When I heard there was a James Gurney exhibit about an hour away in Yverdon, I decided to take my kids. Gurney's a painter and creator of Dinotopia, a series of books about a lost island where humans and dinosaurs coexist. I think Gurney might have had a greater appeal if his first Dinotopia book hadn't debuted in the early 90's and been eclipsed by Jurassic Park. I also think his books are a little confusing because they seem like children's books, but they're very detailed and read like novellas.
I thought we were going to an art gallery, but it turned out to be a kind of sci-fi museum called the Maison d'Ailleurs (or House of Elsewhere), located next to Yverdon's castle. I love the dichotomy of a centuries-old castle sitting across the street from a building with a vast library of pulp sci-fi 1950's comic books.
The Gurney exhibit was pretty cool. It was mostly work from his new book/story/collection, Journey to Chandara.
The temporary exhibit takes up two and a half floors, including a 15-minute movie on Gurney, and a loft with a small reading room and copies of the new Chandara book.
But the coolest thing about La Maison d'Ailleurs is the permanent Jules Verne wing. The room alone was worth the trip. To get the the Juels Verne exhibit, you leave the third floor of the main building via a walkway over one of the main streets in Yverdon. Dichotomy again - outside you see two very European houses connected by a walkway that looks like a joint project between Dr. Seuss and Tim Burton.
I'd love to have a room in my house like the Jules Verne room. With its hardwood floors, second-tier library walkway and a wall full of promotional posters, it feels more like a loft apartment in SoHo. The collection of vintage Verne novels was roped off, but you can view the bindings with a telescope, which is both ridiculously impractical and very cool.
There are a couple glass display cases featuring models of ships and vessels from Verne's books.
The far wall is covered with framed promotional posters secured to movable chain treads. Just press a button and they slide up and behind like a giant art treadmill.
There's a documentary on Verne playing on the back of a bookshelf wall. If you want to watch it, two risers of pews face it with headsets that magnetically stick to the bench backs.
And, of course, a miniature of the Nautilus from the Disney version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Complete with attacking giant squid base.
I was afraid The House of Elsewhere was going to be a low-budget geek shop. But it's clear a lot of effort and passion went into making it right. It reminded me of this 7-minute TED talk I came across about the Museum of Human Imagination. I don't know where people get the time or energy for these projects, but I'm glad they do.