a museum that houses a collection of meteorites to a monument to the mundane relics of failed relationships, there’s no better place in L.A. to celebrate the odd than one of the following local institutions.
Museum of Broken Relationships
The concept behind this Croatia-born museum is one that most everyone can relate to: honoring the items that remain when lovers part ways. The museum's second permanent location, which opened in Hollywood in June, offers visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in other people's heartbreak, as well as to donate the things they've been hanging onto. You’ll laugh and you’ll cry as you admire the collection, which includes everything from a box of old mixtapes to a vial of someone's pubic hair, along with the funny, melancholy stories behind them, detailed on printed cards next to each item. As cathartic and healing as it is painful and heartbreaking, the museum is, at its core, an ode to the human experience. 6751 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 892-1200, brokenships.com.
International Printing Museum
Located in Carson, the International Printing Museum is dedicated to illuminating the history of books and printing through its extensive collection of machinery and tools. The gallery was opened in 1988 and has since operated as a nonprofit, helping to collect and present an impressive collection of printing presses, including a replica Gutenberg press and the newspaper machines that took off during the Industrial Revolution. The museum also helps to educate the community through school tours, the annual Printers Fair and a packed calendar of themed events. 315 W. Torrance Blvd, Carson. (310) 515-7166, printmuseum.org.
Museum of Death
As may be obvious by the name, this museum isn’t exactly for the faint of heart — or stomach — as it features a collection of artifacts related to people's (sometimes violent) deaths. This includes crime-scene photos and artifacts from the Charles Manson crime scenes, the beheading of the Blue Beard of Paris, the Black Dahlia murder and many more. The museum also features videos of autopsies, serial killers and deadly cults, as well as a body bag and coffin collection — what more could you ask for from a museum dedicated to the deceased? Understandably, the gallery is geared toward more mature audiences — you’re going to want to leave the kids home this time. 6031 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (323) 466-8011, museumofdeath.net .
Museum of Jurassic Technology
In all its wonder, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the Museum of Jurassic Technology is — but it’s certainly not a typical museum, that’s for sure. In its best description, the museum focuses on artifacts from the early Jurassic period (referred to as the Lower Jurassic by the museum) that demonstrate evidence of very early technology, but one of the museum’s defining characteristics is its inability to fully commit to a single theme or discipline. So there’s a good chance you’ll ask yourself, “Where the hell am I?” multiple times while wandering through the permanent and special collections. The actual items within the galleries don’t help much, as they include fruit-stone carvings, evidence of a stink ant of the Cameroon and an early botanical clock. Your guess is as good as ours, but it’s certainly an experience you’ll never forget — and one that offers an interesting commentary on the function of museums themselves. 9341 Venice Blvd., Culver City. (310) 836-6131, mjt.org.
UCLA Meteorite Gallery
The largest collection of meteorites on the West Coast, the UCLA Meteorite Gallery contains more than 2,500 samples from around 1,500 different meteorites, including 80 type specimens from California alone. They range in size and composition, and are presented for viewing in the geology building of UCLA, free to visitors. The gallery is constantly expanding and collecting, and promises to evolve as the years go on. Geology Building, Room 3697, UCLA, 595 Charles Young Drive E., Westwood. (310) 825-2015, meteorites.ucla.edu.
L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition
If you watched Going Clear or just have always had an interest in Scientology, then the L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition is sure to leave you with a hightened sense of fascination. Hubbard, who died in 1986, was the founder of the Church of Scientology, and in many ways singlehandedly developed the theology behind this controversial religious practice. This museum focuses on Hubbard’s life, accomplishments and beliefs, and features a series of theaters, awards, art and individual galleries and exhibitions, ranging from the run-of-the-mill to the bizarre. 6331 Hollywood Blvd., #100, Hollywood. (323) 960-3511, lronhubbard.org.
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This museum displays a portion of the private collection of curators/owners Caren Anderson and Carl Baldwin, more than 420 velvet paintings from around the world. It’s an experience and space unlike any other, the brainchild and passion project of this offbeat duo who together have amassed more than 3,000 pieces of this stylized art. The space is tucked into a storefront in Chinatown, the entrance to the gallery space marked by a small, handwritten sign promising a “life-changing experience” awaiting behind the curtain — a velvet one, of course. 711 New High St., Chinatown. (503) 309-9299, velveteria.com.
Museum of Neon Art
Get your ne-on (sorry, couldn’t help it) at Glendale's Museum of Neon Art, an homage to the interdisciplinary nature of neon art. In fact, the use of neon is part art form, part advertising, part technology and part chemistry — a combination of methods that’s highlighted at this unique gallery featuring a series of light-based installations. The collection itself consists of a variety of signs from various businesses and constructed with varying degrees of complexity, each of which fits into a larger conversation about functional art and alternative creative mediums. 216 S. Brand Blvd, Glendale. (818) 696-2149, neonmona.org.