The blog of author Dennis Cooper

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Dead American Museums

The Museum of American Political Life (West Hartford, CT)
“Unfortunately, in the years before the Museum of American Political Life closed, it had few visitors. “The people who knew and loved the museum were not coming in droves; school kids weren’t coming; the university community wasn’t coming. It was hard to justify.”


National Lighter Museum (Guthrie, OK)
The National Lighter Museum in Guthrie, Oklahoma had nearly 20,000 pieces, representing over 85,000 years of lighters and fire starters.


Grand Guitar Museum (Bristol, TN)
It’s not a museum any more that museum has been closed for 10 years. It is a radio station now. It looks pretty scary. I don’t think it’s in use anymore. Watch out for sink holes in the parking lot!


Guggenheim Museum SoHo (NYC)
The Guggenheim Museum SoHo was a branch of the Guggenheim Museum designed by Arata Isozaki that was located at the corner of Broadway and Prince Street in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, New York City. The museum opened in 1992. Initial attendance was forecast to be 250,000 visitors a year, but the museum drew between 125,000 and 200,000 its first year, and attendance did not increase in subsequent years. The museum restructured in 1999 to shrink its exhibition space from 27,000 to 20,000 square feet to reduce the museum’s operating costs. The museum closed permanently in 2002.


The Tooth Fairy Museum (Deerfield, IL)
The Tooth Fairy Museum was located in the split-level ranch home on 1129 Cherry Street in suburban Deerfield, Illinois. Created in 1993, the non-profit Tooth Fairy Museum was operated by Dr. Rosemary S. Wells, a former professor at the Northwestern University Dental School. She was considered be the world’s tooth fairy expert. The museum portion of her home contained more than 100 tooth fairy dolls, about 700 drawings by kids, books, pillows, paintings, sculptures and boxes designed to hold baby teeth.


Camp David Museum (Thurmont, MD)
Jerry Freeze opened the Camp David Museum in the lobby area of his restaurant in 2005 to honor the ties between his business and famous country retreat for the POTUS. I say this with affection … it was like the world’s most ambitious junior high school project. Cozy was closed in 2014. The restaurant, cabins, and motel have since been razed and the former site is now a lot for the local car dealership.


Oasis Bordello Museum (Wallace, Idaho)
Located in a quaint little mining town, the Oasis bordello actually operated up until 1988, meaning the artifacts in this downtown building (and its infinitely creepy basement) include old-timey dresses, gas lamps, antique guns, and, weirdly, some VHS tapes encased in glass. The museum tour included trips to the rooms, which included lists of johns’ names, which is… probably not really that great a look for mining magnates who were still alive at the time.


Museum of Holography (Chicago)
Chicago lost one of it’s most quirky institutions, the Museum of Holography, when owner Loren Billings fell prey to unscrupulous investors in 2009 and was forced to cede control of the space at 1134 West Washington Boulevard. Supporter Moshe Tamssot and the Monks of Invention, a group that supports new technology, has been trying to track down Billings, who can’t be found or contacted about the work.


Haunted Monster Museum (Pigeon Forge, TN)
A mid-April blaze demolished the Victorian-era mansion that served as the Haunted Monster Museum as well as the centerpiece of a bizzaro place called Dinosaur World where dinos would gobble Union soldiers and where brave visitors could also hunt Bigfoot with a “redneck.”


Hobby City Doll and Toy Museum (Anaheim, CA)
I remember coming to Hobby City back in the 80’s. It was thriving with tons of people going to the shops and the small amusement park there. Now, it is sadly empty with a few hobby shops offering stuff you can simply get online for fraction of the price. The amusement park looks really ghetto and probably not very safe. I think this place of probably 20 years past its time. So sad!


$1,000,000 Museum of Musical Automation (St. Louis)


Burt Reynolds Museum (Jupiter, FL)
The Burt Reynolds and Friends Museum, which also housed the Burt Reynolds Institute for Film and Theatre (BRIFT), was located in Jupiter, Florida,[1] the hometown of the actor Burt Reynolds (1936-2018). The museum displayed memorabilia from Reynolds’ movies, and was billed as “Florida’s largest celebrity museum”. It also offered filmmaking and acting classes, some taught by Reynolds himself. The museum opened in 2004, when Reynolds transferred memorabilia from his nearby home. In 2012 the museum was vacated. After it closed, there were proposals to build a new museum at nearby Burt Reynolds Park. But funds could not be raised.


World’s Wonder View Tower (Genoa, CO)
The World’s Wonder View Tower was a tourist trap and roadside attraction located in Genoa, Colorado. The tower was built in the mid-1920s by C.W. Gregory (known as Colorado’s P.T. Barnum) and his partner Myrtle Le Bow. The promoters boasted that it is possible to see six states (Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, New Mexico, and South Dakota) from the top of the tower. The Tower closed due to the death of the owner. The contents were publicly auctioned off on September 20th, 2014.


National Museum of Patriotism (Atlanta)
The National Museum of Patriotism was a museum in Atlanta, Georgia, at its peak occupying a 10,000-square foot site on Spring Street in Midtown Atlanta. However it closed in 2010. It was located in Atlanta, Georgia, opening in premises at 1405 Spring Street on July 4, 2004, and in 2007 moving to a site at 275 Baker St, in the Centennial Olympic Park near the Georgia Aquarium and The World of Coca-Cola. In 2009, the museum inaugurated its Patriot Award: recipients included LaBelle and Gamble, Lee Greenwood, Cowboy Crush, The Bob Hope Foundation, and Access Hollywood.


Roller Coaster Museum (Fairview, TX)


The Honey Bee Museum and Observatory (Fresno, CA)


Mammoth Cave Wax Museum (Cave City, FL)
“The museum has a dated, dusty feel to it, as you can tell when you walk into the front lobby/gift shop. We talked to the elderly couple who owns the museum, and they bought it 4 years ago, although it’s been around since the ’70s. They were honestly some of the sweetest, most genuine people I’ve ever met and it warmed my heart just talking to them. Anyway, on to the review of the museum itself! Like I said, it’s been around since the ’70s and hasn’t changed much since then, as the most recent wax figure is of a *young* Dolly Parton. We started by walking into a low-lit hallway with wax statues displayed in tableaux behind glass, which are completely dark. Suddenly, the scene lights up and an informative recording starts playing giving you a bit of history on the people. Once the recording stops (only about 2 minutes long), you can move on to the next scene. A wide variety of people from American history are represented, with two inexplicable Jesus wax figures that don’t quite fit into the theme of the museum. Nonetheless, the figures are done very well and are so life-like, I honestly thought they were going to come to life at some points! If you’re in the area, I highly suggest stopping to check it out (it’s only $8)!”


The Hitchcock Museum (Barkhamsted, CT)
“Upon entering the Museum, Ray Waldner, the owner, went around the building turning on the lights. As the lights came on, my mouth hung further and further open. I could not believe what I was seeing. Ray has a collection of about everything old from his days of growing up in this area of the plains of South Dakota. There are more old things in this museum, neatly displayed, than anyone can imagine. And Ray himself is a treasure trove of information about the area, having lived there all of his life. There is a donation jar available but I doubt it does much more than pay the light bill.”


The Peace Museum (Chicago)
The Peace Museum was a museum located in Chicago, Illinois, that was founded in 1981 by muralist Mark Rogovin and Marjorie Craig Benton, a former US UNICEF representative. In 1982, The Peace Museum hosted Give Peace A Chance, a major exhibition about music and peace, featuring John Lennon’s guitar inscribed with two drawings of John and Yoko Ono in Lennon’s hand. Ono wrote the dedication to the book for the exhibition, published by Chicago Review Press. Also featured in the show were U2, Bob Marley, Holly Near, Joan Baez, Stevie Wonder, Country Joe McDonald, Harry Chapin, Pete Seeger and Graham Nash, among others. The museum opened its doors in 1981 with an exhibition called “The Unforgettable Fire” which featured drawings from survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. The exhibit drew the attention of U2, who held benefits for the museum and named their next album after the exhibition. The Peace Museum closed sometime around 2007.


