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The mysteries of the world gathered in a Cabinet of Curiosities

The inauguration of the Office took place today, International Museum Day.
18 may, 2022
Cabinet of Curiosities
Cabinet of Curiosities
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The Science Museum of the University of Coimbra has opened the doors of the new “Cabinet of Curiosities – An Interpretation”, a room that gathers around four thousand specimens and artefacts of the from the collection of the UC Science Museum, with the purpose of recreating the feeling of what one might feel when entering an 18th century Cabinet of Curiosities.

The Cabinets of Curiosities appeared from the 17th century onwards and were mainly created by the European nobility, who tried to gather in these rooms a set of objects, such as exotic pieces, in an attempt to recreate the work of God. The aim of these cabinets was to display rare, exotic and even bizarre objects, so as to amaze the visitor and simultaneously show the cosmopolitan vision of their owner.

A cow skeleton and a crocodile hanging from the ceiling, a sloth from Brazil, a "monster" (a donkey with 6 legs) or some minerals, are just a few examples of pieces on display in the "Cabinet of Curiosities - An Interpretation".

For Amílcar Falcão, Rector of the University of Coimbra, "the creation of this space is part of the strategy of the University of Coimbra, which aims to create new and innovative exhibitions in the Museum and to capitalise as much as possible on the vast and rich heritage of the UC, which is unique in the country, with extraordinary pieces collected from all parts of the world throughout the last 700 years ".

The director of the Science Museum of the UC, Paulo Trincão says “what we want to do in this room that opened its doors today is not an historical recreation of any cabinet that has actually existed. What we do want is to recreate the feeling of being inside one. To provide, in the 21st century, an experience of the nearly magical atmosphere that existed in the cabinets of the 17th and 18th centuries, which are very rare in the world today".

Almost three years of work were needed to recreate this nearly magical atmosphere, involving a team of 10 people and an investment of around 250 thousand euros, with the Fundación La Caixa as patron.

The items in this cabinet, which represent less than 1% of the collections of the UC, are not displayed in a logical order, as in the Museum. "The items are displayed in a way to call for exploration. There are no labels, no captions, there is not even a logical route. The challenge we launch to people who visit this Office is to find the pieces that fascinate them the most and then, to make them want to explore more of what they have seen, willing to explore the great collection of the Science Museum", adds Paulo Trincão. "The only guide in this exhibition is the lighting chosen, which ends up leading the visitor through the five existing layers of information, through a lighting sequence," he concludes.

The "Cabinet of Curiosities - An Interpretation" is open to the public as of the 19th of May, and the visit is included in the global ticket for visitors of the Science Museum of the University of Coimbra.


Original news article in Portuguese: Marta Costa, Karine Paniza and Milene Santos

English version: Diana Taborda