Research on the Cabinet of Artefacts and Natural Curiosities of the Francke Foundations

The whole universe at a glance. The world model in the Cabinet of Artefacts and Natural Curiosities.

Current publication on the history of the Cabinet of Artefacts and Natural Curiosities of the Francke Foundations

Holger Zaunstöck: „Seit Jahrzehnten tot und der Vergessenheit anheimgefallen“? Überlieferungsbedingungen für die Kunst- und Naturalienkammer in der Schulstadt Franckesche Stiftungen. In: Jan Brademann/Gerrit Deutschländer/Matthias Meinhardt (Hg.): Sammeln und Zerstreuen. Bedingungen historischer Überlieferung in Sachsen-Anhalt. Halle: Mitteldeutscher Verlag 2021 (Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte Sachsen-Anhalts 21), p. 171–206.

The Cabinet of Artefacts and Natural Curiosities of the Francke Foundations in Halle occupies a prominent place in the history of museums in Europe. It represents a lost culture of collecting and display in the pre-modern era. The chamber in the mansard roof of the Historical Orphanage visualised God's creation captured in a macrocosm-in-microcosm model. It is thus one of the exceedingly rare examples of the preservation of a Cabinet of Artefacts and Natural Curiosities from the early modern period in terms of the spatial setting, the objects, the furnishings and the original concept of the arrangement of the collection. But the question is: why is this so?


The Francke Foundations as part of AEUM

The »Alliance of Early Universal Museums« (AEUM) was founded on 13 October 2020 in Halle by the Francke Foundations, the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography »Peter the Great« - Art Camera in St. Petersburg (Russia), the Teylers Museum in Haarlem (Netherlands) and the expert on Cabinets of Curiosities Arthur MacGregor (Great Britain). The association has set itself the task of discussing and publishing current questions of museum handling of surviving Cabinets of Curiosities or their preserved components, provenance research and the development of future scenarios for their research and presentation in a broad-based panel of experts.


Cooperation with the project »Sammeln in der Stadt um 1600« (»Collecting in the City around 1600«)

The Research Department is a cooperation partner of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation-funded project »Sammeln in der Stadt um 1600. Die Kunst- und Wunderkammer des Medicus Lorenz Hoffmann im Kontext der europäischen Sammlungs- und Wissenskulturen« (»Collecting in the City around 1600. The Kunst- und Wunderkammer of the Medicus Lorenz Hoffmann in the Context of European Cultures of Collecting and Knowledge«), which is led and worked on by Berit Wagner (Frankfurt/Main). It is planned to hold a joint conference in Halle.


Book on Teyler's Museum in Haarlem published - Research Centre involved

A comprehensive volume on the history of Teyler's Museum in Haarlem was published by Brill Verlag (Leiden/Boston) in 2020. Together with the Kunstkamera St. Petersburg and the Francke Foundations, the museum is a founding member of the Alliance of Early Universal Museums. The interdisciplinary and elaborately designed book goes back to an international conference in Haarlem in 2017 and was edited by the Dutch collection historians Ellinoor Bergvelt and Debora Meijers. The Research Centre was at the conference and is now involved in the book - its head, historian Holger Zaunstöck, presents the visit of Foundation Director August Hermann Niemeyer to Haarlem and places this moment in the history of the museum: »Visiting Haarlem: August Hermann Niemeyer, the Cabinet of Artefacts and Natural Curiosities at the Halle Orphanage, and Teyler’s Museum«.


Online-Publication »Museum Audiences in the Early Modern Period – Visiting the Halle Orphanage and its Collections«

Holger Zaunstöck: Museum Audiences in the Early Modern Period – Visiting the Halle Orphanage and its Collections. In: Кунсткамера │ Kunstkamera, St. Petersburg, Issue 4 (10) 2020, p. 32–48.