America’s Black Holocaust Museum (Milwaukee, WI)
America’s Black Holocaust Museum (ABHM), located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a memorial museum dedicated to the history of the Black Holocaust in America. It was founded in 1988 by James Cameron, the United States’ only known living survivor of a lynching. The Griot Building was named for Dr. Cameron; “griot” is a West African term for an oral historian and news-bringer. Dr. Cameron died in 2006. In 2008, the museum’s board of directors announced that the museum would close because of reduced funding during the 2008 Great Recession.


The Las Vegas Art Museum
The Las Vegas Art Museum (LVAM) closed in 2009. It was formerly located in a building shared with the Sahara West Library branch of the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District in Las Vegas, NV. The Las Vegas Art Museum was “dedicated to engaging visitors in the international culture of contemporary art.” The museum provided the public with publications, lectures, educational and outreach programs. It also developed a significant permanent collection of contemporary art. LVAM was the first fine-arts museum in southern Nevada.


The Teddy Bear Museum of Naples (Naples, FL)
The Teddy Bear Museum of Naples began with a Christmas present: a stuffed M&M’S teddy bear given to Frances Pew Hayes by one of her grandchildren in 1984. Hayes liked the M&M’S Bear so much she began to collect more bears and bearaphernilia. Thus, on December 19, 1990, with 1,500 bears from “Frannie” Hayes’s collection, The Teddy Bear Museum of Naples (at that time known as “Frannie’s Teddy Bear Museum”) opened its doors. For a while the museum, which was located at the corner of Pine Ridge and Airport Roads in Naples, attracted a claimed 50,000 visitors a year, and the collection of teddy bears multiplied. Hayes died on May 15th, 2004, at the age of 85. As happens with many museums founded in the passion of a single collector, the Teddy Bear Museum of Naples did not long survive its benefactor; it closed in 2005 and the collection was sold off.


The Museum of Funeral Customs (Springfield, IL)
The Museum of Funeral Customs was located at 1440 Monument Ave. in Springfield, Illinois, USA. It featured exhibits dealing with American funerary and mourning customs. The museum was near Oak Ridge Cemetery, the site of Abraham Lincoln’s tomb. Collections at the museum included a re-created 1920s embalming room, coffins and funeral paraphernalia from various cultures and times, examples of post-mortem photography, and a scale model of Lincoln’s funeral train. The museum hosted tours and special events and provided resources to scholars who are researching funeral customs. A gift shop provided books and funeral-related gifts, including coffin-shaped keychains and chocolates. The museum was closed in March 2009 due to poor attendance and handling of the museum’s trust fund.


The Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum (Madison, GA)
In 1991, Bruce Weiner didn’t know what a microcar was. He’d never heard of the diminutive fuel-sipping cars that were popular in post-war Europe and didn’t realize the importance of many a microcar in kickstarting European industry. All he knew is that he liked the 1955 Messerschmitt KR200 he spotted in an issue of Hemmings Motor News enough to buy it. Now, more than 200 microcars later, Bruce has decided to disperse his collection of microcars, considered the world’s largest. “I’ve decided that the Microcar Museum has been open long enough,” Bruce said. “My interests have moved to a different place. I’m an empty nester now, and my children don’t have the same interest in microcars.”


Indian City USA (Anadarko, OK)
The Indian City USA Cultural Center, formerly known as Indian City USA, was an outdoor museum in Anadarko, Oklahoma. The center included reconstructions of Native Americans in the United States houses and way of life in the United States. The Department of Anthropology from the University of Oklahoma supervised the construction of the housing units. Reconstructed dwellings represent many of the tribes from the Southwest and Southern Plains, including Caddo, Southern Cheyenne, Wichita, Pawnee, Navajo, and Apache.


The Denver Wax Museum
Good news for all those people hankering for unrealistic facsimiles of dead people: The Denver Wax Museum, which officially closed its doors circa 1981, lives on in an even stranger manner than the one displayed the grotesque operation’s original 919 Bannock Street location. Turns out that when the wax museum closed, the Forney Museum of Transportation purchased its figures — and when the Forney moved from its cramped digs on Platte Street, now home to REI’s flagship store, to its spacious new 140,000-square-foot facility at 4303 Brighton Boulevard, the museum decided to stick a bunch of its waxy acquisitions in its vehicles.


Museum of Questionable Medical Devices (St. Paul, MN)
Dubbed “The Quackery Hall of Fame” by the Copley Wire Service, the museum was the world’s largest display of what the human mind has devised to cure itself without the benefit of either scientific method or common sense.


The Liberace Museum (Las Vegas)
Economic depression is the enemy of the fabulous. When the Dow plunges, the first things to be jettisoned are signs of ostentatious wealth: spangles, sequins, and bling-bling. Ridiculous gold-plated musical instruments and/or toilets are suddenly out of fashion. We shed no tears at the dearth of diamonds on household objects, nor did we rend our garments when P. Diddy had to fly on a regular plane instead of his private jet. But this, dear readers, strikes a blow to the tacky, glitter-loving, Bob Mackie-worshiper in us all: the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas announced today that it’s closing its doors on October 17 due to poor ticket sales.


Chelsea Art Museum (NYC)
The museum focused on 20th and 21st Century including artists who have been exposed more in their home countries than the United States. It was committed to an exploration of “art within a context,” offering a program of exhibitions inspired by current social, political, and cultural events. “Insight” was a series of small exhibitions and creative projects showcasing new talent by providing a forum for emerging artists. “The Project Room for New Media” was an incubator of new ideas, showcasing groundbreaking concepts in all art mediums and emphasizing the intersection of the arts through technology.


The Hollywood Erotic Museum (Hollywood)
The Hollywood Erotic Museum was an adults-only museum located on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California specializing in sexual history in Hollywood. It closed down in mid-2006 due to lack of business. The museum featured many different items, including original etchings by Pablo Picasso as well as a legendary stag film dating back to 1948 that is allegedly of Marilyn Monroe having sex with an unnamed man. The video owned by the museum is the only known copy in existence. Also in their permanent collection, contemporary erotic art by such artists as Julian Murphy and Tom of Finland.


Farm Implement Museum (Bloomfield, IN)
“I saw a sign off the highway and followed it to the Farm Museum. It was early in the morning so it was closed; it is only open by appointment anyway. It was started by W.T. Phillips in 1980 as a tribute to his father, an illiterate blacksmith on the island of St. Kitts in the British West Indies. It has a large number of implements on display. I got this information from an article written in 2003 and at that time W.T. was 77. NOTE: I spoke to a local and he said the museum is closed.”


The March of Dimes Hall of Birth Defects (Miami)


Gene Autry Oklahoma Museum (Gene Autry, OK)
“Everyone was so nice. Very knowledgeable. No fee to enter, donations gladly accepted. With our donation they were giving out a CD tribute to Gene Autry. ((Awesome music!!))
This is not just Gene Autry memorabilia, but lots of cowboy movie stars. My husband was in awe….I enjoyed his joy.”


The Museum of Dirt (Boston)
“A museum in Boston, Massachusetts, collects another common substance, but not one you would want to eat. This place is called the Museum of Dirt. It has hundreds of small containers of soil, sand and other dirt. People have given the museum dirt from around the world. For example, the museum has dirt from Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley in Memphis, Tennessee. There is red sand from Nome, Alaska, containing gold. There is also dirt from Mount Fuji in Japan.”


Jones’ Fantastic Museum (Seattle)
Jones’ Fantastic Museum was a family-oriented museum filled with a unique collection of weird and amazing inventions, strange sideshow attractions, old-time dime museum machines and antique exhibits, originally located in Snohomish County, and later in Seattle, Washington, United States, from 1963 to 1980. It was created by avid collector Walt a.k.a. Doc Jones. The museum included a collection of funhouse mirrors, mannequins sporting extra legs and arms, a “Death Ray” machine, Sally Rand’s dancing slippers, a long row of electronic switches that randomly activated a variety of automatons, a nine-foot-tall “mummified Viking” called Olaf the Giant, and a talking skull wearing a Hitler moustache that loudly spouted gibberish in German. Jones had sped up an actual recording of Hitler, giving his speech a cartoonish quality; the sign in front of the skull read “Hitler is Alive!” Doc Jones committed suicide in the early 1970s.


