I have been an avid collector since boyhood. I read a book when I was twelve years old about the life of Charles Darwin. The tome detailed his voyage on the HMS Beagle where, in the role of expedition naturalist, he amassed a huge collection of natural history and geology specimens which were brought back to England for further research and study. It was while on that five-year-long voyage that the young Darwin, possessing consummate skills of observation and deduction, began to formulate his later ground-breaking Theory of Evolution which challenged accepted Church doctrine on Divine Creation. He was known fondly by his fellow shipmates as ‘the flycatcher’.
I was enthralled by the adventure and romance of it all and emulating my hero, by age fifteen, had transformed my bedroom into a veritable mini-museum in which I lost myself in the wonder of it all. Over the years I have amassed a considerable eclectic collection of items. I am blessed with a career which allows me to travel the world on expedition cruise ships to far flung locations on this wonderful planet of ours. The collecting opportunities that this has facilitated over the last two decades is apparent from even a cursory glance along the shelf-festooned walls in my home. In serried ranks the items showcase my wide-ranging interests. For decades now I have collected fossils, shells, rocks, minerals, animal bones, coins, vintage postcards, earthenware and glass bottles, bricks, clay pipes, stuffed animals, skulls, World War I artifacts, stamps, books, encyclopaedias, vintage Holy statues/pictures/crucifixes, vintage tobacco tins, sand, cannonballs, sea beans, cigarette cards, etc. etc. etc.
Long before Mr Darwin first stepped on the deck of the Beagle, natural history and geological objects and antiquities had fascinated people, as witness the so-called ‘cabinets of curiosities’ popular since the 16th century. These collections were compiled by wealthy aristocrats who sourced unusual and interesting objects on their Grand Tours with which to impress their peers, and also by scientists and scholars as study material to further knowledge. Some of the larger ‘cabinets of curiosities’ later became foundation collections for museums. By the Victorian Period, collecting natural history specimens had reached new levels and Natural History Field Clubs and Societies were founded all over Britain and elsewhere. These provided a platform for what developed into a veritable mania for collecting. In Britain for example, a number of large fern species were almost picked into extinction in the contemporary fad for compiling herbariums.
So, continuing this fine tradition of fostering curiosity and encouraging interest, I am opening the doors to my ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ and invite you to have a peek in! Each day I will select a number of items from my collections and provide some interesting details relating to them. If nothing else, it may serve as a slight distraction from the current health situation we find ourselves caught up in. Please share with your friends, family and colleagues. The accompanying vintage postcard dates to 1914. Keep safe and well!