The Psychedelic Museum: Celebrating the Summers of Love at Breaking Convention

Rather like the psychedelic experience itself, Breaking Convention (BC) is a whirlwind of stimulating new ideas, interconnections and ramifying insights, a place to have preconceptions challenged, and a place to celebrate. This biennial, always sell-out conference on psychedelic research and experience, is a wondrous melting pot of influences. In this, its 4th year, it attracted over 1,000 people, bringing together over 140 speakers, artists, workshop facilitators, leading scientists, medics, shaman, scholars and many others at The University of Greenwich, London for three magical days. At BC one can walk into a lecture theater and be dazzled by a fine-grain, bang-up-to-date download on the neurochemical intricacies of psychedelic pharmacology. Then, just a few presentations later, you can be admiring a generous, well articulated Big Picture of the meaning of the psychedelic experience with Dennis McKenna. Having kindly agreed to be the Patron of the Psychedelic Museum it was also a honour to be able to welcome him, along with psychedelic explorer and ‘hack’ (his words, though ‘award winning journalist’ could equally be used) Don Lattin to our pop-up installation at BC.

den and don

The objects on show in the museum included loans from many generous collectors. We were pleased to show a mandrake from the Richel collection on loan from The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic as well as various items of paraphernalia from contemporary entheogenic practitioners. There were the wonderful things from the First Summer of Love loaned by collectors including John Power and Liz Elliott. These included a drum skin owned and decorated by Brian Barritt, through to rare vinyl albums, posters, books and private photographs. A few items, such as the wonderful Captain Gas calling cards of Andy Romanoff, pointed to the story of the First Summer of Love in the USA, but much of what was on display for three days (smack bang on the Greenwich Meridian line, down the hill from the Royal Observatory) were things from British psychedelic history. That said; where there are collectors happy to loan objects we can curate a show, so if you know a suitable venue (we’d love to do an exhibition in the North America) please get in touch!

Curation doesn’t just mean putting things in cases and organizing the space. It also means trying to find ways to stimulate curiosity and conversations in the museum. One way we tried to do this was by encouraging people to sit and play a game of Grass on a Syrian rue dyed ‘flying’ carpet. Another was asking visitors add their own comments to the display using butterfly post-it notes. We included various quirky and questioning labels in the gallery, and of course the team manning the space did a great job of engaging with our visitors.

We had an amazing collection of badges from museum director and counter-cultural historian Andy Roberts, and objects loaned by BC executive crew Dave King and Ben ‘E’s are Good’ Sessa. We had original t-shirts designed and worn by the band members of Psychic TV, early experimenters with dance music and altered states during the Second Summer of Love. We had a dreamachine (kindly loaned by Dream State), a high-end state-of-the-art vaporiser courtesy of Storz and Bickel. We had, well, loads of cool stuff… check out these pictures…

Both within the conference building and outside, chatting with my fellow delegates on the lawn, I definitely got a chance to Feed my Head. Some scintillating conversations, the chance to meet old friends and make new ones. A sense of a community and sense of purpose in that all of us, in different and I hope complementary ways, want to communicate the value of the psychedelic experience. Breaking Convention does this really well. By providing a platform for quality presentations, art, workshops and more it embraces an ethic of accessibility and diversity which I admire. Sure there are things yet to come, conventions to break, things to do better. But this, for me is a conference with a heart, a smile and an intelligence that I’m proud to be a part of.

Over the next few months the various presentations made at BC will be uploaded. (All that is bar the few where the magical fluence was too powerful and the data was scrambled!)

I was also really pleased to have an opportunity to talk at BC with Jaïs Frédéric Elalouf from The Psychedelic Museum in Paris. If you’ve not already done so please like their Facebook page and check out their website. The Psychedelic Museum in France has a wonderful and diverse collection of psychedelic art (at BC Jaïs shared with me his definition of psychedelic art, which is brilliantly considered, some info here) their new show is going to be great, if you can get along to it, and/or spread the word please do.

summer of love

Thanks again for those who supported the (British) Psychedelic Museum crowdfunder and who donated cash when they visited us at BC. Donations are of course still very much appreciated, especially as we intend to do another show as soon as possible in Britain. Please also get in touch if you have items in your collection you’d be happy to share (or ideas for venues, sources of funding etc).

