Story by Raluca Tudusciuc
Photos by Samantha Shiroishi
Nestled among the hills of northern Altadena lies one of Los Angeles’ most fascinating museums. An attraction for both animal lovers and appreciators of the unique, The Bunny Museum, co-founded by Steve Lubanski and Candace Frazee in 1998, boasts the world’s largest collection of rabbit-themed items. Their amassed assortment is comprised of over 44,000 pieces, each strikingly different from the next.
As an animal enthusiast myself, I naturally had to pay a visit. I approached the building and was immediately faced by an enormous inflatable rabbit that adorns the roof of the museum. The white balloon was surrounded by other bunny installments, including three former Rose Parade float bunnies and a colorful mural decorating an entire wall. I admired the exterior of the construction, but was soon startled by the appearance of a small ginger cat. This new companion was one of the museum’s many residents, named Dash.
The collection originally started as a tradition in which the couple would exchange rabbit themed gifts as expressions of love. Initially, the museum was also their shared home; however, the collection has grown to be so vast, they have relocated to larger premises in upper Altadena. Many items, including the ornate figurines that adorned their wedding cake, are dedicated to their unending love for one another.
I soon neared the main entrance, and, with bated breath, crossed the threshold into the small foyer. What I was met with far exceeded any prior expectations I may have had.
Every square inch as far as I could see was piled with objects, large and small. Teetering stacks of rabbit figurines lay clustered in huge glass cabinets to my left, and a wall adorned with the signatures of past celebrity visitors stood directly before me. I was welcomed by Frazee, who sat at a small desk to my right, nearly obscured by the massive piles of bunny postcards, figurines, and bobbleheads among the rest.
I was so taken aback by the sheer vastness of just this fraction of the full collection, I nearly didn’t see Samantha, who was waiting for me just behind a bookcase filled to the brim with items for sale. We exchanged remarks on the surprising immensity of the assortment, and continued down the hall.
A large glass cabinet boasted hundreds of small porcelain salt and pepper sets, and an entire wall was filled with items dedicated solely to rabbit related food products. It was in this section that I discovered the existence of Nesquik chapstick, of which they had a flavored set of three. Just a few steps away was the rabbit school exhibit, which featured four rows of glass shelves, depicting many small rabbit figures being taught by a rabbit professor, complete with miniature whiteboards.
The Bunny Museum is largely dedicated to exploring the relevance of rabbits in both popular culture and history. The museum’s Gallery of Original Bunny Art, or GOOBA, is an installation that presents the works of an array of contemporary artists, including Teresa Blatt, Sylvie Lake, Dennis Chin, Lucile Littot, Silvano Possenti, and the founders, Lubanski and Frazee themselves. The mediums used range from painting to sculpture, and even edible products.
Among the many exhibits is 1993, a display dedicated solely to Frazee’s works. In order to commemorate the museum’s original location in Pasadena, Frazee compiled her art from repurposed or broken items formerly on display. The couple initially placed damaged pieces no longer able to be displayed in what they titled The Garden of Broken Dreams. These rabbits are now back on display through an innovative new form of art.
Bunny inspired art, however, dates back thousands of years. Another installation, Antiquity, contains pieces from as long ago as 300 B.C. These fascinating objects proved to be one of the highlights of our visit. Ancient rabbit themed artifacts were encased in a large glass container. Included is a bronze Roman ring, estimated to be from around 300-200 B.C. The exquisite piece of jewelry is accompanied by a pendant and brooch, among others.
We voyaged further into the museum and entered a room isolated from the main gallery. It contained an entire wall dedicated to cartoon characters, including the beloved Bugs Bunny and Roger Rabbit. Even the ceiling was covered in rabbit posters, slippers, puzzles, and plush animals. It was in this room that we were greeted by many other feline friends, all eager to accept head scratches and pets.
From there, however, our visit took a more somber turn. The Chamber of Hop Horrors, which is prohibited to children under the age of 13, is an extremely important exhibit depicting the abuse and mistreatment of rabbits in many industries. In a sickening reminder of the atrocious nature of animal cruelty, the display discusses many topics that are more relevant than ever.
In all certainty I can say that The Bunny Museum is a fascinating place to escape from the bores of reality. In all its eccentric charm, it provides for an experience you most definitely won’t forget. The welcoming attitude of the couple really makes the museum feel like a home away from home, and promises an enjoyable experience to each visitor who arrives. The Bunny Museum truly is “the hoppiest place in the world.”