A corporeal directory to another world.
In my travels about the hypertext kingdom, I happened upon a rare portal to a so-called ‘Zymoglyphic’ world—islands of Earth ‘formed by the upwelling of molten magma from the underworld.’
I had not ever known of the creatures of this land! We talk of museums, libraries, cataloging and labeling here, do we not? Therefore, I awkwardly flailed out in my typical shock-curiosity to Jim Stewart—the Museum’s curator.
kicks: I recently discovered an interesting local museum a few blocks from my neighborhood after being unaware of it for five years. I drove behind it all the time and would have immediately spotted it had I driven on the other, parallel street. It took me five years to drive on that other, parallel street.
So what are your visitors like? Unsuspecting tourists? Neighbors that happen to drive by? Pilgrims?
jim: All of the above. Probably the majority of visitors are tourists and locals looking for “offbeat” things to see and do. Some are specifically interested in personal museums, natural history, curiosity cabinets, or a rust-and-dust aesthetic. I do get a fair share of people just passing by as well and have met a lot of neighbors this way.
kicks: So, did you have any idea in mind of who you were looking for when you started the museum or were you just glad to have anyone and everyone?
jim: At first I was just doing it for myself, then when I went public I was happy to have anyone appreciate it. Nowadays (after 2000 visitors) I’m mostly looking for the people interested in a more in-depth connection with the museum.
kicks: I love the guide you have, advice for curating your own museum. In a way, I took it as advice for the blog-hunting I do. You even have a section on ‘outreach’—I have a little group of online friends where we call this ‘find the others’—the pejorative word here might be ‘self-promotion’—to what degree do you engage in this kind of thing for the Zymoglyphic?
jim: Very little at his point. The blog has not seen an entry in years and the twitter account is inactive. Events are announced on Facebook and I have a mailing list that gets used 3 or 4 times a year. People who visit leave reviews on review sites and photos on Instagram, and I am on a lot of “quirky things to do in Portland” lists. The place is small and can’t really accommodate many people. Also, I think the fact that this is a physical place and not just an online presence puts it in a category that generates its own publicity.
kicks: Perhaps the museum is ‘complete’ and has no need of updates? Or is it in constant flux—are you always cooking up new exhibits?
jim: The basic format seems pretty stable. I’m working on a lot of different but related projects, such as a library and computer-generated aquarium.
kicks: You also have this profound quote in the book: “Once the museum is complete, it could become a private sanctuary for contemplation, since the museum will be like being inside your own subconscious mind.” This reminds me of the work at philosopher.life—where a fellow is cataloging his life and correspondence in a huge singular oracular HTML file. So when someone visits, are they able to absorb you through this portal—almost as if it is a stand-in for you—or is it as mysterious to you as it is to them?
jim: Very hard to say exactly what other people get out of it. Many are quite enthusiastic I think mostly they are finding something in themselves that they had not been able to express in just that way. I know from personal experience that it is possible to get a lot out of a work of art and not be able to relate to the artist as a person.
kicks: Haha, I love the idea that someone could relate more to the Zymoglyphic Mermaid than to you. Well—and you say on the website that you like to give the visitors their space to peruse and not be badgered or guided through. (Have I got that right?) Does it matter to you what the effect of the museum would be on somebody?
jim: Yes, the museum is on the second floor and I just send people up when they come in (even if they want a quick introduction). When they come back down is when I engage them about their reactions (if they seem open to it) and answer questions. I’m definitely interested in what their take on it is, and what it means to them. I keep track on the web site of all the reviews, blog mentions, etc. It’s especially meaningful if someone gets inspired to do something similar.
kicks: Having lived in towns with small museums, junk art houses, religious shrines—you have given your city and the world a great gift.
The Zymoglyphic Museum. ‘The Zymoglyphic Museum’s primary mission is the preservation of the unique natural and cultural heritage of the Zymoglyphic region. In addition, the museum hosts a variety of special collections and online exhibits related to zymoglyphic themes of natural art, celebration of decay, and museums as curiosity cabinets.’ ↩︎
Creating and Curating Your Own Personal Museum. Furthermore, the publications contains a myraid of other enchanting documents, such as the Museum’s Manifesto and A Guide to the Collections. All very worth your time. ↩︎