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The Curiosity Room

From our recent trip to London and Edinburgh…

An odd gentleman’s pastime developed in England in the 18th century: the curiosity room. This was a room, or library, that you strove to fill with interesting and odd artifacts from around the world. No organizing principle was required, and in fact I believe the traditional goal was to make it as eclectic as possible. Needless to say, this led to some odd collections!

The British Museum has a an entire hall devoted to curiosity rooms. The hall itself is essentially a giant curiosity room, with numerous display cases and statues scattered about, and with the walls covered in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves containing additional material and “period” reference works. It’s quite impressive. It’s also an ideal way to get a taste of a vast sweep of history and cultures without having to spend hours wandering through the Museum’s more focused collections.

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