A Curious Collection of Visitors: Travels to Early Modern Cabinets of Curiosity and Museums in England, 1660-1800
Description: The idea of curiosity has evolved over time and is a major building-block in the foundation and expansion of museums and their precursors, cabinets of curiosity. These proto-museums began in Italy and spread throughout Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Cabinets of curiosity and museums transformed as visitors traveled to burgeoning collections across the Continent and England. Individuals visited curiosities for a variety of reasons. Some treated outings to collections as social events in which they could see others in their social circles and perhaps rise in social status if seen by the correct people. Others were merely curious and hoped to see rare, astonishing, monstrous, and beautiful objects. Scholars of the era often desired to discover new items and ideas, and discuss scientific and philosophical matters. The British Isles are removed from the main body of Europe, but still play a major role in the history of collecting. A number of private collectors and the eventual foundation of the British Museum contributed seminally to the ever-increasing realm of curiosities and historic, cultural, and scientific artifacts. The collectors and collections of Oxford and London and its surrounding areas, drew a diverse population of visitors to their doors. Individuals, both foreign and local, female and male, visitors and collectors in Early Modern England chose to actively participate in the formation of a collecting culture by gathering, visiting, discussing, writing about, and publishing on collections.
Date: May 2014
Creator: Puyear, Lauren K.