Sunday, January 27, 2008

Winter project thus far neglected

As explained in my intoductory post, a wunderkammer is a German word which translates roughly to "cabinet of curiosities". These cabinets were in vogue in the 16th and 17th Centuries, and the basic idea that they represented would eventually develop into the concept of the museum. We take these priceless collections displayed at major museums around the world for granted today, but at one time anyone who thought they were anyone had a personal collection of curiosities to show to anyone who would take the time to look. One would imagine that the exotic displays of natural, and too often unnatural, items in a socially conscious young man's collection may give him an aura of education and of worldliness.

And in the world that his contemporaries were living in, who could argue the authenticity of anything that was presented as authentic? Ships at this time were traveling the globe in search of exotic ports rich with trade goods and spices. These ports were also full of stories, legends and flat out fabrication. And the traders new how to turn a buck on the wunderkammer phenomenon. While all of Europe was in constant astonishment at a world getting ever smaller and ever stranger, the appetite for something unique in your personal cabinet was a matter of status. This was a big deal during the Renaissance. Unicorn horn, two headed toad, mummified finger of a saint, sliver of the True Cross. All fair game.

My meager attempt at this concept revolves around a type tray that I bought at an antique shop for ten bucks. It has multiple compartments for the storage of movable type letters used in old printing presses. The idea is to accumulate something interesting to place in each compartment, and when finished put a glass plate over the drawer and hang it on the wall. I have various items to put in the holes already but I need to collect them up out of a myriad of drawers and containers and boxes that collect this sort of thing around the house.

I'll start an inventory, then we will discuss this again. Thanks for reading.

For more on wunderkammern:

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