Sea serpents crushing ships. Seven-foot-tall giants. A mummified Porsche. What other oddities might you find in the Bruce Museum
s 2D curiosity cabinet?
See for yourself by exploring the Bruce Museums new exhibition, Collecting Reimagined: A 2D Curiosity Cabinet, on view now in the Museums Bantle Lecture Gallery.
The practice of collecting objects and putting them on display in cabinets of curiosities reached its peak among European collectors, scientists, and royalty during the 16th and 17th centuries. The purposes of these rooms varied, from showcasing prized possessions to serving as educational tools. Some cabinet owners even aspired to the metaphysical in their desire to create a microcosm of the universe through their collections.
Curiosity cabinets are traditionally thought of as physical spaces filled with objects. However, scholars and artists in the past also used words and images to describe, and occasionally create, cabinets in two-dimensional form. In these works, the cabinet is shown on paper rather than displayed in a room. Prints such as the third plate from William Hogarths Marriage A-la-Mode series (shown above) depict the interior spaces and contents of cabinets. Books filled with printed images detail the objects in the cabinets and the categories used to organize them.
Drawing inspiration from these cabinets on paper, this exhibition uses printed works, photographs, medals, textiles, and scrimshaw from the Bruce Museum collections to create a cabinet filled with two-dimensional depictions of typical three-dimensional cabinet objects.
On view through March 29, 2020, Collecting Reimagined: A 2D Curiosity Cabinet is curated by H.S. Miller, the Museums Zvi Grunberg Resident Fellow 2019-20. The exhibition is based on a chapter of the masters dissertation Miller completed while studying at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
To see an aspect of my research take on a new life as an exhibition is really exciting, says Miller. Cabinets of curiosities capture my imagination both as a former scientist who is curious about the natural world and as an art historian who adores all things weird, wacky, and wonderful.