Students curated this remarkable exhibition as part of a new team-taught course at Gettysburg College, ARTH/IDS 284 Wonders of nature and artifice: the Renaissance quest for knowledge (taught fall 2012). In both the course and exhibition, students have learned about the interdisciplinary nature of knowledge and the powerful dynamics behind scientific discovery and societal forces.
The students took as their starting point the Curiosity Cabinets and Chambers of Wonders from the days of the Renaissance. Such collections featured an astounding variety of works of nature and artifice, juxtaposed in ways we no longer see today. We can see this dynamic array in the images shown below of Ferrante Imperato’s Natural History museum and a Flemish Baroque painting of Archduke Albert and Isabella visiting a collector’s cabinet. Among the bounty of these collections, we see alligators, marble statuettes, corals and shells, globes, exquisite paintings, monkeys, marvelous flowers, unusual clocks, birds, precious gems, skeletons and books. The Renaissance, known as a rebirth of Classical Antiquity, was also an age of global exploration, and collectors were driven by curiosity and a sense of wonder about what seemed to be an ever-expanding world. One result of this passion for collecting was to provide centers of study and source material for their quest to find order in nature.
In this same spirit, our students brought together the College’s own wonders of nature and artifice for The Gettysburg Cabinet. Each student carried out research on an object or set of objects of their choice, and together they have presented highlights of their work in this catalog. Bridging the gap between the Renaissance and our own time was quite a challenge, but the students rose to the occasion marvelously. This show was curated by:
Danielle Berardinelli, Rebecca Deffler, Madison Desmond, Jill Duranko, Peter Flood, Emily Francisco, Devin Garnick, Joshua Griffiths, Lauren Kauffman, Rose Kell, Sara Ketelsen, Marissa Mellan, Dina Mohamed-Aly, Joanna Myers, Sean Pethybridge, Joshua Poorman, Molly Reynolds and Shane Swink.
This endeavor was made possible by the generosity and support of many people across campus and beyond. We would like to express our deepest gratitude to Shannon Egan, Carolyn Sautter and our outstanding course Peer Learning Associate, Molly Reynolds, for their hard work over the past year. Items were generously loaned to the exhibition from István Urcuyo, Kazuo Hiraizumi, John Winkelmann, Sefanie Sobelle, Jack Ryan and two students in the class, Sara Ketelsen and Lauren Kauffman, as well as the History Department, Health Sciences Department, Biology Department, Physics Department, Special Collections and Musselman Library, the Schmucker Art Gallery, Gettysburg College and the teachers at the Stonewall Jackson High School, VA. We would like to gratefully acknowledge funding from the Johnson Center for Creative Teaching and Learning, Steve Gimbel and the National Science Foundation, the Schmucker Art Gallery, the Biology Department, the Art and Art History Department, and the Library of Gettysburg College. Nate Fitch and Molly Reynolds deserve credit for the photography in this catalog. We were fortunate to have a recreation of a 17-century Chamber of Wonders at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore for inspiration, and we would like to thank John Shields and Joaneath Spicer for their enthusiasm and guidance.
The catalog for the Gettysburg Cabinet exhibit is available for download as a PDF.