The Umbrella Cover Museum (Peaks Island, Maine)
Nancy Hoffman’s museum began when she realized that so many umbrella covers get tossed aside, but kept for no real reason. The museum was “dedicated to the appreciation of the mundane in everyday life. It is about finding wonder and beauty in the simplest of things, and about knowing that there is always a story behind the cover.” Before its 2018 closure, one took the ferry from Portland to Peaks Island to check it out.


The Drive-Thru Museum (Seale, AL)
The Drive-Thru Museum wasn’t the kind of place where you walked around and looked at all sorts of cool things. In fact, you didn’t even have to get out of your car at all. The once semi-popular roadside attraction, which was an offshoot of Butch Anthony’s taxidermy shop-turned-Museum of Wonder, was made from several stacked shipping containers with carefully cut windows that gave drivers a clear glimpse at Anthony’s assortment of treasures.


SciTrek (Atlanta, GA)
SciTrek housed more than 140 exhibits appealing to all age ranges. The interactive displays offered visitors the opportunity to explore and discover the marvels of the scientific world, with a special Kidscape section specially designed for the two to seven years age group. The “Mathematica: A World of Numbers… and Beyond” exhibit detailed the major achievements in the history of mathematics from the twelfth century as well as explaining mathematical formulae including Kepler’s laws of planetary motion and probability theory. Other exhibits focused on electricity generation in unusual ways, creating energy from magnetism, ‘freezing shadows’ or stepping inside a kaleidoscope. It was forced to close in August 2004 due to reduced federal and state funding, as well as poor fundraising results.


The Conspiracy Museum (Dallas)
The Conspiracy Museum was a private exhibition of conspiracy theories in the West End Historic District of downtown Dallas, Texas (USA). R. B. Cutler, self-described as an “assassinologist”, opened the museum in 1995. The Conspiracy Museum was located across the street from the Kennedy Memorial in Dallas, Texas in the Katy Building. The museum was not limited in scope to the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy, but it also covered Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and Ted Kennedy’s Chappaquiddick incident. Cutler’s argument was that all these conspiracies can be tied together. The museum was often overlooked by visitors heading to the more well-known Sixth Floor Museum. The museum closed on December 30, 2006, having lost its lease. The building’s owners announced that a Quiznos sandwich shop would take its place.


Words & Pictures Museum of Fine Sequential Art (Northampton, MASS)
The Words & Pictures Museum of Fine Sequential Art was an art museum in Northampton, Massachusetts devoted to exhibitions of narrative art, cartoons, comic books, and graphic novels. Open to the public from 1992 to 1999, the Museum’s collection at one point numbered 20,000 original works from hundreds of artists including Simon Bisley, Vaughn Bodē, Robert Crumb, Richard Corben, Frank Frazetta, Jaime Hernandez, Jack Kirby, George Pratt, Dave McKean, Frank Miller, Jon J Muth, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Gilbert Shelton.


John Lennon Museum (Niagara Falls)
John Lennon Museum ended in 2010.


The Frank Chiarenza Museum of Glass (Meriden, CT)
“Astute readers know that the Frank Chiarenza Museum of Glass closed a few years ago. But I don’t care how astute you are – no way did you know that this place contained one of the premier collections of rare and unusual mould-blown and pressed glass in the country. Don’t lie. You don’t even know what the heck mould-blown glass is. Heck, you don’t even care.”


Sparta Teapot Museum (Sparta, NC)
The museum drew mainly from the teapot collection of Gloria and Sonny Kamm. The Kamm Collection, comprising more than 6,000 teapots, is the largest teapot collection in the USA and arguably the world. In 2006, Congress controversially appropriated nearly $500,000 in federal funding for construction of a new building for the Teapot Museum, but the project was canceled before any of the money left federal hands.


Movieland Wax Museum (Buena Park, CA)
Movieland Wax Museum, with over 300 wax figures in 150 sets, was the largest wax museum in the United States. Located in Buena Park, California, it was for decades one of the most popular wax museums in the United States. Allen Parkinson founded the museum on May 4, 1962, but sold it to the Six Flags Corporation in 1970. It was located north of Knott’s Berry Farm on Beach Boulevard. On October 31, 2005, after forty-three years in business and 10 million visitors, Movieland went away.


The Apron Museum (Iuka, Mississippi)
The secret behind America’s only museum devoted to aprons was its enthusiastic owner, Carolyn Terry. She started to build her collection from estate sales, and had amassed more than 3500 aprons, some dating back to the Civil War era; one woman in Denmark even donated her grandmother’s dowry aprons from 1922. There was no need to sift through placard upon placard to learn the unique, intimate details about each apron — until her death in early 2019 Terry answered any questions you might have, personalizing your museum experience based on your interests. “If you’re into art, we can look at how artists drew their aprons out. If you’re into history, we can get into the needleworks of a time period. If you’re creative, it’ll move you up a notch,” Terry told Mississippi Today.


The Winston Churchill Museum (Boise, ID)


The Bead Museum (Glendale, AZ)
The Bead Museum was founded to establish a haven for a permanent collection of beads and adornments of all cultures, past and present, which would provide an enduring opportunity for the study and enjoyment of these magnificent examples of art and ingenuity. The museum was founded in 1984 by Gabrielle Liese and housed an international collection of over 100,000 beads and beaded artifacts. It closed in March 2011.


The Winchester Center Kerosene Lamp Museum (Winchester, CT)
“This is the Winchester Center Kerosene Lamp museum. It is no longer open; the proprietor died a few years back.”


Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum (Logan, OH)
Until its closure in 2018, you could stop by the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center and visit one of the more unique museums you would have seen, the Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum. Reverend Paul Johnson began his collection more than 20 years ago. This amazing collection of more than 3,400 pencil sharpeners was featured in national magazines and was reputed to be the largest collection in America.


American Dime Museum (Baltimore)
The American Dime Museum (ADM) was co-founded in Baltimore, Maryland, United States, by artist and antique dealer Richard Horne and James Taylor, writer and publisher of the sideshow journal Shocked and Amazed! Opening November 1, 1999, the museum recreated, in spirit, the dime museums which saw their heyday in the 19th and early 20th centuries in America. During its years of operation, the ADM or “the Dime,” as it was known to many, showcased an array of permanent attractions, many authentic and many “authentic fakes” or gaffs as they would be termed by show people. Such manufactured attractions were the forte of Horne, whose artworks in that vein included the Samoan Sea Wurm (a “mummified” sea serpent carcass showcased with a bite of fur from the shipboard cat it had supposedly eaten) and Lincoln’s Last Turd (a gaff of a gaff, actually, since it was displayed as a fake made not by Horne but by another who had tried to cash in on the craze for Lincoln memorabilia by faking the assassinated president’s last bowel movement). Between Horne’s gaff artworks, the tongue-in-cheek signs throughout the museum, the wild assortment of off-beat attractions, and the uproarious periodic live shows given off-site (since the museum had no space for performance), the museum garnered a vast amount of publicity including write ups in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Japan Times, The Baltimore Sun and travel magazines, including National Geographic Traveler. The museum closed officially in late 2006.


Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum (Apple Valley, CA)
According to his son, Roy Rogers, Jr., Rogers was so close with Trigger that when the beloved horse died, he hid it from his family for a year. He had said he couldn’t bear to have to Trigger buried in the ground and so had him stuffed and eventually put on display in the museum. The same was done with Dale’s horse, Buttermilk, and their dog, Bullet. Such an unusual and personal collection appealed to Roy Rogers’ fans, despite being controversial. So why did the museum close down? Well, the answer is simple: Roy Rogers had instructed his son to do so years before. It wasn’t that there was a certain date that he wanted the museum closed down. But he said to his kids: “If the museum starts costing you money, then liquidate everything and move on.” So after a couple of years of decreasing profit and fewer visitors each year, the decision was made to close up shop in 2009.


The CRRA Garbage Museum (Stratford)
The Garbage Museum was a waste management themed museum in Stratford, Connecticut, United States. Constructed and opened in 1994, the recycling facility and museum was constructed for a cost of $5 million and funded through a group of 19 local municipalities, collectively known as the Southwest Connecticut Recycling Committee. The museum was operated by the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority which focused on empowering visitors with knowledge about waste management and allowed visitors to watch the sorting process of recyclables. The most iconic exhibit was Trash-o-saurus, a dinosaur sculpture made of garbage. Funding for the museum dropped in 2009 due to expiring contracts, but remained open until 2011. The closure of the museum followed a failed fundraising campaign.


