Cabinet of Curiosities – Portraits

Last week a small group of us met at Rossendale, where among other things we discussed collecting impulses. Why do we collect the things we do? What’s the significance of these objects? What are our motivations?

It’s something we think about a lot in NLOB. What do the objects museums hold tell us about the people that collected them, and about the attitudes of the time? With all that in mind, I’ve been very interested in Vincent Kelly’s Cabinet of Curiosities project

The idea is for people to select nine objects that they feel have some meaning to them. Back in August, I agreed to have a go at this. It’s taken me till March to find the time and wean my selection down to nine, but at last my nine object biography is up.

So I’m going to just take a minute to talk about some of my selections.

The “bowl of Yorkshire fossils” was sitting as you see it there, in the trunk in which I keep all my geology specimens that aren’t out. I have many more aesthetically and academically interesting specimens, many which would be more phtogenic. But I thought this represented the collecting impulse. There’s material there I probably collected nearly 30 years ago. Most of it is rubbish. So why do I keep it?

The bone figure is one of a small collection I have. The obvious conclusion would be that I’m a Buddhist. I’m not. I’m not remotely religious, in fact I’m an atheist. The figures were brought back from the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) in the late 1800s by my maternal Great Grandfather. Growing up, they were “things” from my Grandmother’s house. With her now gone, I find they are a reminder of her, and how her house made me feel. There’s a lesson here about the assumptions we make when assessing collections in museums. The obvious answer may not be the right one.

The boot was bought in my first year at university, on recommendation from one of my lecturers. It’s largely unused now as it’s designed for use in more intensive mountain hiking, which I rarely do any more. But I’ve kept them all this time. They’re not even clean. The boot was full of dead leaves (no idea why) and the clasps are clearly degrading with copper staining appearing. But it’s again a connection to a significant part of my life.

Both the bird book and the binoculars represent my love of the natural world, and in particular birds. I don’t really do the “if I had my time over” thing, but I do sometimes wish I’d gone into ornithological research. I’ve never managed to assign a date to the bird books. i have the full series at home. I don’t really use them, but again they are a thing I horde.


I’m not going to go into the other objects as they are broadly self-explanatory. The process was very interesting, and refining my selection down from 32, to 16, to 12, and then to 10 was incredibly difficult. I don’t think of myself as materialistic, but obviously I am, but maybe not in a rabidly commercial sense? I’m probably fooling nobody but myself.


Anyway, happy to address any questions here out at Vincent’s blog. I’d like to suggest you have a go at compiling your portrait too, preferably for Vincent’s blog but if not then just for yourself.


1 Comment

Filed under Meanings, Objects

One response to “Cabinet of Curiosities – Portraits

  1. Pingback: Cabinet Of Curiosities – Portrait of David Craven | OIOI

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