Arising in the mid 16th century Cabinets of Curiosities were once places of wonder, amazement and stuffed with eye opening encyclopaedias of travel and art. Now in the 21st century traveling freak shows and these Wunderkammer attractions are a thing of a dark and gloomy past. Today we make do with rare Curiosity shops dotted around the country, bizarre museums, and family friendly circus’s stopping by your local garden centre. The modern Cabinet of Curiosities is assumed to be a collection of macabre and often morbid trinkets and stereotypically goes hand in hand with the alternative lifestyle. The dark arts are exposed, body parts displayed and taxidermy of squirrel bollocks for all to explore.
The original Cabinets owned by wealthy and passionate collectors were most often associated with the dreary Victorian era and are still shrouded with mystery and a dirty romance. But were they as dark as the cabinets we create today? Displays of anthropological artefacts, antiques and souvenirs from around the globe were the most commonly collected of the time.
She wrote some of the most famous children’s books known but Beatrix Potter owned her very own Cabinet of Curiosities. Filled with dried mushrooms, plants and even insects her collection was impressive. Beatrix’s specimens were mostly passed on to the London’s Natural History museum and never stayed in her possession for long. She left the smoke for country folk, and began rearing her own sheep… but her collection of fossils went with her.
There was a man called Ole Worm, and Ole Worm was as unique as his namesake. This strange man, with a strange name became the owner of one of the most noted Cabinets of Curiosities of all time. Developed in the 17th century Ole Worm, a physician, naturalist and antiquarian collected specimens of the natural world, ancient runes, artefacts from the modern world… and the occasional body part. He was a teacher and was passionate about showing those the real ways of the world, including his fellow naturalists.
Modern Cabinet of Curiosities can be explored thanks to popular tourist attractions such as the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! franchise, various strange museums (such as the Huntarian Museum in London) and for those who like a live show complete with freaks, Dr Haze and his Circus of Horrors never disappoints.
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