Cabinet of Shadows: The Reliquary for Lost Animals


Cabinet of Shadows was an exhibition curated by students in my VAS/VAH Museum and Curatorial Practicum class in 2015-16.

A catalogue is available here.

The website can be accessed here.

More images of the exhibition can be seen here.

Cabinet of Shadows: The Reliquary for Lost Animals looks at the relationship between humans and famous animals. Three animals are the focus of the exhibition: Jumbo, a circus elephant who entertained thousands of people before dying in a train crash in St. Thomas Ontario; Jonah the Whale, an embalmed blue whale who was part of an exhibition that traveled through England in a truck in the 1950s; and Martha, the last passenger pigeon, who drew crowds to her enclosure at the Cincinnati zoo before she died in 1914.

What is our connection to animals that become stars, who are much loved, but whose lives are constrained by human expectations?

Drawing together the fascinating stories of these three animals, Cabinet of Shadows brings Jumbo, Jonah, and Martha to the Artlab gallery through a performance, shadow art, films, and displays of ephemera. Visitors will learn about the historical exploitation of animals for amusement, but will also meet an array of animal heroes, and will find friendship and love, and may have the chance to encounter the shadowy ghosts of Jumbo, Jonah, and Martha.


About Kirsty Robertson

Kirsty Robertson is Associate Professor of contemporary art and Director of museum and curatorial studies at Western University, Canada.
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