StenniSphere (Hancock County, MS)
StenniSphere, the museum and visitor center at NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center, will close its doors to the public, beginning Feb. 15. Closure of the museum and visitor center comes as the INFINITY at NASA Stennis Space Center science and education project moves forward. Various exhibits from StenniSphere, resident agencies at Stennis and other NASA facilities are being moved into the INFINITY facility to prepare for an opening this spring. Details will be forthcoming.


Little Norway, Wisconsin (Blue Mounds, WI)
Citing financial constraints, Scott Winter, the owner of the Little Norway Norwegian homestead-turned-tourist attraction has closed the facility. “In 1927 my Great Uncle, Isak Dahle, purchased an abandoned farm that had been settled by Norwegian Immigrants in the mid 1800’s. Over the years he renovated the original farm buildings, filled them with antiques from Norway and America and eventually opened what has since been known as Little Norway. For seventy five years, four generations of my family have had the good fortune to share this charming valley with travelers from around the world. And now, as times have changed, so too changes Little Norway. My mother said to me ‘Weren’t we fortunate all these years to have Little Norway in our lives? When you close that gate for the last time, you do so knowing that three generations have their hands on yours.'”


National Philatelic Museum (Philadelphia)
The National Philatelic Museum, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was a short-lived not-for-profit organization intended to create awareness of and offer courses on philately. The museum offered a variety of services, including presentation of exhibits in frames for public viewing and a philatelic library. The museum also hosted numerous philatelic exhibitions held by various philatelic societies. The National Philatelic Museum was unusual in that, in conjunction with nearby Temple University, it offered courses in philately through its Philatelic Institute.


The Titanic Museum and Experience (Orlando)


Rosalie Whyel Museum of Doll Art (Bellevue, WA)
The Rosalie Whyel Museum of Doll Art was an art museum in Bellevue, Washington, USA. It featured a permanent collection of over 1,200 dolls. The museum was founded in 1992 and won a number of awards for its collection, including the Jumeau Trophy for best private doll museum in the world. In August 2011, the museum’s owner and namesake announced that the museum would close on March 1, 2012


The Elvis-A-Rama Museum (Paradise, NV)
The Elvis-A-Rama Museum in Paradise, Nevada was a large private collection of Elvis memorabilia owned by Chris Davidson which featured an 85-foot-long (26 m) mural about Elvis’ life and career. The museum opened on November 5, 1999, and showcased more than $5,000,000 worth of Elvis’ vehicles, jumpsuits, guitars and other memorabilia. The museum was housed in an 8,200 sq ft (760 m2) building that contained the museum, 100 person showroom and extensive gift shop. All the showcases of Elvis’s belongings were enhanced with murals by renowned artist Robert Emerald Shappy. Over thirty paintings were created by Shappy for both the museums in Nevada. The artwork was valued by Davison at $250,000. A break-in occurred at the museum on March 17, 2004 with almost $300,000 worth of memorabilia stolen including Elvis’ jewelry and a .38 special handgun. The stolen items were recovered on November 3, 2005 with the assistance of Duke Adams, an Elvis impersonator who was approached by, Eliab Aguilar, who was subsequently arrested by Las Vegas Metro for the robbery. The museum was located at 3401 Industrial Road. Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc acquired the assets and trademark to the museum and closed it on October 1, 2006 to make way for a world class Elvis attraction on the Las Vegas strip.


Gettysburg Cyclorama (Denver)
The cyclorama was cut up for use as tents by native Americans on a Shoshone Indian Reservation after the turn of the century.


American Advertising Museum (Portland)
The American Advertising Museum was a museum in downtown Portland, Oregon, United States. Founded in 1986, the museum displayed advertising from the 18th century to the present day. The museum featured both permanent and traveling exhibits on advertising campaigns, industry icons, and advertising in general. There was also a library and gift shop before it closed by the end of 2004.


The Museum of Cartoon Art (Greenwich, CT)
The first institution dedicated to the collection, preservation, and exhibition of cartoon art, the Museum of Cartoon Art was opened in Greenwich in August 1974. Founded by cartoonist and longtime Greenwich resident Mort Walker, it moved to Port Chester/Rye Brook, NY, in 1977, reopened in Boca Raton, FL, in 1996, and closed permanently in 2008.


Debbie Reynolds Museum and Resort (Las Vegas)
Clarion Hotel and Casino, formerly known as Debbie Reynolds’ Hollywood Hotel and Greek Isles Hotel & Casino, was near the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada. The hotel originally opened in 1970 as a Royal Inn, and also operated under the names Royal Americana Hotel and The Paddlewheel Hotel Casino before being purchased by Debbie Reynolds in 1992. After Reynolds sold the property in 1999, it was briefly owned by the World Wrestling Federation, and was then sold and remodeled as the Greek Isles. It was a 202-room hotel and a 7,000 sq ft (650 m2) casino on 6 acres (2.4 ha) of land. The hotel closed on September 2, 2014, after Labor Day weekend. The Clarion Hotel and Casino was demolished by implosion shortly before 3 a.m. on February 10, 2015.


The Unknown Museum (Mill Valley, CA)
The Unknown Museum was curated by Mickey McGowan in a nondescript Mill Valley ranch-style house, from 1974 to 1989. For a small donation, you could marvel at the abundance of pop-culture artifacts set in glorious tableau throughout the house. McGowan had a great eye and a highly sensitive hoarding instinct that made the museum a special place—a baby-boomer funhouse of delights. The entrance sign stated: This Is Your Life, and as you walked in, you realized it was true. Everything from your life seemed to be in front of you, sometimes in multiples of hundreds. And you could touch it and reminisce while laughing at the incredible amount of plastic that makes up our modern lives.


Peter Greenwood Glass Blowing Museum (Riverton, CT)


Million Dollar Museum (White City, NM)
Although now closed, the Million Dollar Museum (which “existed early in White’s City’s history”) was the site of numerous oddities, including child-mummies, and various human and animal curios. The Million Dollar Museum even has a story attached to it of nothing less than…a dead alien (which was clearly a child, by the way, and not an E.T.). The label on the “non-alien body” reads: “No one is sure exactly when the museum acquired this artifact, but it does not appear to be human.” Like the Roswell Slides, many of the displays at the Million Dollar Museum had small placards that were hand-written. Sounds familiar???


The Stoogeum (Ambler, PA)
Containing close to 100,000 pieces of Stoogeabilia, the Stoogeum (rhymes with museum) offers fans a chance to view a vast array of artifacts which celebrate the legacy of this legendary comedy team. The 10,000 square-foot, 3-story building houses anything and everything Stooge. Artifacts from 1918 to the present are on exhibit, including several interactive displays. The Stoogeum also contains a research library, a 16MM film storage vault and an 85-seat theater used for film screenings, lectures and special presentations. NOTE: Although The Stoogeum has been closed to the public since 2016, it has been vowing to reopen ever since.


Planetarium Projector Museum (Big Bear Lake, CA)
The Planetarium Projector Museum housed the world’s largest collection of vintage planetarium projectors. The museum was the work of Owen Phairis, who had been fascinated by the projectors since he went to the Hayden Planetarium as a child.


Madison Museum of Bathroom Tissue (Madison, WI)
The Madison Museum of Bathroom Tissue was established in 1992, and closed in 2000. The museum was founded by Carol Kolb in Madison, Wisconsin, in a second-floor apartment three blocks from the Wisconsin State Capitol. At its peak, the MMBT’s permanent collection contained approximately 3,000 rolls of toilet paper. The toilet paper’s origins ranged from the bathrooms of other museums, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim, to American tourist destinations like Wall Drug and Graceland. The museum also had European, African, Australian, Canadian, and Mexican toilet paper as well as a collection of toilet paper from bars and restaurants located in Madison. The Manufacturers Wing contained a collection of retail samples donated by toilet paper manufacturers, many with headquarters in Wisconsin’s Fox River Valley paper-producing area. The museum closed its doors in December 2000 when the remaining live-in staff vacated the address to move away from Madison.


