Collecting Curiosities: The World in One Room

2006, Art Museum at the University of Toronto, History, Temporary Exhibit
cabinet of curiosities, collecting, early modern period, museology, natural history, travel, University of Toronto
About This Project

Partner: Art Museum at the University of Toronto

Venue: University of Toronto Art Centre – map

Project Members: Kate Leuschen, Clare-Estelle Daitch, Lisa Dillon, Kate Shugert, Katharyn Bernard, Susan Joe, Jennifer Woods, Pamela Peacock, Robert Steven, Laura Evans, Junko Kanekiyo, Boyd Laanstra, Mariana Lafrance, Mariela Huergo, Geoff Shiflett, Colin Hennigar, Beth Sharpe


Collecting Curiosities: The World in One Room invited the visitor to explore ‘curiosity’ as a force of inspiration in comprehending the world in history and today. Bringing together objects and ideas from across the University of Toronto, local museums and private collectors, the exhibition examined societies’ changing conceptions of curiosity and wonder. The Early Modern Period, much like today, was an age of expanding global frontiers. By focusing on the themes of travel, the commercialization of objects, and representations of the natural and artificial, the exhibition compared how cabinets of curiosities and contemporary museums attempt to encapsulate the world.



1)To consider critically what we define as curious and wondrous in history and today

2) To Explore the early modern period as a time of travel, discovery, and expanding knowledge

3) To compare and contrast the relevance of early modern cabinets of curiosities and contemporary museums

4) To examine the phenomenon of collecting through examples of early modern collectors and commercial trade in ‘curious’ objects

5) To investigate the distinction between natural and fabricated objects

6) To highlight the many collections and research activities within the University of Toronto


Reviews: Adam McDowell, “All the world in a cabinet,” National Post, February 18, 2006 Aya Kurilik, “Art Exhibition shows ‘world in one room,’ The Newspaper, March 9, 2006 Josephine Lee, “Curiouser and curiouser,” The Varsity, March 16, 2006.


Promotional Articles appeared in: The Daily Herald Tribune (Grande Prairie, Alberta), Daily Gleaner (NB), Guelph Mercury, Stratford Beacon Herald, The Hamilton Spectator, The Ottawa Citizen, The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo), The Vancouver Sun, Times & Transcript (NB), and Times Colonist (Victoria).


Television: Breakfast Television (Live Eye at UTAC) February 29, 2006.