The Making of Cabinet of Curiosities

Howdy Readers,

This weekend was the opening of the museum’s newest exhibit, Cabinet of Curiosities. It has been by far one of my favorite exhibits to work on, and I couldn’t wait any longer to share the process with you!


The idea for the exhibit has been around for several years. We wanted to do something to display some of our more “weird and unusual” items that might not fit into an exhibit already on display. I decided to call it Cabinet of Curiosities because (don’t kill me, mom) my childhood home is [tastefully] filled to the brim with cabinets bursting with trinkets, tchotchkes, and family heirlooms. Each time I look in one, I find something new. The practice of collecting items of significance is one of the precursors to some large museums still flourishing today.

*que eureka moment* and Cabinet of Curiosities was born.

Photo Apr 12, 2 21 34 PM

Artifact List

We started by pulling out all of the strangest artifacts we could find. We delved into collections and really tried to look at the items from many different viewpoints. There were some items that we absolutely KNEW had to be in the exhibit, but others we decided to eliminate, use one of instead of the whole collection, or  leave out entirely and focus on artifacts with a similar opportunity for education. We wanted a certain amount of shock and awe to reel in the visitors but we wanted to sneak in some learning when we could.

Photo Mar 28, 11 37 33 AMOur pocket watch collection was not “weird” but extensive and beautiful. Many people have audibly wondered how “we” as the younger generation carry around such heavy devices (phones) but when I weighed these watches, they averaged only 1 gram lighter than the average cell phone. (BOOM)

Artifact Research/ Content Writing

Once the items are chosen, research begins. We look for information within our database and use that to expand on through internet research. This process took awhile. We narrowed down the exhibition to 12 artifacts or collections, but each one had to be separately researched. We then had to try and explain what about the item(s) made it odd.

The writing process isn’t simple. First, I gathered all the information I could and a few of my own thoughts and passed that along to Hannah. She took my ramblings and turned them into content. After that, we pass it along to Jack for a second pair of eyes and turn of phrase. The content is then given back to Hannah to pair down for the exhibit and a final look before I put the content on the boards and bulk up, or slim down, wording where I need to for design. THEN, after all this, the staff takes a look at the boards with fresh eyes, and we make our FINAL EDITS. Phew! It’s a long process, but worth every second. We want quality content for our visitors and it takes the whole village.

sdfsdfThis is a google image search of “cabinets of curiosity”. It is pretty much the most fun research EVER. 

Cabinet Fitting

Once we had the final artifact list nailed down, I was able to scope out 12 cases, take dimensions, and assign them. We were able to spend a little more on this exhibit  because it is slated to be up for six months so I was able to put graphics on the fronts of all the cases. I wanted to use ads, vintage whenever possible, to give it the old carnival “side show” feel.

Photo Apr 18, 8 49 17 AMPhoto Apr 18, 8 52 21 AMPhoto Apr 25, 2 16 50 PMThe cases had to be kept in the hallway for several months while we worked on completing the graphics.

Design Concept

As you can see in the google image photo above, Cabinets of Curiosity are often SUPER spooky looking, and I wanted the exhibit to have that feel, but without being too out of the box.

I found an example of a cabinet that looked a lot like a printers drawer and I LOVED that look. For weeks I compiled knick knacks (many of which were graciously loaned by my trinket-loving mom) and when I had enough I used one of our print drawers, filled it up, and took some promotional photos to get people excited about the exhibit.

Photo Apr 12, 2 20 49 PMPhoto Apr 12, 3 32 24 PMCaptureYay, tchotchkes! 

For the title content and boards I went with plain black, made three panels to give it a tryptic feel, and ended up building a sort of cabinet on top of the boards.

Photo May 11, 10 19 04 AMPhoto May 18, 12 54 49 PM Ken helped construct this beauty!

The label content boards were influenced by a design I found online. It was a beautiful hand drawn poster that inspired me to build my own “cabinet” as a photoshop document so I could scale it however I needed.

Photo Apr 13, 4 46 37 PMPhoto May 02, 3 50 23 PMThis was the most fun! 

Exhibit Contruction

Once all the boards were back from the printer, we were ready to assemble this beast! Hannah and I were able to arrange the cases, insert the artifacts and hang the boards in relatively no time!

Photo May 18, 12 54 49 PMPhoto May 18, 5 26 54 PMPhoto May 18, 5 26 51 PMPhoto May 18, 5 26 47 PMPhoto May 18, 5 26 58 PMThe exhibition is located in our Centennial Room, which is also used as a rental space for events, so most of the items are along walls to leave plenty of room for rentals.

Opening Weekend

Opening weekend was a BLAST. It premiered during our Annual Rhubarb Festival, and whenever I could catch a glimpse, I saw people lined up to look at the displays. There is nothing I love more than seeing people enjoy our work. It is both gratifying and humbling to know that we are the lore keepers of this amazing community, and I am honored to be able to work on incredible projects like this one. THANK YOU to everyone that came out and enjoyed the exhibit, and THANK YOU to everyone that stopped by to share with me your favorite artifact or bit of trivia. It warms my heart.

Thanks for reading!!


2 thoughts on “The Making of Cabinet of Curiosities

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