Opening the Cabinet of Curiosities Part I
Impact and afterlives of 19th century cabinets on 21st-century collecting, art practice and display.
About the Project
The aim of 'Opening the Cabinet of Curiosities' Part I is to work across disciplines and methods together with curators, scholars and artists in order to re-examine the 19th-century reception of the Renaissance Wunderkammer as well as its contemporary expressions.
The 'cabinet' concept played a vital role in the Victorian foundation of the V&A itself. More recently, the cabinet concept has taken on a new life as a term of choice for contemporary artists exploring artificialia and naturalia and reflecting on protocols of display. This project goes 'back to the future' to examine the potential of the cabinet for the V&A's next phase of collecting and display, drawing together experts on the history of collecting, museology and artistic intervention to give new life to this early modern concept.
This project will look at the influence of Wunderkammern on the formation of the complex of cultural, educational and industrial institutions in South Kensington and the influence these institutions might have had on a new generation in another era – that of the Industrial Revolution. Exploring the V&A's own history of collecting to uncover some of the many hidden histories of our objects and creating an open invitation to rethink the way in which we display and interpret them.
One outcome is "A Field Guide to Curiosity - a Mark Dion project", which will be launched in January 2019. This publication builds upon Mark Dion's numerous museum interventions with the V&A's collections and his continued work with Dr Skogh and Dr Havens throughout this project. The Field Guide to Curiosity is an aesthetic and critical contribution to a constantly expanding field on the history of cabinets of curiosities and includes a number of guest contributors, among them: Professor Paula Findlen, Professor Vera Keller, Dr Surekha Davies, Dr Jane Wildgoose and the artist Claire Cropper.