The International Checker Hall of Fame (Petal, MS)
The International Checker Hall of Fame, which operated from 1979 to 2007, was founded by Troy Førde and located in a Tudor style mansion in Petal, Mississippi; it housed a large collection of checkers memorabilia. The hall of fame, which had been home to a statue of checkers-great Marion Tinsley, a checkers library and museum, as well as the two largest checkerboards and host to a number of checker tournaments, was destroyed by fire on September 29, 2007.




p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. I had no idea that you know Dorsky. Wow. Thank you for the behind the scenes information. Strange that his name’s Nathaniel and he goes by Nick. Anyway, thanks! ** Jon Jost, Hi. Thank you so much for coming in here. I’m a huge admirer of your work, as maybe you know, and it’s a great honor to have you here. And I’m very grateful for your beautiful words and story about Nathaniel Dorsky. I’m going to share them so people who didn’t enter the comments area can read them, if that’s okay. Everyone, The blog was honored yesterday by a visit from the great American filmmaker Jon Jost. He wrote very beautifully and interestingly about Nathaniel Dorsky, and I am sharing his comment at the bottom of the p.s. so you can read it, if you like. Thank you so very much again! ** Steve Erickson, I do remember you mentioning that screening now that you mention it again. I’m glad the interview well if loquaciously. I look forward to it, and to seeing the film. I doubt it’ll get a release here, but I’m positive it’ll be shown as Cunningham is revered in France. ** Misanthrope, Okay, you know best: arm. Back to NYC for the misanthropic trio. Cool. Specific plans and aims? I did see the ET rebirth commercial thing. It did have that film’s visual quality and the puppet helps explain that. Interesting. Thanks for sharing that, G. ** NLK, Hi! Thanks! They’re not easy to see, obviously. I’ve only seen two of his films, and only in a couple of thematic short film programs. Good luck on your end. ** Corey Heiferman, Hi. Really glad you liked it. Speaking of, I liked ‘Panes’ a lot. It was very serene and intrusive too in a weird way. Great combo. Kudos. Interesting question about script usage. I mean, and this obvious, one can make a film every which way and end up with something potentially great on the cinematic side. From the Hitchcock way to the most ‘in the moment’ way. I personally applaud your approach. Zac and I do set out a very refined and thought out script and visual approach before we start filming, but we revise the script continually while shooting if the mood or place or whatever else suggests a better or stranger approach in the moment. But we work with specific time frames and a set amount of budget, so we can’t daydream and reinvent too freely on set. If you have a crew and cast, if you have them at all, who are willing to play and take the time you think your film needs, the way of working that you’re suggesting is ideal, I think. ** Okay. Today you get defunct American museums to peruse and think about. See you tomorrow.

Jon Jost on Nathaniel Dorsky (from yesterday’s comments):

This is a lovely bouquet of images and thoughts about a dear friend. I was present in Rotterdam the year they had a retrospective of his work, 2011, and on arrival I noted the old De Lantern cinema, a rather hippie place, warm and a bit disheveled, which would have been the usual place for his screenings, had been closed and Nick’s films were scheduled instead for a new festival venue, a bit away from the central area, a new corporate kind of place about a half mile away. I went to look at the place, and thought, oh dear who is going to come out here to corporate-ville to see his films? The festival asked me, as a friend, to moderate his interview/discussion in another context, something he didn’t need at all and for the most part I just sat there.

At the first of five screenings much to my and his surprise, the 100 seat or so cinema was SRO. The technical quality of the projection was, we both thought, the best we had ever seen for 16mm. Just perfect. The audience was warm and good, and as usual Nick handled the between films discussion with a gentleness that is, well, him. The next nights were also sell-outs and the festival ended up scheduling a handful more of screenings. Nick was in heaven. I recall him sitting on the hallway outside the cinema, with a box of his slim little book Devotional Cinema, selling and signing copies, with a beatific smile across his face.

My usual way to see his films is in his little basement workspace in San Francisco, stringing up the projector and watching perhaps alone or with him.

Thanks for this beautiful tribute to Nathaniel. I hope soon an 18 frame digital mode will occur so his work can be more broadly seen.

Nathaniel Dorsky Day


‘Nathaniel Dorsky has a tendency, during the talkbacks that often follow screenings of his short films, to answer a question with a second one: “What do you think?” “How did that shot seem to you?” Audience Q&As more often fit the description Dorsky used for bad conversation in his 2003 book Devotional Cinema—“an exhausting exchange of self-confirming, predigested concepts”—and his way of running them helps suggest what makes him such a distinctive, unorthodox filmmaker. Dorsky often compares his cinematic methods to the work of keeping up a conversation. Both involve the preservation of delicate equilibriums and the sustaining of carefully chosen tones. Both have the potential, as Dorsky wrote in the same passage, “to be balanced or unbalanced,” and both involve handling people with graciousness and care.

‘It’s always been one of Dorsky’s primary concerns as a filmmaker to “be a good host,” as he has put it. Across his works, no individual image can call attention to itself too loudly or recede too indistinctly into the whole. No excess of attention can be directed toward either the urban bustle of San Francisco, where Dorsky lives and works, or the city’s bucolic forests and wooded areas, where he often shoots. To watch nearly any Dorsky film is to be guided through a pattern of hushed, suspended, illuminated visions: light emerging through curtains and bending through glass; light deflected by the surfaces of tables and the bodies of cars; light caught by fabric; light distorted as it passes through water, windows, optical filters, or translucent rocks; light moving across faces, shoulders, and hair; light glittering across the surface of a receding tide; light striking jewels and strings of beads; moonlight muffled and darkened by clouds; sunlight fringing buds and shoots of grass. In their rhythms, textures, and distributions of light, these are unfailingly courteous films—experiments in how hospitable and accommodating moving images can be.

‘The nine 16mm films Dorsky made before he finished Triste (96) vary widely in format and style. The 23 films he’s released since are no less tonally diverse, but they have undeniable common ground. These later works are all silent; most hover around 20 minutes in length. (At the outskirts are Arbor Vitae, made between 1999 and 2000, at 28 minutes, and 2010’s Aubade, at just under 12.) They all move at 18 frames per second, which Dorsky has variably called “silent speed” and “sacred speed.” Certain subjects catch Dorsky’s eye repeatedly in the films he’s made since Triste: transparent, reflective surfaces like windows or glass doors; bodies of freshwater; storefront displays; meadows in bloom; café patrons, commuters, and people in the street; amateur sports games; cats; tree branches; cloud formations; birds. Sometimes, he’ll introduce a radically foreign object into his films: a buttressed, torchlit temple pool in Spring (13); a pod-like room that resembles the interior of a space shuttle in Pastourelle (10). And yet even when he returns to a familiar image, Dorsky never films anything exactly the same way twice. A shot in Variations (92-98) of the moon emerging from behind a layer of cloud carries a radically different tonal charge than does a much tighter shot of the same subject in The Visitation (02), in which the moon’s emergence registers less as a softening, consoling presence than as a threatening omen. Both suggest different states of mind than the shot midway through Threnody (04) of the moon reflected in a storefront window over a mannequin’s shrouded eye, or the shots of moonlit clouds that pile on one another breathlessly in the last seconds of Compline (09). When the moon appears in Summer (13), it’s sheathed in clouds that fly across the screen in time-lapse; when it enters Hours for Jerome (66-70/82), one of his earliest,it’s as a flickering, latticed orb that looks at first glance like a patch of light seen through a circular viewfinder.

