Curious Trends - Cabinets of curiosity


Medical specimens as curiosties

Curious to find out more about the current fascination with medical specimens, I visited the Gordon Museum, the UK’s largest teaching medical museum. The museum isn’t open to the public and is still adding to its collections. The current museum was opened in 1905 and housed in the ivy covered Hodgkin building within the Guys Hospital complex, now towered over by the half-completed ‘Shard of Glass’ development. Here there is a dissecting room and around 8000 specimens of body parts, plus wax models like the ones used in the Body Parts exhibition – except these are 150 years old. The forensic section includes examples of gunshot wounds, new variant TB and legionnaires disease, along with the only collection of HIV Aids specimens in the country. There’s also an extensive collection of medical instruments.

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Cabinets of curiosity revived

The 21st century revival of interest in natural history and anthropology has resulted in a renewed focus on existing collections of artefacts from around the world, and has also inspired new curiosity cabinets, along with the inevitable online counterparts.

The growing interest in collecting and categorizing this century is in part linked to the encyclopaedic character of the Internet, together with prevailing themes in contemporary art and design. However, the antecedents of this trend stem from bygone eras of geographical exploration and intellectual curiosity.

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