Wunderkammer, or cabinets of curiosities came into vogue in the early 1500s. They were products of inquiring minds of wealthy aristocrats who, prior to establishment the modern museum were themselves collectors of the unique, the unusual, the wonderful. Their time was spent largely traveling to distant lands, building upon their collections, or to trade or purchase from those formed by others who shared their fascination with the unknown.

  These cabinets weren't the cabinets of today but often spacious rooms that housed grand displays for visitors to ponder and discuss. These collections were often supplemented with a library of books and manuscripts on all related topics, for the collections weren't just to admire, but to study and learn from. Names such as Copenhagen's Ole Worm, England's King Charles I, Russia's Peter the Great and the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II assembled impressive wunderkammer throughout the 17th and 18th Centuries that in many cases grew to become the foundation of today's vast and respected museums.

Wunderkammer were made up of natural wonders, including plants, creatures or their fossilized remains, and geological oddities, as well as man-made works, such as art, sculpture, scientific instruments, and weapons. Some men specialized, while others' scope was more varied.

Unlike the accumulations of the past, wunderkammer do not have to be dedicated rooms or even pieces of impressive furniture filled with wonders. A simple but fascinating collection in miniature can be assembled into a small partitioned box like that of the author's. Works of art and natural beauty, including historically interesting entries can fill both the spaces and the mind with inspirational desires for knowledge, and an appreciation for the vast history that lies eons behind us.

Starting one's own small wunderkammer doesn't have to be an expensive endeavor, either. Many intriguing items of interest can be acquired for under US$30, such as ancient Roman bronze coins of Constantine the Great, an exotic seashell, a multi-billion-year old half-ounce iron meteorite, or the small tooth of a prehistoric Psittacosaurus or the ferocious Spinosaurus.

 
 
The Author's Contemporary Wunderkammer
The only limits of a small wunderkammer are those set by the confines of the box one eventually builds. The author has limited his collections to one or two key examples of each to inhibit the natural drive to own one of everything. However, the drive for knowledge need not be constrained to specific dimensions; we are already dealing with the inevitable constraints of time.
 
     

     
     

 

 
         
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