‘Each of Dorsky’s shots can be taken as a reaction against the one before it. Overpowering images like the vision of the receding tide near the end of The Visitation or the virtuosic first shot of Song (13), in which a reflected frame-within-the-frame literally flies into full view at the closing of a door, have to be buffered by humbler shots of people, animals, or plants, or by murkier, blurrier shots that make fewer demands on the eye. The concluding sequence of Song and Solitude (05-06), for instance, shows a low-contrast image of a cat gazing out of a window; a vertiginous close-up of a preening mannequin in a boutique display lit by shimmering green reflections; a casual glimpse of birds pecking at an unfinished lunch; a dim image of tree branches swaying against a dusk sky; and a flurry of quick, high-exposure shots of white almond blossoms quivering in the wind. One imagines Dorsky deciding that the image of the mannequin and the subsequent volley of shots needed to be separated by an image less lofty and ethereal (the hungry birds), and then cushioned by a more neutral shot on which the eye could rest (the branches). Dorsky has referred to cuts as “refreshments of receptivity.” Watch enough of his films, and it’s easy to lose your tolerance for movies that treat their viewers’ receptivity as an inexhaustible resource—films that bully, rant, aggress, or lapse into monologue.’ — Max Nelson





Nathaniel Dorsky Site
ND @ Twitter
ND @ Canyon Cinema
ND @ Light Cone
ND @ Anglim Gilbert Gallery
Nathaniel Dorsky’s Arboretum Cycle: the photosynthesis of film
The Inmost Leaf: An Interview with Nathaniel Dorsky
Heavenly Host
Ecstasy on film
Notebook Nathaniel Dorsky @ MUBI
Video: Nathaniel Dorsky: An Interview @ Video Data Bank
Nathaniel Dorsky, Jerome Hiler, and the Polyvalent Film
Nathaniel Dorsky – MAKING LIGHT OF IT
The Sacred Wood: Nathaniel Dorsky’s Arboretum Cycle
Nathaniel Dorsky’s Arboretum Cycle Is Light as a Feather
Meditations on Film: Nathaniel Dorsky by Ari Spool
Last night, the REDCAT screened some works by avant-garde filmmaker Nathaniel Dorsky …
The short films of Nathaniel Dorsky: better than Avatar



Four Films by Nathaniel Dorsky & Jerome Hiler | Q&A

Nathaniel Dorsky’s introduction to two films by Stan Brakhage

Nathaniel Dorsky Q&A | NYFF53

Critics’ Talk #1: Nathaniel Dorsky


Nathaniel Dorsky explains why his 16mm films remain only on celluloid


My films only exist as 16mm film prints and are available to the public for rental at Canyon Cinema in San Francisco and Light Cone in Paris. I have kept them in their original and intended format as I feel that that is what they actually are and should be screened as such. Any digitizing of them would be a reproduction or reduction of them and not the original experience that I have intended. I find the more humane quality of light and the warmth and body of the physical image of celluloid projection to be essential to how my films communicate. My films speak to the body of the viewer and the digitization of them removes their more weighty physical presence and limits their ability to communicate or function as I have intended. Shifts of weight on the cut are an important part of my articulation.

I know that keeping them exclusively as film prints has greatly reduced my audience, but I sincerely feel that this sacrifice is worth the preciousness of what is preserved. My film shows have become more like live performances or perhaps like going to a museum and seeing an actual painting rather than a reproduction as such. Seeing the actual painting is to be in touch with the very eros of a work. How often have I fallen in love with a painting in real life and then seen a reproduction of the painting. Yes, some basic information is translated but the actual thing one loved has vanished.

Technologies, of course, are improving year to year. Now there are 2K and 4k scans of each 16mm frame in order to reproduce the look of the original celluloid moving image. But other problems have emerged. My films are projected at silent speed, or 18 frames per second. Blu-ray cannot perform cinema at this speed and I do not believe that the very rare and extremely expensive 4K projectors can do this at this point in time.

So for now I cherish the physicality of 16mm film projection. It is like an acoustic instrument. I love its body and warmth, its vulnerability and intimacy, its tenderness and earthiness. I can only hope that my fans will continue to be able to travel to see my film shows and that we can all participate in something quite special and rewarding midst a rapidly changing world.


from Film Comment


At last year’s Whitney Biennial, you said something to the effect that your films were “about aloneness, and about sharing aloneness with the audience.” Do you shoot with an eye towards sharing your private, solitary experiences with others, or do you prefer to get lost in your own perceptions and hope that something relatable will come out?

The second. It isn’t that you’re trying to express aloneness, because then that wouldn’t be aloneness. You would only be expressing a concept of aloneness. Because in English the word “lonely” and “alone” are somewhat similar, they get confused. They’re actually quite different. “Lonely” refers to believing in yourself as separate from the world. You’re lonely because you’re separate from the world, or from other things. Aloneness is a realization that everyone is in the same boat; that everyone is actually alone. One of the deepest and most magical mysteries of human life is that we’re alone, and yet we’re together. Everyone we see around us in this courtyard [gestures around] is the center of their own world, has their own set of problems with their relatives, with their job, with their roommates, with their lovers, with their childhood. Everyone has their own huge drama, and yet all these dramas overlap in the same space of human interaction. We’re all mutually alone.

In literature, everyone is very used to the idea of a novelistic form, which is usually a third-person form involving characters who have problems and resolve them, or not. On the whole, poetry has not been a third-person form. None of these are absolute by any means, but poetry tends to be more an expression of individual mystery. It’s the same thing in film. Because making film is expensive, film was used primarily for third-person dramatic purposes, because it was commercially more viable. There was more return for your money. At the same time, the film industry which came out of that situation enabled people with more poetic inclinations to use film as poetry. I guess this goes all the way back to Méliès, and the whole French lineage in the Twenties and Thirties.

I feel that I’m very much part of this poetic lineage: a cinema that is about aloneness. At a certain point in life, I think you realize—or discover—that the more intimate you are, the more you reveal your innermost secrets, the more universal you become. You’re being true to your core, and that core is not so basically different from other people’s cores. So to be a filmmaker, then, you have to have the faith that your own vision can be comprehended by other people. If you’re trying to make films for other people, you’re in trouble. In most of the films—especially, of course, films that are based on the return of capital—every effort is made to make the film for other people. It’s very seldom, except with the supreme geniuses of narrative form, that any kind of truth or vulnerability comes out. Rossellini, Ozu, Bresson, to name a few, have had that courage to express themselves as who they are. That’s the beginning of an answer.

It’s an interesting paradox, that you have to dive very deep into yourself to arrive at something that can be shared with others—and something that others share.

Otherwise you’re manipulating others, or showing off for others. So many films, especially in the experimental realm, have one idea, and the film just goes on and on: “Here’s my idea.” There are also many films which are less meaningful to me because the moves made on them come from the outside. The filmmaker is always outside the film declaring the next thing, as opposed to letting something that’s established in the film declare the next thing. When, as a filmmaker, you’re always declaring the next thing externally, pushing the film; when your hand is always coming in and moving the film this way and that way, you can be very impressive, like a juggler, but you’re actually not helping the people. Ultimately, you’re distracting and depressing them. It can be magical and wonderful and thrilling. But there’s something about allowing the vulnerability of a film to unfold out of its own needs that goes deeper.

Is the distinction maybe that in some films, each new development is driven by the film’s own internal logic, whereas in others each new development doesn’t follow necessarily from what came before?

Yes. For instance, during the period of the Ingrid Bergman films, Rossellini was well known for not having a script, for writing the dialogue in the moment. He was in the situation and had the trust to let the magic ferment and happen.

For me at least, though, some of the most transcendent moments in cinema are the result of a director imposing something onto the film that wasn’t there to begin with. I’m thinking of the end of Voyage to Italy, for instance. It seems as if the movie’s logic doesn’t allow for that final moment of reconciliation; it has to be imposed from outside. It’s a miracle in some way.

And it’s a strange miracle. The film is basically a long argument, but it lets that argument resolve in a way that’s pretty much within the established language of cinema: a couple kissing. It’s a strange moment, because you believe it and you don’t believe it. Then, of course, he cuts to a final shot, a shot of almost nothing: some kind of a capitano standing off to the side, with people walking back and forth in front of him. It’s a very emotional moment for me. Then the film continues as black leader, and the music also continues for at least another half minute or more, in black. So it isn’t that he tried to manipulate you, that he hermetically sealed up that manipulation and gave it to you as a closed package which you had to buy. It’s much more open and interesting than that. It’s quite true to life.

He lets the miracle ripple out in the world.

In the black leader, yeah.

Do you always edit alone?

Usually when I’m almost finished, or when I feel that it’s pretty close, I have two to four different friends who I’ll show it to individually. They’re usually friends who I can reveal myself to without feeling at all self-conscious. Not an iota of that, or it wouldn’t work. Just looking at the film with another person is a little bit like a bullshit test: when the other person is there, the little lies you tell yourself become more apparent. When you’re editing a film, you have to be very truthful to yourself. Very truthful. We all lie to ourselves. We cut to something and we wish it was good. It’s almost good, and we want it to be good, because if it was good it would be very convenient. Those little lies are very subtle, and whenever one remains in one of my films, it’s like [makes sharp, rebuking alarm noise, like a buzzer going off].

