Whether we are looking at the night sky or gazing at the plumage of a beautiful bird, humankind has always held the capacity for wonder and curiosity. We create stories and paint pictures of gods and goddesses in the stars and categorize every species of plant and animal imaginable. We collect rare objects and we construct buildings to house them. While we take museums and libraries and our access to those collections for granted today, these public spaces are a relatively recent invention. In the 16th century they were often known as cabinets of curiosity or cabinets of wonder - collections built by the very wealthy, housed in elaborate boxes or specially designed rooms. And while they often contained objects that were very real, those were often mixed with the fantastic and the mythological, thus challenging the very nature of reality.

What does this mean in this age of information? The fantastic worlds that once only existed in the imagination have become real - man has walked on the moon, we fly through the air and travel under the waves. Our cabinets of curiosity easily fit into the palm of our hands. Yet artists continue to return to the object, the night sky, and the natural world around us as a reminder for us all to take the time to find wonder.

Philips' Planisphere Showing the Principal Stars Visible for Every Hour in the Year

Nights, the Cosmos, and I

Fossil Dirigibles

Sketches of the Works for the Tunnel under the Thames, from Rotherhithe to Wapping

Poisonous Plants at Table: Incorporating ... Poisonous Plants in Field and Garden ... Poisonous Plants at Table ... and Prudence

Wallis's Elegant and Instructive Game Exhibiting the Wonders of Nature in each Quarter of the World

“Insect Wing From Entomology Notebook (Professor Comstock’s class),”

Previous Section | Next Section