Chamber of Wonders

One of my favorite museum exhibits–art or otherwise–is The Chamber of Wonders at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.

It’s an authentic representation of the collections that captured the imaginations of high society during The Age of Exploration in Europe. In fact, it mimics closely a painting that hangs on its walls.

The Archdukes Albert and Isabella Visiting a Collector’s Cabinet

The paintings in this place all speak to the marvels of nature–the strangeness, the beauty, and the growing understanding of it. The wonders assembled, ethically or not, by these collectors give us a glimpse into a different era where discoveries in nature weren’t strictly a matter of science, but a matter of the fantastic.

Noah’s Family Assembling Animals Before the Ark

It’s not just paintings and other art-objects in the Chamber of Wonders, it’s full of the inspiration behind them. And these are probably my favorite elements of the exhibit.

The collection is not only beautiful, it’s tangible.
It’s also varied. A central table lets you get more up and close to some of the specimens than the no-touch art objects or the collections in the cabinets. There’s also a book for visitors to leaf through will period illustrations and descriptions.
I couldn’t have designed this room any better–though in my own surroundings I can’t help but try.

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