Three hundred years ago, the Halle Orphanage was already bustling with visitors. The deliberate opening of the Cabinet of Artefacts and Natural Curiosities and the school town to the public met with broad interest from all classes and at the same time also led to considerable problems in everyday life. The guides complained of overwork and disorder. Students made trouble and did not want to obey the rules. That is why the Francke Foundations were already working on measures for regulated visitor traffic at the beginning of the 18th century.


Publication »Acta Historica Leopoldina Nr. 70«

Kunst- und Naturalienkammern der Frühen Neuzeit als Lehr- und Lernorte
Edited by Eva Dolezel (Berlin), Rainer Godel (Halle/Saale), Andreas Pečar (Halle/Saale) and Holger Zaunstöck (Halle/Saale)
(2018, 456 pages, 131 illustrations, 2 tables, 29.95 Euro, ISBN: 978-3-8047-3795-2, ISSN: 0001-5857)

Cabinets of Artefacts and Natural Curiosities of the early modern period fascinate visitors and researchers alike as places of scientific collecting and aesthetic presentation of natural history. This volume focuses on their significance as places of teaching and learning. How did teaching and learning take place in these places? According to what orders were their objects collected and presented? How were such early modern collections interconnected? Where did the objects come from and how did they get into the collections? - These are just a few of the questions that will be examined in collections in Halle, Leipzig, Erfurt, Göttingen, Zurich, Wroclaw, London and St. Petersburg, among others. A particularly vivid example is provided by the Francke Foundations' Cabinet of Artefacts and Natural Curiosities, which was included in the school lessons of the orphanage. The contributions analyse the teaching and learning functions of a broad spectrum of collection forms that were established above all in the 17th and 18th centuries at academies, learned societies, universities and schools, but also at courts and in the homes of wealthy citizens. They also characterise the educational intentions of very different collector personalities.

To the programme of the associated conference.


Early Modern English and German Collector Networks and Practice: Medicine and Natural Philosophy.

Workshop, 8/9 June 2018, Leopoldina, Halle

The transformation from the purposefully and playfully disordered Cabinet of Artefacts to the orderly Enlightenment museum is well known. What has not yet been fully explored is the process by which this transformation took place. This two-day workshop will explore the role of learned societies in this transformation between England and the German-speaking countries, focusing on the relatively under-researched period from the founding of the Leopoldina as a medical association (1652) to the beginning of the presidency of the Royal Society under Joseph Banks (1778). The aim is to investigate why physicians in both regions seemed to play such a crucial role in collecting as well as connoisseurship. Did the physicians of the Leopoldina, the Society of Antiquaries in London and the Royal Society have similar collecting practices, strategies and reasons for collecting? What contribution did they make to the creation of Cabinets of Curiosities and early museums, and to the development of norms of connoisseurship and the classification of knowledge?

This workshop was part of a networking grant award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC): Collective Wisdom: Collecting in the Early Modern Academy.  (Principal Investigator: Anna Marie Roos (University of Lincoln), Co-Investigator: Vera Keller (University of Oregon)).

To the programme of the workshop.


Topographies of Early Modern Collections - Historical Contours and Current Research

Joint workshop of the Francke Foundations and the Leopoldina Study Centre on 14 June 2017.

Organisation and Chair:
Rainer Godel (Study Centre of the Leopoldina - Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften)
Holger Zaunstöck (Research Centre - Francke Foundations)

Since the 1990s, the Cabinets of Artefacts and Natural Curiosities and special collections that emerged in the early modern period at princely courts, in the bourgeois context and in connection with academies, learned societies and also schools have been examined with a range of research approaches that is now widely differentiated in terms of method and subject matter. In addition to the highlights of the collections, there has been a hitherto hardly overlooked multitude of collections that existed only temporarily, that were less extensive or that can be assigned to specific contexts of use or persons. A project oriented towards basic research in this regard is a desideratum. Against the background of current research projects on concrete case studies from this multitude of collections and collection types, a working discussion on 14 June 2017 asked about their topographies, networks and publics.

To the programme of the working discussion.