The Wunderkammer highlights the practice of private and institutional collecting of art, artifacts, specimens, and objects through the special collections on Indiana University’s campus that are not typically seen by the average visitor. Indiana University has a number of well-known collections on public display, including the IU Art Museum and the Lilly Library. But there are other collections that are often overlooked or unknown to most visitors, such as the Department of Biology’s Herbarium, The Elizabeth Sage Costume Collection, and the University Archives, among many others.
The public museums at Indiana University are easily accessible and often feature objects from their collections that are the most well known, valuable, and historically and culturally important. However, each collection also contains items that are unusual or non-traditional, which the public rarely sees. It is in the context of the Wunderkammer that we display these items, as a cabinet of curiosities similar to the traditional collections amassed by individuals in the sixteenth century. This tradition continued well into the nineteenth century, with individuals collecting art, natural history specimens, cultural artifacts and ephemera, and there is a resurgence of interest in this today.
Special collections at IU were invited to partner with the Grunwald Gallery to select unusual or non-traditional items for the exhibit. Because of this focus, the information about how these objects came to be part of these collections is as important as the items themselves. This exhibit addresses the psychological motivations behind both institutional and private collecting, why and how special collections end up with unusual items, the stories that these unusual items have to tell, and the information and background they add that may not be obvious in more celebrated works. Some objects in the exhibit include Herman B Wells handmade underwear from the Elizabeth Sage Costume Collection; A petrified hen’s egg from 1835 trapped inside the walls of the Wylie House Museum; the original 1955 Relax-A-cizor device from the Kinsey Institute Collections; and Diana Ross’s lunchbox and gold record from the film Bustin’ Loose from the Archives of African American Music and Culture to name only a few.
Collections that will be represented are the Archives for African American Music and Culture, The Herbarium and Zoology Collections in the Department of Biology, The Black Film Center Archives, Campus Collections, the Indiana University Art Museum, the Glenn Black Laboratory, The Kinsey Institute, The Mathers Museum of World Cultures, The Elizabeth Sage Costume Collection, The University Archives and The Wylie House Museum.
This exhibit and corresponding programs were made possible by the participating institutions and the Grunwald Gallery at Indiana University.