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O.J. Simpson Museum: Best Objects from L.A. Pop-Up

From pocket knives to watches to a series of board games, some of the strangest items that were exhibited this weekend at the California installation

Los Angeles, UNITED STATES: (FILES): This 21 June 1995 file photo shows former US football player and actor O.J. Simpson looking at a new pair of Aris extra-large gloves that prosecutors had him put on during his double-murder trial in Los Angeles. Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch announced 20 November 2006 the cancellation of a controversial book and television interview involving O.J. Simpson being planned by his News Corp company. AFP PHOTO/Vince BUCCI/FILES (Photo credit should read VINCE BUCCI/AFP/Getty Images)

O.J. Simpson looking at a new pair of Aris extra-large gloves that prosecutors had him put on during his double-murder trial in Los Angeles.

Vince Bucci/AFP/Getty

The O.J. Simpson case was an entirely new kind of phenomenon. Millions watched it unfold, from the low-speed chase through Los Angeles, to the Dream Team’s antics in front of Judge Lance Ito, to the devastating loss for prosecutors Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden as the jury read the not-guilty verdict. Los Angeles native Adam Papagan – then still in elementary school in Westwood, nearby the murder scene in Brentwood – remembers the effect it was having on his neighborhood. “I just remember this omnipresence about it,” he says. It seemed like it went on forever.” 

The case stayed with him – he ended up working for a tour company that chronicles the murder for fascinated visitors. “I started [working on] the O.J. tour, so I kind of have become a de-facto expert on O.J.,” he explains. “[The case] was just a very mysterious thing. As a kid it was like, ‘who is this guy, and why is everyone going crazy about this? It seemed like it went on forever: going home watching the news and then Brentwood would be on. It was very surreal.” Now, he’s turned that fascination into a pop-up museum in Los Angeles.

Papagan discovered that while there was a plethora of artifacts from when Simpson’s time as a sports superstar, there was an equal or greater amount of memorabilia from the trial. That’s what spurred Papagan’s idea for The O.J. Simpson Museum, a pop-up at the Coagula Curatorial Gallery in Los Angeles. He had been planning the exhibit since before Simpson’s July parole hearing but the project began to take shape in June when he started an IndieGogo campaign. “Once O.J. was granted his parole, it seemed like interest spiked up in this [case] again,” he says.

Papagan found his vision for the museum in the sensationalization of the trial. From bootleg t-shirts and board games, artwork and pocket-knives, Papagan combined owned and donated paraphernalia to craft the exhibit. While he maintains he’s not a hardcore collector, Papagan is still searching for the item that initially began his stockpile two years ago. “The thing I’m most trying to find is an O.J. Halloween costume that was an O.J. mask, a Bills jersey, and a knife,” he says. To Papagan, all of the items are bizarre, but the Halloween costume is perhaps the strangest. “It’s something that was produced to be literally worn one night, Halloween 1995, and then thrown out,” Papagan adds. “It’s like the most ephemeral piece of ephemera.”

While some could criticize Papagan for glorifying a murderer with his museum, he stands by his curatorial debut. “Some people say, ‘Oh God, O.J., this is in poor taste,’ [but] they’re kind of missing the point,” he says. “Just because something is upsetting, or something is taboo, doesn’t mean that it’s not worthy of artistic or academic exploration.” And while he does acknowledge that a lot of these objects were distasteful to make, he says they deserve to be seen. “I’m fascinated by the phenomenon the case created, and I’m interested in the effect it had, and continues to have, on society,” he explains.”This is something obviously that a lot of people even 20 years on still feel like they have a personal connection to.” 

Before the exhibit ends and its items are packed away, Rolling Stone reached out to Papagan about some of the most curious items in the collection.

O.J. Simpson Trial Museum - Ford Bronco

O.J. Simpson Trial Museum - Ford Bronco

A 1994 White Bronco, Similar to the One Owned by O.J.

“The most eye-catching thing is going to be a 1994 Ford Bronco, which is going to be parked outside of the gallery. That car is so emblematic, so iconic with the case. It’s not the actual car. O.J. had a 1994 Bronco, that was what the blood evidence was found in. That was taken by the LAPD and later destroyed. There’s a second Bronco, the 1993, that belonged to Al Cowlings, that’s the Bronco from the chase. And that is owned by O.J.’s former agent [Mike Gilbert]. But this [exhibit piece] is just a Bronco.

O.J. Simpson Trial Museum - Bootleg T-Shirts

O.J. Simpson Trial Museum - Bootleg T-Shirts

Bootleg T-Shirts

“We have 80 bootleg O.J. T-shirts. Some were sold at truck stops and novelty stores, but the majority of them these are DIY, homemade t-shirts that people would print up to sell outside of the trial. And this is pre-photoshop, pre-access to technology so this is really like DIY graphic design. Some of them are like ‘Free O.J.,’ and some of them say ‘O.J. is a Killer,’ but a lot of them just echoes sentiment of questioning his guilt.”

O.J. Simpson Trial Museum - Collectible Knife

O.J. Simpson Trial Museum - Collectible Knife

Pocket Knife

“There’s a commemorative pocket knife that has a drawing of O.J. and the Bronco, and it says ‘O.J.’s Last Run, June 17, 1994.’ That was the day of the chase. I’ve seen the original packaging on eBay, and it comes in a can with O.J.’s mugshot on it that says ‘Canned Juice.’ No clue who originally made it.”

O.J. Simpson Trial Museum - Handmade Signs

O.J. Simpson Trial Museum - Handmade Signs

Handmade Signs

“I have a sign that was on the gate at Rockingham that says ‘We Love You O.J.’ and people signed it and wrote, ‘you’ll always be my hero.’ After the car chase when he got arrested people were put this homemade sign up that says ‘We Love You Juice’ and ‘Number 32 Forever.’ After everyone was done signing it, these two brothers who were teenagers at the time stole it and ran back to their car. It’s been sitting under this guy’s bed for the past 20 years. But he hit me up on Facebook [asking if I] wanted to put it in the show. So, that is like an actual piece of history: an original artifact from the trial that shows in real-time the comments that people were making.”

O.J. Simpson Trial Museum - Board Game

O.J. Simpson Trial Museum - Board Game

Simpson-Inspired Board Games

“I have three O.J. board games of four that I know to exist. There’s ‘OJopoly,’ which is actually sealed, but I presume it is Monopoly but with O.J. stuff. Instead of Park Place, you’ve got Rockingham Avenue [where O.J.’s mansion was]. There is ‘Squeeze the Juice,’ where you play as O.J.’s legal team, and the goal is to drain O.J. out of his money as you play the game. There’s ‘Trial of Century,’ which is the one that I don’t have. And then there is the ‘The People vs. O.J. Simpson Trivia Game,’ which is set up like trivial pursuit but with questions about the trial.”

In This Article: Crime, Los Angeles, Murder, O.J. Simpson

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