Cabinets of curiosities go on display at Science Museum Oklahoma

The Satellite Galleries at Science Museum Oklahoma are marking the opening of two unusual exhibits: “Wunderkammer” and “Totemic Taxonomy.”
by Brandy McDonnell Published: March 14, 2014
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From a stuffed two-headed calf and a five-legged Kermit the Frog to a puffer fish preserved in a jar and a warren of rabbits literally controlled by a carrot, Science Museum of Oklahoma is opening quite the cabinet of curiosities on Saturday.

Several of them, in fact.

The museum’s Satellite Galleries, typically a spot dedicated to exploring the intersections of science and art, also will showcase natural history, mythology, audio-visual technology, taxidermy and other marvels with two new exhibits, “Wunderkammer” and “Totemic Taxonomy.”

“It is a mouthful,” said Satellite Galleries Director Scott Henderson. “The shows work together … because we’re dealing with animals and collections.”

An opening reception for the unusual new exhibits is set for 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday and will include free admission to the museum.

Cabinets of wonder

Brandice Guerra is returning to Oklahoma to share her fascination with the “Wunderkammer,” which literally means “wonder room” or “wonder cabinet” in German. In the 17th century, members of the aristocracy would collect various exotic items from around the world — from animal skeletons and jarred specimens to antiquities and anatomical models — and display them in handsome cabinets.

“They’re precursors to modern-day museums. Before we had science museums, natural history museums, we had these collections,” Henderson said. “So I’m recreating those with Brandice Guerra’s artwork.”

The former director of studio art at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva, Guerra specializes in small-scale but finely detailed paintings of animals, which Henderson has nestled in the midst of a veritable zoo of creatures preserved by skilled taxidermists or in alcohol-filled jars. An Illinois native, the painter said her interest in such cabinets of curiosities dates to childhood visits to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

“It’s kind of the perfect blending of my interest in art and my interest in science,” said Guerra, who now is an assistant professor of art at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif.

While Guerra has been painting in California, Henderson has been searching the Sooner State for the curiosities to fill the cabinets, from a cluster of fawn feet from an Oklahoma City University professor’s office to the stuffed two-headed calf Guerra vividly remembers from her initial tour of NWOSU. The various flora and fauna oddities are on loan from the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, University of Central Oklahoma Department of Biology and Natural History Museum, the Oklahoma State University Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, OCU Biology Department, Terry’s Taxidermy and private collector John Fluitt.

“I’ve always been fascinated with mythology and kind of the obscure, so I thought this was really fun to do. And it was so much fun going to all these universities and talking to all these professors,” Henderson said. “It’s amazing what they have collected in their offices.”

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by Brandy McDonnell
Entertainment Reporter
Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1...
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IF YOU GO

What: “Brandice Guerra: Wunderkammer” and “Totemic Taxonomy”

When: Saturday through Sept. 15.

Where: Science Museum Oklahoma Satellite Galleries, 2100 NE 52.

Opening reception: 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday. Free admission.

Lecture: 6 p.m. Saturday with Brandice Guerra.

Information: 602-6664 or www.sciencemuseumok.org.

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