Cabinet of Curiosities

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the European discovery and exploration of new lands inspired princes, scholars, and wealthy amateurs to begin assembling cabinets of curiosities to showcase recently found artefacts and specimens.  Intended to be microcosms of the world, these collections placed vegetable, mineral, and animal objects from God’s creation alongside human creations such as art.

A cabinet of curiosities could be a piece of furniture housing a wide variety of items, or an entire room dedicated to the collection.  Encyclopaedic in approach, cabinets of curiosities emphasized the exceptional, the rare, and the marvellous.


The Charity Patient by John Rogers c.1866 (MHC 1985.17.1)                   


Above-knee amputation prosthesis       Moulage (wax model) showing Schick test

1950s (MHC 995003092)                     (diphtheria), 1920s (MHC 1981.14.1) 

The Museum of Health Care’s own “Cabinet of Curiosities” revisits this Renaissance concept.  Not so much a specific place, the cabinet of the Museum is used as a window on the wonders of its own collections, in the hope of edifying, delighting, and perhaps even surprising our modern visitors.

You will find the contents of our ever-changing modern-day cabinet of wonders both in virtual form on this web site and in physical form on display in the Museum.

Branston violet ray high-frequency machine (MHC 1978.17.1)


'Cabinet' Exhibits 

Medical Moulages
Quarantine: The Key to the Control of Infectious Disease