At the Holyland Exhibition, visitors can peruse the artifacts left behind by Dr. Antonia Frederick Futterer - a preacher and explorer purported to be the real life inspiration for Indiana Jones. His travels culminated in a quest for the Ark of the Covenant, which sadly was never recovered (unlike in the movie) but his wife and daughter remain in Los Angeles offering a glimpse into a wild and daring life he once lived.
With historical and cultural appeal and more kitsch than decor, the guided tours are still available by appointment on weekdays for a whopping $2.50. The Holyland Exhibition has no website and allows no photography, but it’s a must for anyone who might enjoy an extra weird and hands-on look at one of the more fascinating albeit eccentric figures in LA’s rich history. Whether you’re a cult scholar, religious historian, or the curious pagan - it’s almost impossible not to be enraptured in the sea of shimmering artifacts that Futterer collected while on his archaeological quest.
Spanning Damascus, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Palestine and more, Futterer acquired large antiques and ornamental knick-knacks including masterfully crafted furniture sets complete with stone inlays and hidden compartments. One room showcased numerous eerie dolls, a child-sized sarcophagus and a few stylish crescent moon shaped lamps. Another held a shimmering collection of plates, ashtrays, hookahs and other assorted bibelots - even portable desks and ancient eye-liners.
The museum itself is a peculiar painted structure fashioned with an adobe-like clay. It sits proudly on the corner in a residential neighborhood overlooking a highway that it actually predates. According to the museum’s guide Betty Shepard, it was modeled after King Solomon’s Temple. The tour led us on a journey through some intriguing Old Testament lore and Betty shared morsels of the area’s early history too. At the end of the tour, she revealed a lifesize statue of Jesus, which was a gift to Futterer from the mogul who started LA’s prized Clifton’s Cafeteria, Clifford Clinton.