Sunday, January 21, 2007

Blogs as Wunnderkammer

What I read last week - Dibbell as quoted in the Genre Analysis article by Miller and Shepherd - has really been growing on me.

A Web log really, then, is a Wunderkammer. That is to say, the genealogy of Web logs points not to the world of letters but to the early history of museums -- to the "cabinet of wonders," or Wunderkammer, that marked the scientific landscape of Renaissance modernity: a random collection of strange, compelling objects, typically compiled and owned by a learned, well-off gentleman. A set of ostrich feathers, a few rare shells, a South Pacific coral carving, a mummified mermaid -- the Wunderkammer mingled fact and legend promiscuously, reflecting European civilization’s dazed and wondering attempts to assimilate the glut of physical data that science and exploration were then unleashing.
Quote from "Portrait of the Blogger as a Young Man." Hey, it's online. Google and you shall find.

And I think that this is really cool. The traditional version of the blog as a reverse chronological collection of links with commentary really make sense when thought of as a collection meant to be taken into account against each other. I might have some issues with the whole "a blog is a collection of links with commentary" definition, but, even if you have just a personal blog, there are usually some links in there. So let's roll with that definition for now.

Just as Wunderkammer were almost always personal collections, so are blogs. But if what we want to talk about are institutional blogs (and believe me, I do), then where does that leave us? Can a museum have its own Wunderkammer? Well, yes. Yes it can. A fellow student in my museum education course demonstrated the way in which the Burke Museum is in touch with its Wunderkammer roots. The Burke has a 'Treasures' case in the lobby. This case holds minerals, nipple topped mauls, a narwhale horn, stuffed birds, blades, and much much more. It also holds them all in close proximity with minimal interpretation. So for the physical, yes, museums dig the Wunderkammer.

But let's go back to institutional blogs. When I think of museum blogging Wunderkammer, I think of the Walker Blogs. Specifically, Centerpoints from the Off Center blog. Centerpoints highlight three or four things going on that are interesting or cool, but may not warrant an entire post of their own. Recently several of the other Walker blogs have picked up on this format and I love it. I think it's great bite sized blogging. What makes this Wunderkammer? Well, it's like the funny shaped cornflakes that folks might collect. It's cool, and somehow worth keeping, but maybe not worth devoting a whole lot of time to. If cornflakes were around in the 15th and 16th century, I bet ones that looked like the head of a pope would have ended up somewhere in a Wunderkammer. Especially if cornflakes were naturally occuring.

I ramble.

I don't think that I have this comparison fully worked out, but it's definitely sticking with me. What do you think?

3 comments:

Pants said...

There's no justification to define blogs as collections of links. A collection of bite-sized ideas might work. But all the non-personal blogs I feel are worth subscribing to go more in depth with a single subject. Short, casual articles. And they tend to be springboards for discussion of some sort, which really doesn't work the the cabinets analogy.

Denon Wunderk said...

Hello! I am a people who thinks of blogs as Wunderkamern (as a personal and even inmaterial collection).

You can see my blogs here:

denonwunderkammer.blogspot.com

wunderkam.blogspot.com

This one more personal.

Saludos desde EspaƱa!

Naat said...

I think that this is really cool. The traditional version of the blog as a reverse chronological collection of links with commentary really make sense when thought of as a collection meant to be taken into account against each other.