Friday, July 16, 2010

Hair Museums

As I work on my MFA thesis, I've been rummaging through the 19th century. Which means I've spent countless hours in musty museums, and been known to linger over-long at spots like the Western Trails Museum at Knotts Berry Farm.

From the dim inner sanctum of this fascinating 19th century collection, my teenagers chafed at the rumble of amusement park rides just outside, the thrilled screams of the riders. My kids tried to hurry me up, but I just kept getting side-tracked, by pot belly stoves, button-up shoes, three-foot tall coffee grinders. When I saw the framed hair wreath, I let out a shriek.

"Mom, what?!" asked my daughter.

"Did you see this wreath? It's a hair wreath. It's made of hair. You know, human hair."

My son tugged me by the arm. "C'mon, let's go!"

We rode many rides at Knotts, but I have to say the hair wreath thrill almost equaled the adrenalin rush of the Timber Mountain Log Ride. I already knew about hair wreaths, having discovered Leila's Hair Museum by surfing the web. But to see one in person like that, well, it made my day.

On our heads, hair grows gray and falls out, but when hair is woven into a decoration, it's striking how permanent it becomes. No longer attached to our heads, it transforms into a relic of who we once were, a silky filament of us preserved in time, an artful style and a record of our DNA, all in one.

Creepy. But an even creepier concept is this museum of preserved hair in a Hair Cave in Turkey.