Thursday, March 16, 2006

The World In A Box

The World in a Box charts the phenomenon of the cult of collecting that swept England in the 17th and 18th century. In the days before television, cabinets satisfied a hunger for spectacle, knowledge and entertainment.

People could admire a dodo, be fascinated by the sight of the human anatomy neatly pickled in jars, and amused by the chance of seeing 'Pontius Pilate's wife's chambermaid's sister's hat'.

Presenter Lisa Jardine, an expert on the Enlightenment, acts as our guide on this journey of rediscovery. She revisits some of the most important collections of the day and explore their owners' different motives; self-advancement, commerce, showmanship and learning.

Of the hundreds of cabinets that once existed, only a handful survived to become our first museums, such as the British Museum and the Ashmolean. Before long, specialisation in art and science pulled apart the unique character of the cabinet.

However, it appears that in modern times the cabinet may be enjoying a new lease of life. New scientific advances of our own mean that old curiosities can bring us new information about the past.


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