Monday, 26 October 2009

Wunderkammer / Cabinets of Curiosities

Cabinets of curiosities (also known as Kunstkammer, Wunderkammer, Cabinets of Wonder, or wonder-rooms) were encyclopedic collections of types of objects of the Renaissance period. They were unclassified, but objects within them would today maybe fit into the categories of natural history, geology, ethnography, archaeology, relics, works of art,  antiquities.  They were often compiled by rulers, aristocrats, scientists and merchants as a status symbol of power and knowledge, experience, exploration. They could be considered to be the precursor to today's museums, with many of their contents ending up in museums.

A few interesting quotes about Wunderkammer which might inform you in your use of your collection...

"The Kunstkammer was regarded as a microcosm or theater of the world, and a memory theater. The Kunstkammer conveyed symbolically the patron's control of the world through its indoor, microscopic reproduction." Francesaco Fiorani, reviewing Bredecamp 1995 in Renaissance Quarterly 51.1 (Spring 1998:268-270) p 268, via here

" Most important. they [mirror worlds or virtual worlds] are microcosms -- intricate worlds come alive in small packages. Whether in the shape of a Victorian winter garden, an electric train layout, a Joseph Cornell shadow-box or a mere three-inch plastic dome with snowflakes softly settling inside, microcosms are intriguing. They show you patterns and help you make discoveries that you'd never have come across otherwise. ...they are thought-tools of great power and evocativeness." 
Gelernter, David, Mirror Worlds (see all 181-184) via here

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