The Cabinet of Curiosities

Ten "Cabinets of Curiosities" and Unique Collections from around the World (PHOTOS)
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There were not yet universal systems of scientific classification and each collection sported its own unique organisational structure. The specimens in one corner of the Anatomical Museum in Leiden were grouped by type of defect. Sitting side by side were "separate pickling jars containing two-tailed lizards, doubled apples, conjoined Siamese twin infants, forked carrots, and a two-headed cat.

The cabinets displayed their owners' notions of Art man-made artefacts , Science natural artefacts and Spirituality sense of wonder at God's works in a physical form. With the discovery of the Americas, affluent households were even able to send off explorers with 'shopping-lists' of curiosities that reflected their particular interests and obsessions; here is part of one dated The key concepts and notions that lay behind the assembling of Cabinets of Curiosities were: Experiencing a sense of wonder in all kinds of things in the world.

Discovering new and extreme examples of the natural and the man-made. Making connections across the whole field of human knowledge. Experimenting with arranging, re-arranging and classifying parts of the world and the connections between them in many different ways. As Samuel Quiccheberg an eminent curator of cabinets wrote: "The ideal collection should be nothing less than a theatre of the universe.. What has all this got to do with children's learning?

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Pendergast frees himself and lures the killer into a subbasement, while Nora fights to save Smithback's life. That's worth becoming a serial killer who tortures his prey so he can extend his life by several hundred years? All these stuffed animals, skeletons, fish, molluscs, rocks, minerals and fossils put on display, make a fine example of an old collection of 'curiosities'. After his death in , Lady Guest made the collection public, viewable for free. Three books in and Agent Pendergast might have convinced me to include thrillers as one of my favourite genres.

The above list of concepts and notions also accurately describes some important aspects of the activities and schemes suggested as beneficial for children in 'out of school hours' learning schemes for example: using higher-order thinking skills and exploratory, in-depth learning focussed on particular interests. As an inspirational icon symbolising our desire to encourage the 'kinds of understanding' described above, as well as the more formal learning set out in the standard curriculum.

As a physical object for the storage of resources and on-going work within classrooms.

As a 'Virtual Cabinet'- a collection of information and ideas created and displayed on our network of computers initially on the school intranet and later accessible to the outside world on the internet. Other reasons for using Cabinets.

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The Cabinet of Curiosities will be both a physical presence in the classroom as a constant reminder of the wider aims of education and an 'icon' that provides us with many useful analogies for considering and discussing cognitive development:. As discussed in the previous section, there are interesting parallels between the 'kinds of understanding' historically associated with Cabinets and the 'kinds of understanding' displayed by and to be encouraged in children. The work of Kieran Egan particularly The Educated Mind has helped us establish a theoretical under-pinning for the consideration of education in this way.

The Cabinet seems to be an ideal symbol for 'Romantic understanding' - Egan's term for the stage at which children are 'commonly obsessed with the extremes of human achievement and qualities' and 'while trying to master notational systems of alphabets and numbers, they are also becoming avid collectors, sorters and rankers of things'. Egan suggests that the failure to recognise 'Romantic understanding' as a prerequisite to theoretic thinking may be part of the explanation for the widespread failure of math and science instruction; this is a problem that we hope to make some attempt to address through some pod projects within this scheme.

Analogy with the brain. For more on Bereiter's ideas click here. Analogies of loss of wonder. In some ways, the Internet functions like a modern Cabinet of Curiosities - as a repository of curious, half-formed and extreme ideas. For good examples of this kind of 'collection' see such blogs as bibliodyssey , Agence eureka and Dark Roasted Blend. What will the Cabinets contain? A nything that is strange and interesting. The cabinets will contain an ever-changing display of artefacts and on-going collections.

Children will be appointed curators of all sorts of special interest areas of the Cabinets and Virtual Cabinets; for example 'curator of snail shells' or 'curator of the history of Middle Street School'.

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Drawers in the cabinet will contain idea sheets. These sheets will provide ideas for creative, open-ended activities; the work done on these sheets will be evaluated in terms of creativity and originality rather than neatness or conventional thinking. The drawers will also contain puzzle sheets which provide harder challenges for children than their regular curriculum.

Some sheets will exist within the Virtual Cabinets as templates, quizzes, web-quests etc. The Cabinet will also contain a suggestions drawer where anyone children and adults will be able to submit their own ideas for 'sheets'. Why do we need 'virtual' Cabinets as well? We will also record children's current areas of interest on a database, which can then be searched to find other children interested in, for example, photography or interested in teaching others about photography.

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Older children will be involved in the design and running of the Virtual Cabinets -this will involve art, design and literacy skills as well as much consideration of how best to categorise information for storage and retrieval on the computer network. Some of the volumes doubtless represent his herbarium. Every surface of the vaulted ceiling is occupied with preserved fishes, stuffed mammals and curious shells, with a stuffed crocodile suspended in the centre. Examples of corals stand on the bookcases.

At the left, the room is fitted out like a studiolo [1] with a range of built-in cabinets whose fronts can be unlocked and let down to reveal intricately fitted nests of pigeonholes forming architectural units, filled with small mineral specimens. Below them, a range of cupboards contain specimen boxes and covered jars. Sculpture both classical and secular the sacrificing Libera , a Roman fertility goddess [5] on the one hand and modern and religious Christ at the Column [6] are represented, while on the table are ranged, among the exotic shells including some tropical ones and a shark's tooth : portrait miniatures , gem-stones mounted with pearls in a curious quatrefoil box, a set of sepia chiaroscuro woodcuts or drawings, and a small still-life painting [7] leaning against a flower-piece, coins and medals—presumably Greek and Roman—and Roman terracotta oil-lamps, a Chinese-style brass lock, curious flasks, and a blue-and-white Ming porcelain bowl.

