What makes an object worth collecting? Curiosity is an important aspect of collecting. With the spread of colonies, there was an affinity to discover the unknown, or rather, the different. The nineteenth century paved the way for many sponsored expedition, looking for curios. Found object; vases, pots and pans, tools of everyday use, gained an importance, as curios. Nature has captivated the human cognizance since man first acquired tools, it would only be natural for the curiosity to extend to the subject of new flora and fauna. By means of collecting it is possible to establish a personal identity or characterize the other and often identifying this other as a conquest.
This idea of conquest can be analyzed in the manner in which collection is presented, making presenting as important an aspect as the collection itself.
The oldest zoological collection was a transportable one which contained ...view middle of the document...
Two of the oldest traceable collections of animals are; the recently uncovered (2009) burial site at Heirakonpolis, Egypt and Macedon, Greece, part of Alexander the Great’s many military expeditions.
Widespread expeditions only become common during the 15th century, with the progress in cartography and navigational advancements. However that did not limit the curiosity of new and seemingly un-natural environments. In England, King John I’s collection of exotic creatures, started with being gifted a boat load from Normandy after annexing the territory in the early 1200. A sign of power and of ownership, the de-contextualization of the animals form their natural habitat was nothing more than a symbol of victory. The Greek collections have been hypnotized to have encouraged an educational setting; the animals at the Tower of London had no such purpose, they were merely a status symbol. What we today recognize as Zoos can be traced back to the collection of these ‘gifts’. The growing collection was stored at the Tower of London, which with its fortified walls was considered a safe place to accumulate the wild animals (fig 1). This growing collection was for entertainment of the Monarch and his subjects. Although the public did not have access to the view these creatures, the arrival of the animals was quite a spectacle. There exist stories of a collar and chained polar bear fishing for food in Thames outside the Tower. The arrival of an elephant in 1255 drew crowds form all over the country. Though these animals were by no means considered to be Royal pets, it was important to lay royal claim on these curios. As it illustrated their established power and wealth, projecting it as a condition to acquire exotic animals.
The term menagerie first appears in the early sixteenth century referring to a “collection of wild animals kept in captivity”. It was not until the early seventeenth century that the term is used in conjunction to aristocratic or royal court animal collections. The collection existed for 400 years without a definitive word to identify its existence. What caused this need to express the collections purpose?