“Without the death of Leland Stanford Jr., you don’t have the museum and you don’t have Stanford University.”

—Mark Dion

2019-20 Diekman Contemporary Commissions Program Artist

When Jane and Leland Stanford experienced the immense pain of losing their only son, Leland Jr., just before his 16th birthday, they were compelled to enshrine his memory in a meaningful way. The resulting museum and university they founded not only secured young Leland’s place in history – artist Mark Dion argues that this particular death changed the world. Dion’s exhibition, The Melancholy Museum: Love, Death, and Mourning at Stanford, opens at the Cantor Arts Center Sept. 18.

“Without the death of Leland Stanford Jr., you don’t have the museum and you don’t have Stanford University,” Dion explained. “Without Stanford University, you probably don’t have the Silicon Valley. Without the Silicon Valley, there are a number of things that we certainly don’t have in the way that they look today, including personal computers, and phones and the internet. So, the death of a child set off a chain reaction that dramatically shaped the course of the information future of the world.”