Photo courtesy of the Faux Museum
  • Photo courtesy of the Faux Museum
Back in the 1990s Portland had something called the UFO Museum. The place was strewn with random bits of plastic, odd paintings, miscellaneous weird visuals, and the like. As a teenager obsessed with Monty Python, Kafka, and sundry weird shit, I loved it. The Faux Museum, now open in the Merchant Hotel building, recalls that kind of deliberately weird aesthetic, much in keeping with Portland institutions such as the 24 Hour Church of Elvis or the now closed X-Ray Cafe.

The Museum is something of a little brother to L.A.’s semi-famous Museum of Jurassic Technology, and tapped into that part of my brain that still loves stuff that’s weird just for the hell of it. Tom Richards, who styles himself as the “curator/janitor,” calls the installation “A family museum started ten thousand years ago,” which would make it the single oldest museum in the world. Richards has an entire straight-faced invented back-story for the museum which involves the migration of his ancestors across the Bering Land Bridge and him eventually finding remnants of the ancient museum in his family’s attic.

I laughed a few times at the Faux Museum, and smirked several more. Most of the humor is on the dry side, and the several elements that are obviously fabricated (such as Paleozoic giant wooly ants) are mixed in with bits of actual history, such as pygmy rabbits. “Yeah, there’s goofy stuff… It’s obviously a conceptual art museum, but there’s some critical thinking stuff going on here as well,” says Richards, referring to the museum’s mix of real facts and utter fiction. “It’s fun, but I like people to think, too.” The game of finding goofy geology jokes amid actual fact pushes the Faux Museum from being weird for the sake of weird to being somewhat interesting. There are still a few rough edges on the newly opened museum, though—hopefully those will get sanded down and refined in the near future. A formal grand opening is scheduled for mid-August ("That will culminate in me getting my head shaved," said Richards) and Richards has plans for several future events such as the Faux Masters, in which he invites local artists to replicate famous works in a style of their choosing.

The Faux Museum is located at 139 NW 2nd Ave.