For instance, there’s a shot I would take out of Song. It’s something I added near the end, and it would have been quite complicated and expensive to take out. I just said, well, I’ll leave it there for a while. It’s similar in life—if you’re in a relationship, for instance, it’s like every time you fake slightly, every time you say “yes, dear,” or something. Film is a kind of exaggerated mirror of yourself. All you can really do is try to be honest and then look at that honesty, and the film will give you the feedback right away. Filmmakers who don’t improve, I always think that they don’t see their films honestly. How could you see that and honestly think that’s worthy? You know that’s dishonest.

This kind of honesty seems to me like a necessary condition for the type of open sharing and communication you spoke about earlier. But what we’ve been circling around is to what extent that type of communication is possible, when it often tends to involve subsuming each person’s individual experience under concepts that don’t really fit it. How do you think your films address this problem?

I think that first of all, you have to establish the image. And if you establish an image which is in essence a visual representation of an idea, you’re already in trouble. In terms of film narrative, there’s obviously a logic to the progression; in that case, your honesty is to a place, and to the nature of human character. That’s where your honesty has to be, and where you have to control your own vanity: say, by passing up the chance to take a great shot when it wouldn’t be intrinsic to the need of the characters or the story, or by letting things decay into violence—something all too common in film now. But in film poetry, what I’ve come upon is that as soon as an image is in itself an image of something, then it’s already connected to concept and language. Steve Anker, who ran the San Francisco Cinematheque for maybe 25 years, said to me once—I hate to say this kind of thing but he said: “Why were you the first person to actually make a film that was actually visual? It seems so obvious!” Of course, many films are highly visual in some sense, but their basic organizing principle and driving force is not visual.

Now, this is a delicate, subtle subject. But let’s take Stan Brakhage, who for me is a great paternal example of individual filmmaking. I first saw him when I was nineteen and he was speaking at a film show at midnight at the Bleecker Street Cinema. With Stan, there are areas of kinesthetic magic and accomplishment, which are just extraordinary and totally unapproachable, and then sometimes there’s a level of meaning which all the visual stuff rests on or is expressive of. And occasionally, I don’t feel it’s completely integrated. It’s compatible, but there are occasional points when the pure cinematic areas become exemplars of the meaning. One is walking a razor’s edge as a filmmaker, and it is easy to fall from the sublime to the effortful. Sometimes I feel that with Stan, the visual elements and the meaning are not of the same world. And then at other times, they’re unified in a way that no one else could do.

As for myself, I was trying to see if there was a way I could take meaning, which was at the same time vision, and not have the vision be an ornament to meaning. The vision had to be meaning, but it also still had to be vision.

When I came upon Stan, he was only 10 years older than I was, but had already made Anticipation of the Night, Window Water Baby Moving, Sirius Remembered, and…

The Dead?

The Dead, yeah. And wow, the prelude to Dog Star Man. So he was already quite something, to say the least. I was drawn to the romantic idea that one person could go out with a camera and sing their song. That was very inspiring: if you had a couple hundred bucks, you could make a film. At the same time, I was learning about world cinema. I was a projectionist at a course at the New School for about three years in a row. It was taught by a very wonderful man named Joseph Goldberg, and it was kind of a world survey of film which was at that time considered very significant. I was seeing things like Pather Panchali and My Darling Clementine, Dreyer’s Joan of Arc, Rossellini’s Paisan, great films. I was drawn by the depth of heart in these movies: how spacious they were.

I was really torn between these two things. It was like Apollo being pulled by two horses. There was this individual, poetic, romantic Brakhagean kind of first-person self-expression, and then there was this other thing which had to do with extreme compassion and tenderness of heart. They seemed like two different things to me. I got genuinely confused. I think that my filmmaking, not by intent but by circumstance, has been—I didn’t realize this till late; it wasn’t a self-conscious thing, believe me—some attempt to bring together those two lineages.


20 of Nathaniel Dorsky’s 47 films

Interlude (2019)
‘A brief lost moment lies between. My shortest work in decades.’ — N.D.


Apricity (2019)
‘The title Apricity refers to the warmth of the sun in winter. It is an homage to the writer Jane (Brakhage) Wodening. In speaking to her I mused, “perhaps your age is the winter and you are the warmth of the sun.”’ — N.D.


‎Colophon (for the Arboretum Cycle) (2018)
‘A coda to a recent suite of films, as much as a singular work in itself, Nathaniel Dorsky’s Colophon (For the Arboretum Cycle) is a stunning, stirring triptych that gestures to Chinese landscape scrolls. A programme of ruins and resilience, of endnotes and epiphanies.’ — TIFF


The Arboretum Cycle: Elohim, Abaton, Coda, Ode, September, Monody, and Epilogue (2017)
‘For the past several years California experienced an extreme drought. But this past winter good fortune brought a bountiful amount of storms and liquid refreshment. The spring that followed took on magical and celebratory qualities of energy, joy, fullness, and rebirth.

‘In walking distance from my apartment is San Francisco’s Arboretum located in Golden Gate Park. I decided that I would make a film now on a single subject and that subject would be the light – not the objects, but the sacredness of the light itself in this splendid garden. What I did not know is that the great beauty of this magnificent spring would bring forth not one, but seven films, each one immediately following the previous. I began to photograph on the second week of February and finished the editing of the seventh film during the last days of December.

‘These seven films spontaneously manifested as the stages of life: early childhood, youth, maturity, old age, and death. Elohim was photographed in early spring, the week of the lunar new year, the very spirit of creation. Abaton was photographed a few weeks later in the full ripeness of spring, the very purity and intoxication of passion. Coda was photographed in late spring, in the aftermath of this purity, the first shades of mortality and knowledge.

‘Ode, photographed in early summer, is a soft textured song of the fallen, the dissonant reds of death, seeds, and rebirth. September is indeed, Indian summer, the halcyon swan song of earthly blessings. Monody, shot in the fading autumnal glory is an energized declaration of the end. And Epilogue, photographed in early December, rests in quietude, the garden’s energy now descending into the dark, damp earth.

‘This spacing of the seven films onto three reels allows for each of the seven sections within the Arboretum Cycle to play at their best.

‘There will be no intermissions. There will be a minute to two minute pause, audience in dark or near dark, to rethread the projector for the second and third reels.

‘The projectionist will allow the leader between films within each reel to play on the screen as an entr’acte.’ — N.D.

Elohim | 2017 | 31 minutes | silent speed | 18fps | 16 mm | color | silent

Abaton | 2017 | 19 minutes | silent speed | 18fps | 16 mm | color | silent

Coda | 2017 | 16 minutes | silent speed | 18fps | 16 mm | color | silent

Ode | 2017 | 20 minutes | silent speed | 18fps | 16 mm | color | silent

September | 2017 | 20 minutes | silent speed | 18fps | 16 mm | color | silent

Monody | 2017 | 16 minutes | silent speed | 18fps | 16 mm | color | silent

Epilogue | 2017 | 15 minutes | silent speed | 18fps | 16 mm | color | silent


Death of a Poet (2003/2016)
‘In the spring of 2016, after editing Autumn and The Dreamer, I began to project my camera original Kodachrome outtakes of footage I had shot while making my Kodachrome films from 1992 through 2009. It was inspiring to come upon this footage from another period of time and to see material that did not fit into my needs of the moment, but in retrospect is very beautiful and well worth working with.

‘One of the most successful works in this series is Death of a Poet, which is a document from the weeks that Stan Brakhage was dying of bladder cancer. Dominic Angerame, then head of Canyon Cinema, and I went up to Victoria, Canada to visit Stan. Five weeks later while I was in Boulder, Colorado to screen my recent films, Stan passed away. There was a gathering at Stan’s daughter’s house with Jane (Brakhage) Wodening and her brother, poet, Jack Collom in Boulder. That night it began to snow and like a purification it did not stop for five days.’ — N.D.


Other Archer (2003/2016)
‘A short portrait of a dear friend and collaborator on Devotional Cinema, Nick Hoff.’ — N.D.


Lux Perpetua I & 2 (2002/2016)
‘Two personal travel films, Lux Perpetua I and II were shot in Oaxaca and then in France and Italy.’ — N.D.


