The Los Angeles Times covered the Society of American Magicians’ on-going effort to select a home for the more than 5,000 piece collection years after an explosion in a nearby building coated the items in soot and carcinogenic PCBs.
The collection in exile is currently housed in de classe digs in Pico Rivera, California – not quite its former home at the corner of Hollywood and Vine in Hollywood.
"We'd love to reopen the museum. The problem is money," said John Engman, president of the society's local assembly.
The magicians sued and settled with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for $57,000.00 after more than three years of battling over the cost of decontamination. Chase purchased the bank building in which the museum was housed and restricted access to bankers’ hours thereby prohibiting any evening events.
"We're looking for around 3,000 square feet, preferably in Hollywood. We'd have a little theater, a display area and storage space," said Engman, a retired California attorney and magician. Space is dear in California and if the society cannot find a benefactor to donate a suitable venue, the museum may be moved to Parker, Colorado where its national office is to be opened.
Members of the local assembly can still see the items by visiting the storage facility but that arrangement is not practical or befitting such an important trove.
The Inside Magic Museum of Magic endured a similar episode when local Mystic Hollow, Michigan zoning ordinances were updated to prohibit the public display of “old things” or images of “old people” that may “scare vulnerable members of society” or “contribute to respiratory distress due to mold or accumulated dust.”
Unlike the society’s collection, the IMMM was easily moved to its new location by towing the single-wide unit to the south side of Dante Avenue and thus out of the official village limits. The sudden starts and stops during the trip did result in indelible snow-cone juice stains on the museum’s collection of used mouth coils.
Curator Darla White estimated the damage to some of the more popular bunched up mouth coils could be “significant.” The prize of the collection, The Thurston Wad – nearly 47 feet of multicolored crepe paper spewed by the great magician whilst suffering a severe cold in Chicago – remained pristine and still glistening within its protective glass case.
A thumb-tip attributed to 1950s Vegas magician Alopecia Jones was also found still permanently affixed to its wooden base along with a plaque explaining how Jones utilized the gimmick in unique and not all magic-related ways.
The village’s health department had previously required the IMMM to caution visitors to not touch the object without first donning protective gloves. Now that the museum is outside of the department’s jurisdiction, visitors may now touch and inspect this piece of memorabilia without any protective barrier. Curators do caution children and women of child-bearing age to refrain from coming into physical contact with the device, however.