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Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) Presents Collecting Knowledge: Renaissance Cabinets of Curiosity

Salt Lake City – Before the creation of the modern museum, private collections of art pieces, scientific instruments, cultural oddities, and mysterious specimens were housed in rooms or pieces of furniture called cabinets of curiosity. In Renaissance Europe, these cabinets were known as Wunderkammern, or chambers of wonder, and were organized by wealthy collectors to facilitate understanding and give order to the world.

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) is pleased to present Collecting Knowledge: Renaissance Cabinets of Curiosity, an exhibition curated by four graduate students from the University of Utah Department of Art and Art History. The exhibition will be on view in the Emma Eccles Jones Education Gallery in the Marcia and John Price Museum Building from January 27 through May 15, 2011.

Graduate students Amanda Beardsley, Scotti Hill, Stephanie Hohlios, and Laura Hurtado worked diligently throughout Fall Semester 2010 to quickly organize the exhibition. Supervised by University of Utah professor of art history Sheila Muller and UMFA staff, the students determined thematic elements, intended audience, featured objects, label information, and related programming for the exhibition.

“This exhibition has given us the opportunity to collaborate with museum staff and apply museum practices in a way that cannot be duplicated in a classroom,” said student Stephanie Hohlios. “For those of us who are pursuing a career in museum work, curating a real exhibition is a rare and invaluable experience.”

Collecting Knowledge: Renaissance Cabinets of Curiosity examines the people who created cabinets of curiosity, their strategies for classifying and grouping collected items, and how they used knowledge to make sense of their surroundings. The exhibition provides visitors the opportunity to return to the Renaissance model of private study and reflection in a physical space, enabling them to wander, examine, and share the wonder.

The exhibition features thirty-six objects from the permanent collection of the UMFA and a rare book from the special collections of the University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library. Organized in six specific themes, visitors will encounter sixteenth and seventeenth century prints by artists such as Albrecht Dürer, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, and Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn. Exhibition highlights include a sixteenth century Italian cabinet and a display case filled with a variety of objects likely to have been found in a Renaissance cabinet of curiosity: an Asian bell, a Japanese ginger jar, German gemstones, an ivory fetish figure from the Kongo, and more.

“The UMFA strives to be a relevant and inspiring resource for students, faculty, and the community,” said Jenny Woods, UMFA campus outreach coordinator. “Collecting Knowledge: Renaissance Cabinets of Curiosity presented an incredible opportunity for the UMFA to collaborate with students and faculty while supporting the University of Utah’s academic mission. We hope that this experience was as positive and enriching for the students as it was for us, and that they gained valuable knowledge of the museum world that will guide them in their future endeavors.”

Public Programming

February 26, February 27, March 6, and April 23 at 2 pm • FREE with Paid Admission
Gain insight into Collecting Knowledge: Renaissance Cabinets of Curiosity as student curators highlight specific objects and their stories through a series of gallery talks.

April 16 from 1-4 pm • FREE
Collecting Knowledge: Renaissance Cabinets of Curiosity examines the people who created cabinets of curiosity, classifying and grouping objects to make sense of their world. Use this exhibition for inspiration as you make your own collections journal.

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts is located in the Marcia and John Price Museum Building on the University of Utah campus at 410 Campus Center Drive. The UMFA’s mission is to engage visitors in discovering meaningful connections with the artistic expressions of the world’s cultures. Admission is $7 adults, $5 seniors and youth ages 6-18, children 5 and under free, UMFA Members free. Free admission is offered on the first Wednesday and third Saturday of each month thanks to the Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts, and Parks Fund. Museum hours are Tuesday – Friday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Wednesdays 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Weekends, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.; closed Mondays and holidays. For more information call (801) 581-7332 or visit

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