The Wunderkammer: A Modern-Day Cabinet of Curiosities

I first read about the concept of a wunderkammer in Make: Magazine Vol. 17. The word wunderkammer means chamber of wonders or cabinet of curiosities.

In the 16th century, wealthy Europeans, scholars, and nobility would have a special room of their house where they collected rare and exotic specimens of the natural world.

A typical wunderkammer was an eclectic mix of rocks and minerals, animal parts such as teeth, bones, horns, claws, and feathers, as well as books, plant samples, and other strange or unusual artifacts.

From the first time I heard about the wunderkammer, I loved the idea! Then, I got an idea that I could make my own modern-day version, filled with keepsakes and mementos from my own life.

I spent a couple of days browsing a popular online classified ad site until I found the perfect cabinet. It was in a town 60 miles away, but it was only $20 dollars and it had shelves inside the doors, which is exactly what I wanted.

After I bought it, I discovered a couple of problems with the cabinet. Many of the shelves had been repaired poorly. The door rubbed on the top and bottom of the cabinet when opening or closing. The doors did not close evenly – one stuck out a bit. A little furniture polish and some elbow grease did wonders for the cabinet (excuse the pun).

The whole purpose of the cabinet is to be a catch-all for knick-knacks, souvenirs, and other memorable items that I just don’t know where else to keep them. Here’s what’s in there:

  • Collection of concert ticket stubs
  • Flattened souvenir penny collection
  • My coin collection
  • A US Silver Certificate and some $2 bills
  • Bag of pre-1982 pennies (real copper)
  • Three vintage 1970s LED calculators
  • Two small cedar boxes
  • Decks of cards and dice from Las Vegas casino gift shops
  • Neodymium magnets pulled from discarded DVD burners
  • Pocket watch
  • Laser pointer
  • Fisher Space Pen
  • Classic silver Zippo lighter
  • Vintage 1960s Swedish compass/signal mirror
  • An old pager
  • Rocks from various hikes I’ve been on
  • Fluorescent mineral specimen and UV flashlight
  • Steel balls from the ghost town of Ruby, Arizona
  • Baseball from now-defunct minor league Phoenix Firebirds team
  • Electronic room key cards from various hotels
  • Various toys and keepsakes from my childhood

I look forward to adding more unique and weird objects to my cabinet of curiosities. What do you think?

About the author

Trevor Freeman

Trevor Freeman is a writer, photographer, and maker who loves learning new things. His favorite food is pizza. He received a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management from Grand Canyon University. He lives and works in Phoenix.

You can follow Trevor on Twitter @TrevorFreemanAZ, on Instagram at @arizona.dreamin, and on YouTube: TheRealTrevorland.

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