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For Your Repository Viewing Pleasure: Smithsonian Institution Library Images About Museums

Ole Worm’s cabinet of curiosities

Ole Worm's cabinet of curiosities from Museum Wormianum, 1655. Original source from: Smithsonian Institution Libraries.

Ithaca, NY People have always collected. From bugs in jars to paintings, to shells, rocks, flowers, furniture and precious objects, gathering things together is one way to leave evidence of the unique story of our lives behind. Some of the treasures found or purchased in daily life have historically ended up in museums. Before modern museums existed, private "cabinets of curiosities" belonging to wealthy collectors and institutions of art and science contained natural objects and artifacts arranged by private hobbyists for families and friends. Methods of organization were often fabricated by the collector to emphasize personal world views or preferences. Public viewing of collections of curiosities by categories did not come about until the Louvre Museum in Paris opened its doors in 1793 during the French Revolution offering a path towards self-improvement and knowledge to citizens of every class.

The formal organization of museum objects has evolved as modern museums now also provide wide access to digitized collections extending opportunities to learn about history and culture from objects that have been culled from the past.

The Smithsonian Institution Libraries, a DuraSpace Silver Sponsor, opened a Galaxy of Images web site highlighting images from "the more than 1.5 million printed books and manuscripts in the collections of Smithsonian Institution Libraries." Among the featured collections are images that capture some of the rich history of museums themselves at These views of object collections from the past provide a look at early idiosyncratic display and categorization methods that place a stuffed crocodile next to shells and feathers on a ceiling, for example.