Weblog modern equivalent of a Wunderkammer


a reflection by Cultural Anthropology student Vincent Barnhard
with help from and translated by Chocotoffert
spell check will be done soon (incl. handy .pdf document)

First posted in Dutch on this page


In the 16th and 17th century, Wunderkammern or so called chambers of curiosities were special rooms that collected curiosities of all nature. The Wunderkammer was non-scientific. Besides a form of entertainment was the Wunderkammer above all an attempt by the owner to reflect his world-view into a theater of curiosities (Newhouse, 1998; Parnell, 2004).

In the article “Licensed Curiosity : Cook’s Pacific Voyages” (1994) of Nicholas Thomas, Thomas deals with the lack of trust in the motives of collectors and the collectors struggle to legitimace collecting objects of other cultures. Searching online with the term “Wunderkammer” returned many links to the article Wiki as Wunderkamer of Korby Parnell. Here a relation between a Weblog and the museum is made. In addition is the encyclopedia of a Weblog, the wiki, named as the modern equivalent of the Wunderkammer. This is a very interesting comparison between an old phenomenon and modernity. However, further information gathering indicated that other authors would rather consider a Weblog itself as the Wunderkammer. An example of this is the article of Julian Dibbell’s Potrait of the blogger as a young man. Unfortunately, Julian Dibbell and others talk briefly about this comparison. Therefore, in an attempt to encourage the discussion and research in this field, this paper would like to make a humble attempt to make a more comprehensive comparison and reflect on the similarities and differences between Wunderkammer, Weblogs and their functional context.

First will the 16th and 17th Wunderkammer be described through mainly the book “Verzamelen van rariteitenkabinet tot kunstmuseum” (2002), followed by a tight description of the character of a Weblog. It should be emphasized that Weblogs are here defined in their most simplistic form. For explanation of the functional context of Weblogs virtual communities are introduced because social scientists consider them the owners and visitors. The last part will describe the comparison between Weblogs and Wunderkammer.

Before we continue I want to stress that Wunderkammern are often wrongly translated from German into English!
Miracle Chambers or miracle cabinets I believe are misinterpretations of the term Wunder in Wunderkammer. The chamber and cabinets were not a collection of miracles but curiosities. Therefore I will use the term chamber / cabinets of curiosities instead of e.g. Miracle Cabinet .

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