In July 2020 the publisher Taschen published the opulent work »Cabinet of Curiosities«. 19 European cabinets of curiosities are presented here. The cover picture shows the crowning motif of the plant cabinet of the Chamber of Art and Natural History of the Francke Foundations. It is the only European Chamber of Curiosities of the Baroque period that has been completely preserved and can still be viewed today at its authentic location and with its historical furniture. »The uniqueness of the Chamber of Curiosities of the Francke Foundations lies in the fact that all the basic components of the original Baroque Chamber of Curiosities have been preserved: over 3,000 objects from the fields of art and life, the perfectly fitting collection cabinets of the Chamber with their impressive colourful crowning paintings, the original room in the former dormitory of the Historic Orphanage as well as the museum-theoretical concept of the presentation based on the catalogues from the 18th century,« explains the director of the Francke Foundations, Prof. Dr. Thomas Müller-Bahlke. Exactly 25 years ago, on October 12, 1995, he, as archivist and historian, was able to reopen the chamber in its original location after extensive research of sources.
The illustrated book»Cabinet of Curiosities« lacks an important collection of the early modern period: The Kunstkammer of the Russian Tsar Peter the Great, who at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries consistently opened the Russian Empire to Europe and set up his collection along the lines of the European Chambers of Curiosities. Partner of the Francke Foundations for 25 years is the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography »Peter the Great« - Kunstkamera of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Here, the preserved objects of the collection of Peter the Great are exhibited in the specially erected historical building on the banks of the Neva directly opposite the Hermitage. On the initiative of the Francke Foundations, this prestigious institution is a founding member of an association of European Chambers of Wonder:
On 12 October 2020, the Francke Foundations (Germany) and the Kunstkamera (Russia) met with the expert of cabinets of curiosities Arthur MacGregor (Great Britain) and the Teylers Museum in Haarlem (Netherlands) for a founding workshop for an »Alliance of Early Universal Museums«. The idea of founding the network is based on the knowledge that the early modern cabinets of curiosities in Europe were connected in many ways.
Today, cultural institutions can be the bond that holds the House of Europe together inside. The founding members from Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Russia deliberately want to set this accent and expand the new network step by step. Of common interest are the exchange on current questions of museum handling of traditional Cabinets of Curiosities or their preserved components, professional expertise, provenance research, the development of future scenarios for the presentation and research of collections, but also the question of joint publications. Research in this field is particularly promising from a scientific point of view. Two major events frame the founding workshop: October 12th marks the 25th anniversary of the reopening of the Kunst- und Naturalienkammer following the renovation of the Historic Orphanage. The Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography »Peter the Great« - Kunstkamera is planning an exhibition on the Russian Tsar's Chamber of Wonder in 2022 for the 350th anniversary of Peter the Great.