The Accidental Wunderkammer
Decorative Arts and Curiosities from the Grainger Collection
Grainger Museum, April to October 2002
A cabinet of curiosities, or Wunderkammer (literally German for 'wonder cabinet'), was a collection of rare, valuable or unusual objects developed by a scholar or nobleman for study and entertainment. It was often the end result of a voyage of discovery or a tour of Europe.
Considered to be forerunners of modern museums, these private collections date back as early as the Renaissance and may have originated in Classical Rome. Cabinets of curiosities often included artworks, ethnographic artefacts, zoological specimens and archaeological relics.
Although Percy Aldridge Grainger (1882-1961) developed his museum collection around the themes of Australian musical culture and his life as a composer and pianist, he also collected many significant objects that provide us with a valuable understanding of the visual world in which he lived, and his numerous intellectual journeys of discovery.
Grainger did not consciously establish a Wunderkammer, but during his lifetime of disciplined collecting he acquired objects of immense cultural value, quite apart from their association with his creative achievements.
The Accidental Wunderkammer showcased the treasures in the Grainger Collection, many of which have rarely been displayed before.