My deepest respect and gratitude to all the Directors and Volunteers without whom the Breaking Convention exhibition (the biggest for the (British) Psychedelic Museum project thus far) would not have been possible. Thanks to the BC delegates who visited the museum, and for the great feedback we received during and after the show.



Coming Up at the Museum

Preparations are continuing for our forthcoming exhibition at Breaking Convention, the mother of all psychedelics conferences, in London this summer.

We’re really pleased to have the loan of a dream machine coming from Dreamstate and hope to have this installed and running as part of the show.  This machine will be just one of the devices for changing consciousness we will have on display. We’ll also have on show a range of pipes and vaporizing technologies, from ancient to the very latest.

Cut-up process

Andy Romanoff, who was one of the original Hog Farmers, has generously donated some of his calling cards to the museum. These are from his incarnation as ‘Captain Gas’, the gas in question being a huge cylinder of nitrous oxide. Andy was first turned on to nitrous by Ken Kesey while sitting in the Hog Farm bus he lived on, parked in Joyce Mitchell’s driveway in Malibu. The rest, as they say, is history (to find out more check out the article by Andy and the reflections by his daughter).

The Psychedelic Museum now has four original calling cards. We plan to keep two for the museum and display these at our Breaking Convention show and to auction the other two, at Andy’s suggestion, to raise funds for the museum. Stay tuned to this blog and our Facebook page for details!

It’s a gas, gas, gas (gas)!

Our patron Dennis McKenna will be at Breaking Convention and will also be in Britain earlier in the year as chair of the Ethnopharmacalogic Search for Psychedelic Drugs conference. Check out the website and Facebook pages for the conference. if you can’t get there in person, there is the option of participating via a live cast.

Meanwhile my new book Getting Higher: The Manual of Psychedelic Ceremony has already garnered media interest from The Guardian through to podcasts such the suitably named Deeper Down the Rabbit Hole. The book is officially released on May 1st and contains, among other things, a discussion of ‘museum level’ and an imagined journey to The Psychedelic Museum. I’m hoping that the publicity around the book will help point people towards the museum project and encourage them to get involved.

Finally, we’re really grateful to those wonderful people who have supported our next pop-up exhibition via our crowd funding page, all those folks who have offered help on the day,  and people who are providing objects for us to share at the Breaking Convention show. 

Hope to see you at Breaking Convention, and thanks again for all your support!


Alice’s Adventures in Underground Culture

February 2nd – February 4th at The Horse Hospital, London.

Down the rabbit hole we went…and into the second exhibition by the Psychedelic Museum. Alice’s Adventures in Underground Culture brought together the fabulous art of John Coulthart, expertly printed onto blotter paper, and works from a number of other artists inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice.

This three-day exhibition opened with an evening event featuring a panel discussion on the links between 1960s psychedelic music and culture, and the persistent fascination of Carroll’s work. The limited size of the venue meant that only 90 tickets were available and these sold out weeks ahead of the show. This was a clear indication of the demand for events of this type. In Britain there are numerous scientific and social events related to psychedelics, but there is obviously a thirst for engaging, intellectual commentary and reflection on psychedelic arts and culture. We’ve taken note and will try to enable larger groups to attend in future as far as possible!

Alice’s Adventures… and the Psychedelic Museum also received some welcome publicity by being recommended by The List and Time Out (and the prestigious Psychedelic Press), as well getting positive mentions by many other listing sites.

The panel discussion, featured Andy Roberts, Jake Fior, Sophia Satchell-Baeza, and John Coulthart himself, ably facilitated by our own Nikki Wyrd. An hour of informed and erudite conversation held the attention of the audience, who asked some thoughtful questions in the half hour Q&A session. We talked of many things, including laudanum, migraines, feminism, pastoral idylls vs authoritarian society, bands (including The Beatles), mathematics, and cinematic representations of the Alice story.

Over 600 people visited the exhibition, which was very well received. Below are some pictures of the event for your enjoyment. If you attended and have images, video or audio you’d like to share please get in touch with us, via The opening panel discussion was recorded, and once our sound man has improved the quality, we will upload that too.

Many thanks to the team at The Horse Hospital, and to all those amazing people who gave freely of their time and enthusiasm, in order to make this exhibition happen.

