An intriguing new exhibition is set to open at Southend Central Museum celebrating the history of collecting and humanity’s timeless desire to collect and view curiosities.
‘Wunderkammer: Southend’s Cabinet of Curiosity’ opens on Saturday October 2 and features an eclectic mix of objects from the museum’s collections that are rarely on display to the public.
A mummified cat, a collection of colourful tropical shells and corals and even a full-length replica of the Bayeux Tapestry are just some of the items that will be on display highlighting the fascinating array of artefacts the museum has been collecting over the years.
Wunderkammer is literally translated from German as ‘room of wonder’ and in English it is usually referred to as a ‘cabinet of curiosities’. Many Wunderkammer originated in royal treasuries, where the crown jewels and items of regalia were housed with other items of value for safekeeping.
Cabinets of curiosities acted as a precursor to museums and this exhibition will explore the evolution and the continued mass appeal of museums today.
The exhibition will highlight the stories of early collectors including one of the earliest female collectors, Isabella d’Este, and will also feature objects from the collection of Charles Nicholson, who was born in nearby Hadleigh.
Whilst this immersive exhibition will provide fun and engagement for our younger visitors, it will also consider a more critical view of the history of collecting. Wunderkammer acknowledges and explores the impact of colonialism and instances of exoticism, providing an introspective look at museums and their collections.
Cllr Carole Mulroney, cabinet member for environment, culture, tourism and planning, said: “This is such an exciting and immersive exhibition because visitors now have a rare opportunity to view the fascinating artefacts our museum team have been collecting over the years.
“As well as being fun and entertaining, there is also an educational element as it explores the history of collecting and the impact of colonialism and exoticism – it really is an exhibition for the whole family and the first of many new events and exhibitions we have planned over the coming months.”
Wunderkammer: Southend’s Cabinet of Curiosity will be on display at Southend Central Museum, Victoria Avenue and runs for a whole year. Opening hours are 11am to 5pm, Wednesday to Sunday.
Visit www.southendmuseums.co.uk/ for more information.