Wunderkammer Road Trip: Research/Report

For our first project on this field module, each one of us was given a gallery/museum in which we had to research and do a presentation. It was a great opportunity to get an overview of the institutions we are going to visit and to get to know what to expect from them.

I looked at The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Celebrating its 200th year just last year, the museum is named after its founder, Richard, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam. He was a student at Cambridge during the 1760s and had a passion for collecting books, old master prints, music,  medieval manuscripts and paintings. When he died in 1816, he bequeathed his collections to the university of Cambridge for the increase of learing along with a substantial sum of money to build a museum to house them. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries the collections have grown with gifts, bequests and purchases. Today there are more than half a million objects in the whole collection.

The museum has five departments: Antiquities; Applied Arts; Coins and Medals; Manuscripts and Printed Books; and Paintings, Drawings and Prints. Together these cover antiquities from Ancient Egypt, Sudan, Greece and Rome, Roman and Romano-Egyptian Art, Western Asiatic displays and a new gallery of Cypriot Art; applied arts, including English and European pottery and glass, furniture, clocks, fans, armour, Chinese, Japanese and Korean art, rugs and samplers; coins and medals; illuminated, literary and music manuscripts and rare printed books; paintings, including masterpieces by Simone Martini, Domenico Veneziano, Titian, Veronese, Rubens, Van Dyck, van Goyen, Frans Hals, Canaletto, Hogarth, Gainsborough, Constable, Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne and Picasso and a fine collection of 20th-century art; miniatures, drawings, watercolours and prints.

I’m interested in looking at some cabinets of curiosities (Wunderkammer) that are spread around the museum. Im intrigued to know if we are able to interact with the cabinets somehow and explore their treasures. I managed to find this little video (0:20-4:15) where Tim Wonnacott explores one of these.

_mg_8409_paul-allitt_webAt the moment there is a little curation of works by artists who sought to make a new art responding to the modern world which are brought together in this second display from Kettle’s Yard. The display re-unites for the first time, paintings and sculptures by pioneering modern artists who are represented in both collections and is up until 31 March 2017.

Having read this months ceramics review edition I found a relevant article about Dr. John Shakeshaft’s bequest of 700 pieces of studio pottery to The Fitzwilliam Museum which is a great addition to the vast array of ceramics for which The Fitzwilliam already had. Currently there are 100 pieces that are displayed which are sat alongside a growing collection of contemporary craft from the Goodison Gift, including works by Kate Malone and Jennifer Lee, which further extends the scope of the museum’s ceramics offering.

Having never had the opportunity to visit this institution its pretty hard to have an overview of the museum by just looking at their website and reading a few articles on them; however, im intrigued by what I have discovered and can’t wait for next Wednesday to immerse myself more profoundly.



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BA (Hons) Final Year Ceramics student at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Love experimenting with material and techniques and work on a range of medium.

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