29 January 2010

Wessner's Wunderkammer

Wikipedia describes the wunderkammer as "a cabinet of curiosities," the collection and display of objects that are unique or uncommon. Inside one of these rooms, one might have found objects so diverse as a tortoise shell from the coast of Africa, a rare mineral from China, or a sketch of a foreign person with a deformity.  The first instances of this mode of display are known to have been during the 16th century. (Read here to learn more.) During this era of fervent exploration, wunderkammern were a means by which people attempted to organize and make sense of what they found in their travels. Perhaps a person had no idea what the things in his cabinet of wonders were, but that was what was so fabulous. These objects were longing for stories.

Somewhere on the way up a very old mountain in Vermont, there is a little shop teeming with such curiosities. The name of this place is Wessner's, and according to the hand-painted sign, they sell hardware and tools. Going there is like stepping into another world--a place suspended somewhere in between order and chaos. Ronnie, a little old man with a white beard, will most likely be sitting in the very same spot, in the very same brown chair, watching the very same little TV set. The sun always filters in through filmy windows, making the floating particles of dust visible in the streams of light. Though the building is small, there are actually many rooms--one leading to another, and another. It almost seems like you aren't allowed to explore back in those rooms, but you are, and it is there that half the mystery is to be found...
Political campaign memorabilia from unknown politicians. Trucker hats from companies that went under in the 70s. Faded stickers for an electronics security company called LOUDMOUTH. Thirty or more Japanese WWII rifles with a sign saying "Not for sale. Don't ask."  Buckets of keys that will never again unlock the doors for which they were made. This is the stuff of Wessner's, and Ronnie probably hasn't seen half of it. But I bet if you asked him about anything there, he'd have a damn good explanation of what it is. This is his wunderkammer.

And here it is, through my lens:

Enjoy : )


Anonymous said...

I think my garage is a wonderkammer. I do love your posts.

-Tall Barney's

Frances said...

Wow! I LOVE the pictures. The phrase "cabinet of curiosities" always makes me think of the earliest emergence of museums. I picked up an interesting book last semester (you'd like it, I'll have to show it to you) called "The Museum as Medium." I needed some inspiration for my Painting the Photo archiving project, and it was really interesting. Your wonderkammer photos would fit right in.

Amy said...

I love Wunderkammers. I saw an exhibition a while ago by Hans Peter Feldman where he showed his collections. Thanks for reminding me about that.

Amy said...

p.s I meant to say that his exhibition was called Wunderkammer.

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