Architectures of objects, knowledge constellations: The museal realm of art and natural history curio cabinets in theory and practice
Art and natural history and specimen curio cabinets and chambers were the early modern forerunners of today’s museums. They are often regarded as places of wonder, given their bizarre collection items and disparate object ensembles. However, the theoretical collection literature of the time shows how much the early museum spaces were also places of knowledge generation and transfer, places of intermedial approach to the objects, and of the constant struggle for new forms of material and epistemic order. One of these theoretical museal works, Leonhard Christoph Sturm’s “Open Cabinet of Rarities and Natural History”, published in 1704, does not stop at practical instructions for the collector, but also designs the ideal “house of rarities”. Part of this utopia of a universal museum is a fictional catalog of objects. In this way, the “house of rarities” becomes a kind of meta-museum in which the entire spectrum of the collection culture of the time unfolds. In addition, Sturm sketches furnishings for his museum that set the objects in motion. He designs an exhibition architecture that tries to unite order and focused observation by means of ever-newer mechanical constructions. The lecture discusses Sturm’s museum utopia against the backdrop of early modern collecting culture, while at the same time referencing the museums of the 18th century.
Eva Dolezel studied art history and modern German literature in Göttingen, Munich and Berlin. Her dissertation, published in 2019, focuses on the situation of the Berlin Kunstkammer around 1800 and compares it with several 18th century museums. Eva Dolezel worked at the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum Dresden, as research assistant at Das Technische Bild of the Hermann von Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and as research assistant at The Center of Excellence “Enlightenment – Religion – Knowledge” of the Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg. Currently she is a research assistant at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in the DFG-project on the history of the Berlin Kunstkammer „A Window onto Art and Nature“.