Special thanks to the panel members:

  • John Coulthart – A World Fantasy Award-winning artist and designer, John’s first public illustration was for the Hawkwind album Church of Hawkwind in 1982. His illustration and design work has appeared on many book covers and album sleeves, while his comic art is collected in two books: The Haunter of the Dark, a volume of HP Lovecraft adaptations which features a collaboration with Alan Moore, and Lord Horror: Reverbstorm, a graphic novel created with writer David Britton.
  • Andy Roberts – Andy is an historian of British psychedelic counterculture and LSD. Musically, he has been severely influenced and affected by the Grateful Dead, the Incredible String Band and Dr Strangely Strange among a host of others. He first fell down the rabbit hole in 1972 and has been exploring the labyrinth of passages ever since. He has written, co-written or contributed to fifteen books on subjects as diverse as cryptozoology, UFOs, folklore survivals, government files on the anomalous, and psychedelic drugs.
  • Sophia Satchell-Baeza – Sophia is an AHRC PhD candidate in the film studies department at King’s College, London. Her thesis on British psychedelic films and light shows in the “long 1960s” analyses the ways in which psychedelia gets taken up and discussed across avant-garde and more mainstream contexts. She has written on film, psychedelia and visual culture for magazines and journals including Sight & Sound, Wonderland, Shindig! and i-D.
  • Jake Fior – Co-founder of the ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ shop.

Next up…

Museum director Rob Dickins (of Psychedelic Press UK fame) has started the ball rolling for another exhibition in London. This is being tentatively timetabled for May. Stay tuned to this channel and our Facebook page for more information as details are confirmed!


Artists on display in Alice’s Adventures in Underground Culture

John Coulthart

Mark Bloomfield

Christiaan Nagel

‘Civilized Punk

Paolo Fiorentini

Alexander Korzer-Robinson

Greg Lindsay-Smith

Welcome to The Psychedelic Museum – The First Exhibition

The Psychedelic Museum was officially launched on Halloween of this year, and just a couple of weeks later, on Friday the 18th November the museum presented its first public show. This historic event took place at the Psychedelic Press Journal’s cover art exhibition ‘Eyes of Albion’ at The Kennington Residency, London. These combined events attracted over 200 visitors on this one evening, despite the cold weather.

I had travelled from north Devon with some choice artefacts, while two of my co-directors, Andy Roberts and Rob Dickins had brought their contributions from north Wales and southeast London respectively (Rob bringing two iconic pieces from the collection of Dave King). The Psychedelic Museum holds a ‘distributed collection‘, where the things it can call upon to exhibit remain in the ownership and care of the donor. As well as allowing the collection to grow rapidly, this methodology echoes the collective grass-roots approaches often found amongst psychedelic communities of modern times.

Arranging the objects on the wall and plinths was a fairly simple task, although Andy’s periodicals, badges, objets d’art and books had to be placed on the table to look somewhat less car boot sale (he will admit himself that he is not versed in curatorial aesthetics). The real business of the day began when the people arrived and started to wonder about the things and their stories; thus, five hours filled with dozens of enthused conversations began. These often moved on to other, related topics, and showed how the simple fact of being in the physical presence of something can change us. At this, Andy proved an eloquent advocate, talking with animated delight about his badges and keepsakes.


The container of capsules from the first LSD therapeutic study of recent years (shown above left) was marvelled at, especially by some researchers of Imperial College who had come to see the art. It sat beside a small sculpture dating from a few years later, a cause of much curiosity to the room! Izawa (2011) is a mixed media artwork. This collaborative piece was created by a group of magicians based in SheffieldIzawa is the physical representation of the ‘spirit of the psychedelic gnosis’ and has been imbued with magical power with the aim of ‘liberating the psychedelic gnosis’. (Gnosis in this context is a synonym for altered or extraordinary state of consciousness of the type attained through the use of psychedelic drugs.)

In another part of the exhibition many of our visitors realised the enormous significance of the Hoffman blotter art on display, signed by Dennis McKenna, Ann and Sasha Shulgin, Stanislav Grof, and James Fadiman.

Acid free paper

One aspect of a museum which I had not anticipated was the way it collects not just objects of the past, but present day people who have common interests, into the same location. And, by providing conversation pieces, they have reasons to initiate discussions. Pilgrims of their own paths, following their own threads of interest, a museum provides a loom upon which new conversations and interactions are woven.

