Map & Directions
The origin of many of the world’s museums is often rooted in private collectors “Cabinets of Curiosities” or Wunderkammer – cabinets of wonder. The study of historical museums brings to light the importance of these early private encyclopedic collections in exhibition design, cataloging, curating, and collecting. The earliest teaching collections at Iowa State are built upon some of the same methods of collecting and cataloging. Beginning in the 1890s, the college museum was housed on the 3rd floor of Morrill Hall and was home to many natural history specimens ranging from an aardvark to an alligator. Some of these same taxidermy animals have found their way back to Morrill Hall and can be seen in this exhibition.
Cabinet of Curiosities juxtaposes objects from the teaching and art collections across campus with each other to convey key curatorial ideas and relationships. In this exhibition, objects of both culture and nature amassed over Iowa State’s 150 plus year history are presented in an exhibition style that reflects the early collector’s presentation of objects. Provenance and the presence of objects astounds in this exhibition where most of the objects are infrequently, if ever, seen by the public. Collections including naturalia and artificialia are mixed within the exhibition space to entice the visitor to truly explore the unfamiliar, exotic, bizarre and nostalgic objects that are part of Iowa State University’s academic land-grant heritage.
This exhibition is curated by Allison Sheridan and Jennifer Munoz, and organized and funded by University Museums and its Membership.