The Dreamer (2016)
‘This year our mid-summer’s night was adorned with a glorious full moon. The weeks and days preceding the solstice were magically alive with crisp, cool breezes, bright, warm sunlight, and a general sense of heartbreaking clarity. The Dreamer is born out of this most poignant San Francisco spring.’ — N.D.


Avraham (2014)
‘In most of my films I have had the burden of adding a title afterwards. Sometimes the word or words would come automatically, but more often with great difficulty. In the case of Avraham, the title came first. It was not only the film’s inspiration but the very thing that determined every shot and every cut.’ — N.D.


Summer (2013)
‘Summer in San Francisco is a dry and rainless season. The film, Summer, although photographed during this period of time, is not so much a description of summer, as it is a cinematic response to that world of our being.’ — N. D.


Song (2013)
Song was photographed in San Francisco from early October through the winter solstice in late December, 2012.’ — N. D.


The Return (2011)
‘Nathaniel Dorsky, there’s no harm in repeating it, makes unique films. Meticulous in their camerawork, editing and concentration. In silence, a dark universe unfolds, a measured structure that emerges from, but has nothing to do with, the visible world. ‘Like a memory already gone, this place of life.” — IFFR


Compline (2009)
Compline is a night devotion or prayer, the last of the canonical hours, the final act in a cycle. This film is also the last film I will be able to shoot in Kodachrome, a film stock I have shot since I was 10 years old. It is a loving duet with and a fond farewell to this noble emulsion.’ — N.D.



Kodachrome Dailies from the Time of Song and Solitude (2006)
‘What would come to be called The Kodachrome Dailies came about by pure chance and a little mystery. At some point, many years after making Song and Solitude, my laboratory called to ask if I wanted them to send me the work print for Song and Solitude. They had been clearing out some shelves and had found the two reels in a can. I responded that that was impossible because I had already edited the film a few years previously. They responded, well, it is here, and we are going to send it to you. Neither the lab nor I could remember or understand why there was another copy of this work print.

‘I received this material and put it on a shelf in my editing space. One day, a few years later, I needed some footage to put through my projector in order to trace the source of a squeaking noise that only happened when film was going through it, so I went over to my shelf and threaded up the first of the two reels of the work print from Song and Solitude. I had never looked at it after it had arrived. While listening for the annoying squeak I looked up at the screen and was shocked by the beauty of once again seeing Kodachrome images on my screen. I was transfixed and sat down and watched the entire two reels. Kodachrome had been cancelled. as we all know, and one had just been trying to forget how nice it was.

‘This is the story of these two reels of film, each 40 minutes long when projected at silent speed. They are genuinely one of a kind. There are no prints in distribution. The Kodachrome they were sourced from is still intact but Kodak has terminated the internegative stock that was used at that time to make this work print, and the internegative used for printing them has since been cut up to serve as the printing source for the edited film, Song and Solitude.

‘What is interesting about these two reels is that it is an unusual opportunity to have the informal pleasure of seeing my footage, not only unedited, but with images that were not selected for the final film and therefore never seen. There is a sense of observing the filmmaker as the observer and therefore participating in the exploration with the camera, somewhat like a painter’s sketchbook or a writer’s notebook.’ — N.D.


Song and Solitude (2006)
‘”Song and solitude” was conceived and photographed with the loving help and kindness of susan Vigil during the last year of her life. Its blance is more toward an expression of inner landscape, or what it feels like to be, rather than an exploration of the external visual world as such.’ — Light Cone



Variations (1998)
Variations blossomed forth while shooting additional material for Triste. What tender chaos, what current of luminous rhymes might cinema reveal unbridled from the daytime word? During the Bronze Age a variety of sanctuaries were built for curative purposes. One of the principal activities was transformative sleep. This montage speaks to that tradition.’ — N. D.



17 Reasons Why (1987)
17 Reasons Why should ideally be projected at 16 fps. It is far more enjoyable at this slower speed. 17 Reasons Why was photographed with a variety of semi-ancient regular 8 cameras and is projected unslit as 16mm. These pocket-sized relics enabled me to walk around virtually “unseen,” exploring and improvising with the immediacy of a more spontaneous medium. The four image format has built-in contrapuntal resonances, ironies, and beauty, and in each case gives us an unpretentious look at the film frame itself … the simple and primordial delight of luminous Kodachrome and rich black and white chugging thru these timeworn gates.’ — N. D.


Alaya (1976-87)
Alaya manages a perfection of ‘musical’ light across a space of time greater in length than would seem possible (consider how brief most such perfected works are, such as Peter Kubelka, say) … and with minimal means of line and tone. … After about three minutes I began to be aware of the subtlety of rhythm, within each shot and shot-to-shot, which carried each cut, causing each new image to sit in-the-light of those several previous … a little short of a miracle. Bravo!’ — Stan Brakhage


Pneuma (1983)
‘In Stoic philosophy “pneuma” is the “soul” or fiery wind permeating the body, and at death survives the body but as impersonal energy. Similarly, the “world pneuma” permeates the details of the world. The images in this film come from an extensive collection of out-dated raw stock that has been processed without being exposed, and sometimes rephotographed in closer format. Each pattern of grain takes on its own emotional life, an evocation of different aspects of our own being. A world is revealed that is alive with the organic deterioration of film itself, the essence of cinema in its before-image, preconceptual purity. The present twilight of reversal reality has made this collection a fond farewell to those short-lived but hardy emulsions.’ — N. D.



Hours for Jerome (1966-70/82)
‘This footage was shot and edited from 1966 to 1970 and then edited to completion over a two year period ending in July 1982. Hours for Jerome (as in a Book of Hours) is an arrangement of images, energies, and illuminations from daily life. These fragments of light revolve around the four seasons. Part one is spring through summer; Part two is fall and winter.’ — N. D.


A Fall Trip Home (1964)
‘Forgetting its ‘psychological plot’ this film is a fine exponent of the intrinsic magical power of cinema. Its images, which evolve in a rather unmagical sober suburb, are continually transcended and manipulated into a kind of epic haiku of superimpositions and textural weavings.’ — Jerome Hiler (1964)




p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, The thanks all are mine, David! ** liquoredgoat, Hi, man. Obviously I’m really hoping the money and lodging side of things improve and settle for you as soon as possible. Those are easily two of the stressiest situations in the world, definitely for me, probably for everyone. But that’s fantastic news about your upcoming memoir/lyric essay! Let me know if you’d like me to do a ‘Please welcome to the world …’ post for it. Take care, buddy. ** Nick Toti, Hi, Nick. Got your email, as you know, and I think we’re all happily squared away. Happy early holidays. ** Steve Erickson, Hey. Ah, okay, that makes sense: how you saw ‘Barbara’. I’m glad the sound file was really useable. Sounds like you’re close. I have heard a little Pelada. I thought what I heard was very odd in a good way. I’ve been meaning to delve further, and your mention will get me there, thanks! And thank you for sharing your music list. We don’t have any sharesies this year, which is unusual, I think, although I like everything on your list that I know. My 2019 faves thing will pop up here on Wednesday. ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. Glad your mom’s birthday occasioned appropriate fun and recipient-based happiness. Yeah, see a doctor. That’s what they’re there for. Well, for that and for destroying one’s finances. Not a bad buche array this year, yeah. I’m making my short list and checking it twice. ** Corey Heiferman, Hi, Corey. Happy December. Cool about the lots of work you’re doing. Excited to watch ‘Panes’. The still representing it is my idea of promising. Everyone, blog pal and writer and filmmaker Corey Heiferman has a new short silent video art piece called ‘Panes’ that you, I, and everyone can discover and watch via the simple act of clicking these words. Very sadly for me the link to the Hanukkah donuts didn’t work. I’lll see what I can find with Google’s help. Darn. Wow, that Antarctica Scout thing is wild. Having been there, those boys really earn their little medals, that’s for sure. Thanks, man. ** Right. Today the blog focuses on the great filmmaker Nathaniel Dorsky. As you’ve seen or will, there are no embeds of his films up there to explore as he won’t let his work be seen other than on film, in person. But there are a few roundabout tasters to check out. So please give the post your all or semi-all, and do keep your eyes on your local screening situations in the hopes you’ll be able to see actually his films at some point because they’re extraordinary. See you tomorrow.

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