The Curio Cabinet series (#curioTuesday) is published biweekly, featuring an artifact of natural or cultural history and a brief selection of nifty facts. Curio Cabinet celebrates the history of curio collections, the roots of which played a part in the globalization of learning and scientific knowledge. Learn more here.
This month we wrote about the history of curio collections and we thought we’d also give you some ideas on making your own at home!
Your personal “curios” don’t have to be nature-only; they can be whatever trinkets you collect. When I was a little girl, my great-grandmother kept a huge, wide metal bowl on top of her bedroom wardrobe. When I visited, she’d pull it down and let me pick through the old tin toys inside that she’d kept since her childhood. Some of them were just colorful, others moved when you cranked the knobs or pumped the spinners. Although she’s passed now, her memory lives on for me in that bowl of toys and her smiling face when she’d take them down for me to play with.
That was the first curio collection I ever knew, and although mine aren’t comprised of toys, I hope that they speak to my nieces and nephews when they visit me.
I am an avid collector of small things both natural and cultural: rocks, seedpods, carvings, fetishes, art, more rocks, curiosities, skins, and – wait – did I already mention rocks?
Many of my naturalist comrades share this tendency to hoard similar items, perhaps as a way to remember the places we’ve been or to bring the outdoors inside. Our fascination with these items is not a new trend; in fact, collecting “curios” (defined as a rare or unusual object, considered attractive or interesting) dates back to the ending of the Middle Ages and the opening of the Renaissance.
roam: verb - To move about without purpose or plan; to wander.
I am spoiled rotten to live so close to the Smithsonian Institution. If you’re not familiar, the Smithsonian is a group of museums, galleries, and a zoo that are located in Washington DC. I will admit with great shame that I have only visited a couple of the many locations, but the trouble is they’re so amazing that I end up returning to the same one(s) over and over.
I recently took my niece to the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), since at the end of April the Fossil Hall dinosaur exhibit will be closing for renovations – FOR FIVE YEARS. As any good auntie should be, I was panicked and made sure, come hell or more winter weather, that I’d get her there.
Now of course, being a standard 4 year old, she was only mildly interested in the bones, particularly after overhearing someone say the phrase, “dinosaur gummies,” in reference to candy available at the gift shop. These were essentially the only dinosaurs she was thereafter interested in, but I persevered.