“In a way, anyone who collects things in the privacy of his own home is a curator. Simply choosing how to display your things, deciding what pictures to hang where, and in which order you books belong, places you in the same category as a museum curator.”
-From the Fictional Text within Wonder Struck by Brian Selznick
This is how museums began. Curious people collecting curious things. As Europeans began to travel far and wide, with greater regularity they brought home immense amounts of Curiosities. At the innocent end of the spectrum, bits of horn, precious stones, dried exotic flowers, insects pinned to boards, taxidermied animals never before scene in Europe, flowers seeds and pottery. At the macabre end of the spectrum were human trophies, body parts of distant peoples.
The wealthy and the adventurous built ornate cabinets to display their treasures. Ornate cabinets grew into rooms and galleries full of things to marvel at and share. Rooms and galleries grew into museums, collections for the public. From carefully carved cabinets of wood and glass we have advanced to whole buildings and complexes of buildings and still they do not contain all the wonders of the world.
We Are All Curators
We are no different to our 16th Century predecessors in our love to collect around us the things we admire, things that intrigue, amuse or repel. We blog them, pin them, share them and favorite them. We scrapbook them. We put them in curio cabinets (ie curiosity cabinets) and on bookshelves or hide them in dusty old boxes.
The greatest wonder in the object is its story; whether the story of its production, its acquisition or its use. In our hectic world navigating our throw-away society it is good to slow down from time to time and think about the things we collect around us and why.
The best part of Collecting is sharing
“So the Girls each opened a drawer and turned over the contents till they found something they wanted to know about…Grandma smiled as she smoothed the old thing tenderly, and began her story with evident pleasure.”–An Old-Fashioned Girl
Each object is a piece of your life and the lives that intersect with yours. Turn it over in your hands. Allow it to make you laugh? make you cry? make you wistful? Those things with the strongest ties, the clearest memories are the ones to carefully curate to store up in your own Cabinet of Wonders.
And don’t forget to share the stories with those you love.