Physical objects act as fossils of encounters; psychedelic objects infinitely more so. They mark times of meetings between minds, environments, ideas and often substances. Genesis P. Orridge’s t-shirt (design by Val Denham) provoked nostalgia and bemused looks in equal measure, from those who had, or had not, heard of Psychic TV. Either way, pioneers of electronic noise music Throbbing Gristle, and the late 20th century resurgence in body modification were soon mentioned.

By linking together moments of equivalent mind states from across geography and time, feeling our empathic resonance with fellow human beings in sheer awe at simply existing, psychedelic culture offers a glimpse into a world of familiar scenery. We can vividly imagine, to some degree, the visions encountered by those people 4,000 years ago in northwest Argentina, in a cave 3,860m above sea level, with their DMT pipe made of a puma bone; the bright colours, the intense patterns and twisting mandalas. The artefacts created and appreciated by those who have undertaken psychedelic adventures shows the undeniable commonality of our raw biological heritage, at the roots of so much of our diverse artistic and mythological interpretations of these, our most potent perceptions.

But what of the legacy of these psychedelically inclined cultures? Where can we find it recorded as an explicit narrative?


As the interest in psychedelics as medicines grows exponentially; hardly a week passes without the publication of some new research. How much of this research would have occurred without the growing interest in ayahuasca and peyote, of psilocybin mushroom species, amongst thousands of ordinary folk? …some of whom subsequently felt motivated to take up careers in science in order to research these molecules and their effects. The changes in our relationship with these substances will have great influence in how we construct our world: the intelligent use of psychedelic drugs promises (and evidence from research shows it delivers), opportunities for real world problem solving for engineers and scientists, highly effective methods for healing psychological damage, for easing our fears in the face of terminal illness, and much more.

We owe it to ourselves to tell the stories of those who have carried the torch of these drugs through the ages, through the gaol cells, through the furious anger of those righteous authority figures that declared the ‘War On (some) Drugs’.

Things – those material objects in an exhibition – provoke us to ask what, when, why, and who? Their value lies in the hands that have touched them, the eyes which were amazed in their presence. Like psychedelic substances themselves, while they can be represented (through photography or even 3D printing), there is a special value in the ‘medicine’ of the original, authentic and real. (You can, for example, watch as many trippy computer graphics as you like, but nothing compares to the authentic innerworld visions from a glass or two of ayahuasca!)

Re-imagining the world is a vital stage of any major cultural shift, and this is urgently needed now. Addressing the present through stories of the past, especially collective stories of how safe and intrinsic to the human animal is the desire to get high, can help inform our future. That these substances provide useful, healthy, enjoyable, life enhancing experiences for the vast majority of those who regularly use them is a fact; the work of the psychedelic museum, is to celebrate (though not of course without addressing difficult and contested ares of this subject) this psychedelic culture.

A museum of practices that have been criminalised and made secretive in the 20th century in most countries might provide those who enjoy such extraordinary states with validation. The traces of psychedelic culture are entwined throughout so many human activities, that only by grouping together categorically psychedelic artefacts can we show ourselves and others just how inseparable Homo sapiens and extraordinary states of consciousness have always been.

Choosing one’s state of consciousness, to be arational for a given period, gives us relief from the constant chore of concern. We return from a few hours of enhanced blissful contemplation or dancing to find our life has renewed colour; one of the most powerful predictors of life satisfaction is the knowledge that one has a mission in life. Psychedelic experiences can reveal to each of us,  via an apocalyptic uncovering of the self and its relationships with others, what that mission might be.

Looking at our surroundings through psychedelicised eyes we see them anew. And this is perhaps the greatest benefit; to see, physically, the world as fresh, as open to possibility.

A table, three plinths, and a couple of hooks in the wall at an art exhibition in London which had around 200 visitors marks the first manifestation of a larger project. One day there will be a building with hundreds, thousands of things; each one telling a tale, providing a portal into other realms. Imaginative journeying, initiated by these psychedelic objects, might just take us into a future which looks a bit like the archaic past.


A jolly trio of the Psychedelic Museum crew

With huge gratitude to all those who have already contributed loans of their artefacts, and donations of time and money, to this embryonic project.

Please add your support if you can to our crowdfunding appeal towards a much bigger exhibition at the psychedelic consciousness conference Breaking Convention in London 2017, and the development of this project. You can find us on Facebook too.