What were cabinets of curiosities?

Discover more about a unique collecting practice that became the predecessor of the modern museum

Stars Insider

02/12/22 | StarsInsider


Freakish creatures, human body parts, scientific instruments, exotic plants, and other relics of far-flung travel formed the basis of what became known in the 16th century as a cabinet of curiosities. Objects belonging to natural history, geology, ethnography, and archaeology, plus works of art and antiquities, were gathered by the wealthy and the privileged and showcased in rooms and salons across Europe in a fashionable display of a collector's rank in society. Many of these artifacts later formed the nucleus of some of the most celebrated collections in the world. In fact, the cabinet of curiosities was the predecessor of the modern museum. But how did this unique collecting practice come about, and where can you admire modern-day cabinets of curiosities?

Click through and browse the rare, the quirky, and the downright bizarre.

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