Long before technology could show us the world through the eyes of meerkats and marching penguins, people had a passionate interest in the natural world. Victorians with disposable income were mad about collecting flora and fauna, filling their homes with specimens from foreign lands. To see what that might have looked like, check out the ‘Victorian Parlor’ exhibit on the second floor of our own Natural History Museum and Planetarium in Roger Williams Park. Not everything in the parlor is dead and stuffed — that’s a functioning beehive next to the window. The museum itself is now an artifact of times gone by and should be preserved as such. (A bizarre Age of Aquarius mural project — above your head as you walk in, and up the staircase — took place in the 60’s, with decidedly mixed results. They should probably go.)
Remember to check out ‘Curioser: New Encounters with the Victorian Natural History Collection’ an art installation curated by Erik Carlson and Erica Carpenter, up through September. Six lucky artists were let loose in the vaults to cull pieces from all the cabinets, boxes, drawers and crates of stuff. (Pictures from show after the jump.)
Curiouser was created with the goal of giving the public a glimpse into the Museum’s vast vaulted collections. The idea is not to show these seldom-seen items as arcane specimens, but rather as vivid evidence of a time when people were perhaps curiouser than we are today. Curiouser will free the Museum’s antique collections from the strict imperatives of science and analysis, releasing them “down the rabbit‐hole” of artistic production. Artists’ works incorporate actual pieces from the Museum’s vast Victorian collections of insects, shells, fossils, bird skins, plants and taxidermied mammals.
Museum is open 7 days a week, 10am to 5pm (last admission 4:30pm), directions
Erik Gould approached this as a photographer and occasionally stops in to change the exposed paper in his installation — Extinction. He is employed as the museum photographer over at the RISD Museum of Art.
Bird skins caught the eye of Lasse Antonsen in Describing the Shadows.