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Cabinet of Curiosities: Photography & Specimens

The exhibition, Cabinet of Curiosities: Photography & Specimens is loosely based around the 16th and 17th century concept of the Cabinet of Curiosities. Precursors to the modern museum, these Cabinets were assembled by their owners to reflect the intense fascination with the marvelous, unusual, unexpected, exotic, extraordinary, or rare.

This show examines what a photographic Cabinet of Curiosities might look like. It includes examples ranging from the very tiny (snowflakes and microscopic mites) to the very distant (telescopic image of the surface of the moon). It includes examples that cannot be seen with the naked eye of living things (x-rays) and of the deceased (skeletons of differing animal species). It explores the exotic (carmine bee eater) and the unusual (pulled teeth from the collection of Peter the Great). Along these same lines, questions will be raised about why people collect, what they collect, and the ways specimens are ordered. Emphasizing the relationship photography has always had with science and art, photographic specimens from throughout the history of photography will be shown as well as some of the traditional processes used to create them. Contemporary photographs explore the differing ways specimens are seen photographically and the human-made constructs used for specimen display.

Hand X-Ray
Unknown Maker, American. Hand X-Ray, 1897. Gelatin silver print, Overall: 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches. Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc., 2005.27.3406.

This exhibition is supported by the Hall Family Foundation and the Campbell-Calvin Fund and Elizabeth C. Bonner Charitable Trust for exhibitions.