As I said, I was at Salford Quays on Monday taking photos for my Salford Quays series of screenprints when I wandered into the Lowry to see the House of Annie Lennox exhibition. While the exhibition had a wall of her gold discs, lots of photographs, a room of her costumes and information about her social campaigning about HIV, I specifically wanted to see the Cabinet of Curiosities which I had seen discussed on TV.
According to that font of all academic knowledge (Sarcasm warning, Sheldon!) which is Wikipedia, a cabinet originally referred to a room rather than a piece of furniture and they were precursors of museums.
“These seventeenth-century cabinets were filled with preserved animals, horns, tusks, skeletons, minerals, as well as other types of equally fascinating man-made objects: sculptures wondrously old, wondrously fine or wondrously small; clockwork automata; ethnographic specimens from exotic locations. … Sloane acquired approximately three hundred and fifty artificial curiosities from North American Indians, Eskimos, South America, the Lapland, Siberia, East Indies, and the West Indies” Wikipedia
The notice next to Annie Lennox’s Cabinet of Curiosities says “I am drawn to shiny objects like a magpie and here are some of the small treasures I’ve selected to share with you, dear viewer.” The cabinet contained items such as a Minnie Mouse headband with ears and red spotted bow, a belt with a sparkly buckle, polaroid photographs, shoes, gloves, and a drawn self-portrait. Unfortunately, for me at least, there was no explanation of the significance of any of the items – how they related to Annie Lennox and her life. Did she wear the belt on a particular video or at a special concert?
There was a second Cabinet of Curiosities at the end of the exhibition.
Another website described how “The cabinets displayed their owners’ notions of Art (man-made artefacts), Science (natural artefacts) and Spirituality (sense of wonder at God’s works) in a physical form. With the discovery of the Americas, affluent households were even able to send off explorers with ‘shopping-lists’ of curiosities that reflected their particular interests and obsessions.”
The article then went on to make an excellent observation: “In some ways, the Internet functions like a modern Cabinet of Curiosities – as a repository of curious, half-formed and extreme ideas. Just as the vast new lands of the Americas inspired the senses of wonder and acquisitiveness in Cabinet owners, the sense of the vast amount of information stretching out over the Internet can provoke a similar delight at the possibilities of unearthing new and interesting things, and a desire to make collections/displays of these things to share with others in the form of personal web-pages and blogs. For good examples of this kind of ‘collection’ see such blogs as bibliodyssey, Dark Roast Blend and Agence eureka.”