Paul Griswold Howes (American, 1892-1984) Nocturnal Mollusc, 1962. Watercolor. Gift of the artist, Paul Griswold Howes, Bruce Museum Collections 1052.

Paul Griswold Howes (American, 1892-1984) Florida Wild Flowers and Fungi, 1952. Oil on board. Gift of the artist, Paul Groswold Howes, Bruce Museum Collections 2018.21.02.

Paul Griswold Howes (American, 1892-1984) Untitled (Insect, Fungi, and Pollen Study), 1957. Watercolor. Gift of the artist, Paul Griswold Howes, Bruce Museum Collections 19721.

Collecting Reimagined: A 2D Curiosity Cabinet

December 14, 2019 - March 29, 2020

William Hogarth (British, 1697-1764) Marriage A-la-Mode, Plate III, 1745. Etching and engraving. Engraved by Bernard Baron (French, 1696-1762). Gift of David Larson, Bruce Museum Collections 2005.02.30.

Sea serpents crushing ships. Seven-foot-tall giants. A mummified Porsche. What other oddities might you find in the Bruce Museum’s 2D curiosity cabinet?

See for yourself by exploring the Bruce Museum’s new exhibition, Collecting Reimagined: A 2D Curiosity Cabinet, opening in the Museum’s Bantle Lecture Gallery on Saturday, December 14, 2019.

The practice of collecting objects and putting them on display in cabinets of curiosities reached its peak among European collectors, scientists, and royalty during the 16th and 17th centuries. The purposes of these rooms varied, from showcasing prized possessions to serving as educational tools. Some cabinet owners even aspired to the metaphysical in their desire to create a microcosm of the universe through their collections.

Curiosity cabinets are traditionally thought of as physical spaces filled with objects. However, scholars and artists in the past also used words and images to describe, and occasionally create, cabinets in two-dimensional form. In these works, the cabinet is shown on paper rather than displayed in a room. Prints such as the third plate from William Hogarth’s Marriage A-la-Mode series (shown above) depict the interior spaces and contents of cabinets. Books filled with printed images detail the objects in the cabinets and the categories used to organize them.

Drawing inspiration from these cabinets on paper, this exhibition uses printed works, photographs, medals, textiles, and scrimshaw from the Bruce Museum collections to create a cabinet filled with two-dimensional depictions of typical three-dimensional cabinet objects.

On view through March 29, 2020, Collecting Reimagined: A 2D Curiosity Cabinet is curated by H.S. Miller, the Museum’s Zvi Grunberg Resident Fellow 2019-20. The exhibition is based on a chapter of the master’s dissertation Miller completed while studying at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

“To see an aspect of my research take on a new life as an exhibition is really exciting,” says Miller. “Cabinets of curiosities capture my imagination both as a former scientist who is curious about the natural world and as an art historian who adores all things weird, wacky, and wonderful.”

The Bruce Museum is grateful for exhibition support from the Charles M. and Deborah G. Royce Exhibition Fund and the Connecticut Office of the Arts.

Admission to the Museum is free through January 31, 2020, while our main galleries are being renovated. The Permanent Science Gallery will remain open, as will the Bantle Lecture Gallery, Education Workshop, and Museum Store. Complete calendar listings, including programs related to the exhibition, will be listed on, calendar and reservation pages.