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Feb
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Exhibition: ‘Cabinet of Curiosities: Photography & Specimens’ at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

Exhibition dates: 12th September 2012 – 10th February 2013

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Many thankx to The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Joseph Javier Woodward, American (1833–1884). 'Photomicrograph of a Crab Louse' c. 1864-65

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Joseph Javier Woodward, American (1833-1884)
Photomicrograph of a Crab Louse
c. 1864-65
Albumen print
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

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Wilson Alwyn Bentley, American (1865-1931). 'Snowflakes' c. 1905

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Wilson Alwyn Bentley, American (1865-1931)
Snowflakes
c. 1905
Gelatin silver prints
Gifts of the Hall Family Foundation

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Wilson Alwyn Bentley, American (1865–1931). 'Snowflakes' c. 1905 (detail)

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Wilson Alwyn Bentley, American (1865-1931)
Snowflakes (detail)
c. 1905
Gelatin silver prints
Gifts of the Hall Family Foundation

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Charles Jones, American, (1866–1959). 'Radish, French Breakfast' c. 1900

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Charles Jones, American, (1866-1959)
Radish, French Breakfast
c. 1900
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

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“The photography exhibition Cabinet of Curiosities: Photography & Specimens opens Sept. 12 at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Featuring works that date from the 1850s to the present day, this show explores the many ways photography has expanded our centuries-old fascination with the marvellous, unusual, unexpected, exotic, extraordinary or rare.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Cabinets of Curiosities functioned like small museums. They were assembled by their owners to reflect the fascination with science and art,” said Jane Aspinwall, associate curator of photography. “Photography has always emphasized that relationship: specimens are typically used for scientific study, but they can also be considered works of art.”

This exhibition includes examples ranging from the very tiny (microscopic images of snowflakes and insects) to the very distant (telescopic image of the moon’s surface). Some images, such as X-rays, emphasize photography’s role in extending human vision. Others document such oddities as Peter the Great’s collection of pulled teeth. The wide range of processes on display – including daguerreotypes, tintypes and cyanotypes – further suggests that these photographic objects are themselves visual specimens from a bygone era.

“To me, the range of specimens in this exhibition is fascinating. Botanical, X-ray, microscopic, medical… there is even a photograph of a fragment of a Civil War soldier’s arm bone, mounted and saved by the Army Medical Museum… what an oddity!”

Featured contemporary photographers Matthew Pillsbury, Emmet Gowin, and Richard Barnes raise questions about how specimens are displayed, preserved and interpreted and how this relates to the natural world. The differing ways specimens are seen photographically, and the human-made constructs used for specimen display are also explored.”

Press release from The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art website

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William Bell, American, b. England (1830–1910). 'Successful Excision of the Head of the Humerus' 1864

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William Bell, American, b. England (1830-1910)
Successful Excision of the Head of the Humerus
1864
Albumen print
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,

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Unknown maker, American. 'Man with Skulls' c. 1850

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Unknown maker, American
Man with Skulls
c. 1850
Daguerreotype
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,

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Unknown maker, American. 'Hand X-Ray' 1897

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Unknown maker, American
Hand X-Ray
1897
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc.,

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Anna Atkins, English (1799–1871). 'Paris Arguta' c. 1850

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Anna Atkins, English (1799-1871)
Paris Arguta
c. 1850
Cyanotype
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation

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The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
4525 Oak Street
Kansas City, MO 64111

Opening hours:
Wed, 10 am – 4 pm
Thurs, Fri, 10 am – 9 pm
Sat, 10 am – 5 pm
Sun, Noon – 5 pm

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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