The Kunstkammer conveyed symbolically the patron's control of the world through its indoor, microscopic reproduction.

The Cabinet of Curiosities Summary & Study Guide

Two of the most famously described seventeenth-century cabinets were those of Ole Worm , known as Olaus Wormius — illustration, above right , and Athanasius Kircher — These seventeenth-century cabinets were filled with preserved animals, horns, tusks, skeletons, minerals, as well as other interesting man-made objects: sculptures wondrously old, wondrously fine or wondrously small; clockwork automata ; ethnographic specimens from exotic locations.

Often they would contain a mix of fact and fiction, including apparently mythical creatures. However he was also responsible for identifying the narwhal 's tusk as coming from a whale rather than a unicorn , as most owners of these believed. The specimens displayed were often collected during exploring expeditions and trading voyages. In the second half of the 18th century, Belsazar Hacquet c. It included a number of minerals, including specimens of mercury from the Idrija mine, a herbarium vivum with over 4, specimens of Carniolan and foreign plants, a smaller number of animal specimens, a natural history and medical library, and an anatomical theatre.

Cabinets of curiosities would often serve scientific advancement when images of their contents were published. The catalog of Worm's collection, published as the Museum Wormianum , used the collection of artifacts as a starting point for Worm's speculations on philosophy, science, natural history, and more. Cabinets of curiosities were limited to those who could afford to create and maintain them.

Many monarchs , in particular, developed large collections. The fabulous Habsburg Imperial collection included important Aztec artifacts, including the feather head-dress or crown of Montezuma now in the Museum of Ethnology, Vienna.

Cabinets of Curiosities and The Origin of Collecting

These were cabinets in the sense of pieces of furniture, made from all imaginable exotic and expensive materials and filled with contents and ornamental details intended to reflect the entire cosmos on a miniature scale. The best preserved example is the one given by the city of Augsburg to King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden in , which is kept in the Museum Gustavianum in Uppsala. The curio cabinet , as a modern single piece of furniture, is a version of the grander historical examples.

The juxtaposition of such disparate objects, according to Horst Bredekamp's analysis Bredekamp , encouraged comparisons, finding analogies and parallels and favoured the cultural change from a world viewed as static to a dynamic view of endlessly transforming natural history and a historical perspective that led in the seventeenth century to the germs of a scientific view of reality.

The "Enlightenment Gallery" in the British Museum , installed in the former "Kings Library" room in to celebrate the th anniversary of the museum, aims to recreate the abundance and diversity that still characterized museums in the mid-eighteenth century, mixing shells, rock samples and botanical specimens with a great variety of artworks and other man-made objects from all over the world.

In , Michael Bernhard Valentini published an early museological work, Museum Museorum , an account of the cabinets known to him with catalogues of their contents. Some strands of the early universal collections, the bizarre or freakish biological specimens, whether genuine or fake, and the more exotic historical objects, could find a home in commercial freak shows and sideshows. He began sporadically collecting plants in England and France while studying medicine.

He accepted and spent fifteen months collecting and cataloguing the native plants, animals, and artificial curiosities e. This became the basis for his two volume work, Natural History of Jamaica , published in and Sloane returned to England in with over eight hundred specimens of plants, which were live or mounted on heavy paper in an eight-volume herbarium. He also attempted to bring back live animals e. Sloane meticulously cataloged and created extensive records for most of the specimens and objects in his collection. He also began to acquire other collections by gift or purchase.

Herman Boerhaave gave him four volumes of plants from Boerhaave's gardens at Leiden. William Charleton, in a bequest in , gave Sloane numerous books of birds, fish, flowers, and shells and his miscellaneous museum consisting of curiosities, miniatures, insects, medals, animals, minerals, precious stones and curiosities in amber. Sloane purchased Leonard Plukenet 's collection in It consisted of twenty-three volumes with over 8, plants from Africa, India, Japan and China.

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Mary Somerset, Duchess of Beaufort — , left him a twelve-volume herbarium from her gardens at Chelsea and Badminton upon her death in Reverend Adam Buddle gave Sloane thirteen volumes of British plants. Philip Miller gave him twelve volumes of plants grown from the Chelsea Physic Garden. John Tradescant the elder circa s— was a gardener, naturalist, and botanist in the employ of the Duke of Buckingham.

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He collected plants, bulbs, flowers, vines, berries, and fruit trees from Russia, the Levant, Algiers, France, Bermuda, the Caribbean, and the East Indies. His son, John Tradescant the younger — traveled to Virginia in and collected flowers, plants, shells, an Indian deerskin mantle believed to have belonged to Powhatan , father of Pocahontas.

Father and son, in addition to botanical specimens, collected zoological e. By the s, the Tradescants displayed their eclectic collection at their residence in South Lambeth. Tradescant's Ark, as it came to be known, was the earliest major cabinet of curiosity in England and open to the public for a small entrance fee.

Elias Ashmole — was a lawyer, chemist, antiquarian, Freemason , and a member of the Royal Society with a keen interest in astrology , alchemy , and botany. Ashmole was also a neighbor of the Tradescants in Lambeth. He financed the publication of Musaeum Tradescantianum , a catalogue of the Ark collection in Ashmole, a collector in his own right, acquired the Tradescant Ark in and added it to his collection of astrological, medical, and historical manuscripts.

In , he donated his library and collection and the Tradescant collection to the University of Oxford , provided that a suitable building be provided to house the collection. Ashmole's donation formed the foundation of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. Cabinets of curiosities served not only as collections to reflect the particular curiosities of their curators but as social devices to establish and uphold rank in society.

There are said to be two main types of cabinets.