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When I see similar unusual terms within a few days from a couple of different sources, they make me sit up and take notice. Actually, I sat up and took notice the first time I saw the term “Cabinet of Wonders” a week ago while reading Crow Planet by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. Working in a museum, as I do, I’ve heard the term before and know what it refers to – a cabinet of items typically collected from the natural world, stuff like rocks, fossils, bird skeletons, shed snake skin, bird nests, and whatnot. I was so taken by the term that I made note of it in my writing ideas notebook.

Today, I ran into a link about “Cabinets of Curiosities,” which is another term for “Cabinet of Wonders.” I actually prefer “Cabinet of Curiosities,” because of the alliteration and the notion of curiosity, which is a more active term in relation to human beings. (We’re not sitting back being awe-struck by wonders, but are poking our noses into something we’re curious about. Incidentally, if you break down the word “curiosity,” the root is “curio,” which means something unusual — perhaps worthy of collecting. Curious, no?)

Apparently, Cabinets of Curiosities, which were popular in the 17th and 18th centuries and again in the Victorian era, are rising in popularity again.  Could it be we’re becoming worried about the state of our planet and the continual extinction of species so that we want to collect and appreciate some part of it? Or is this merely a cyclical trend?

Do you have a collection in a special container that could be referred to as a Cabinet of Curiosities?


There’s more info on the history of Cabinets of Curiosities at Wikipedia.

Someone named Pete started a website on items from his Cabinet of Curiosities.

Artist James G. Mundie has a Cabinet of Curiosities website that displays medical curiosities, including his drawings of those curiosities.