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A Cabinet of Curiosities

Wander through our interactive wunderkammer.

Collecting grotesque and marvelous objects was a favorite pastime among genteel Europeans from the early modern period to the Enlightenment.…By Nautilus Editors

Collecting grotesque and marvelous objects was a favorite pastime among genteel Europeans from the early modern period to the Enlightenment. Their curated “wunderkammern,” or “cabinets of wonder,” were an attempt to impose some order on the profusion of things and creatures in the world, and to exalt their oddity and mystique. Today, much scientific practice relies on rules and patterns; back then, deformities and deviations often held the key to truth. From England’s Charles I to Russia’s Peter the Great, collectors assembled items with an eye to their exoticism, their natural freakishness, or the virtuosity of their manufacture or design. Such cabinets were, in a way, the world’s first science museums.

Here we showcase a bounty of unlikely objects—things that could have been, or were, venerated as marvels. Poke around the cabinet to discover where we’ve hidden the interactive items. (Hint: there are 13 of them.) Some hail from the past, but others are contemporary curiosities that might inspire awe in a scientific age: secular relics, technological innovations, and discoveries that reveal the building blocks of the universe.


And there’s more! There are also 14 non-clickable mystery items that we dare you to try to identify. Earlier this month we held a contest to name as many of them as possible, and Colm Coonagh, a graphic designer from Dublin, won the contest by recognizing 11 of them. For his efforts, he will receive one free year of Nautilus’ print quarterly. (You can subscribe to the quarterly here.) 

Can you do better and identify all 14 objects? The answers, along with some of Coonagh’s winning strategies, were revealed in a blog post here

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