Build A Cabinet Of Curiosities

16:32 minutes

A cabinet of curiosities featuring minerals, a fan coral, and a sea urchin skeleton. Photo by Annie Minoff
A cabinet of curiosities featuring minerals, a fan coral, and a sea urchin skeleton. Photo by Annie Minoff

Do you have a rock collection gathering dust in the back of your closet? How about a butterfly “collection” that never grew beyond one or two specimens? Gathering objects from nature might seem like kids’ stuff, but author and lifelong collector Gordon Grice says there’s plenty of reasons for kids and adults to keep up the collecting habit. For one, he says, it can make you a keener observer—and caretaker—of nature.

Grice joins Ira Flatow to share tips for building your own cabinet of curiosities, including how to pin insects and how to identify that animal skull you found in your backyard. Plus, Field Museum geologist Jim Holstein talks about the museum’s annual “Identification Day,” where amateur collectors can bring in finds for experts to analyze. But beware! Jim says your meteorite might just turn out to be a meteor-wrong.

[Jupiter wins the moon lottery.]

Plus, read an excerpt from Grice’s book Cabinet of Curiosities. And check out some of your natural collections!

[Where did we get the word “quark”?]

  • A selection of items from author Gordon Grice’s cabinet of curiosities

    The chrysalis of a monarch butterfly. (The butterfly has since emerged.) Photo by Parker Grice

  • Autumn leaves photographed in situ before collecting. Photo by Parker Grice

  • This is a rattlesnake’s “rattler”: a structure of fingernail­-like material that, when shaken rapidly, make the snake’s characteristic warning buzz. Grice took this specimen from a snake that was already dead. (No animals were harmed in the making of these photos, as they say in the movie biz.) Photo by Parker Grice

  • A squirrel skull and jaws. Notice the rodent’s trademark incisors. Photo by Parker Grice

  • Berries of the red sumac, collected on the branch. Photo by Parker Grice

Segment Guests

Gordon Grice

Gordon Grice is a nature writer and author of Cabinet of Curiosities.

Jim Holstein

Jim Holstein is the Collections Manager for Physical Geology at the The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois. 

Meet the Producer

About Annie Minoff

Annie Minoff is a producer for The Journal from Gimlet Media and the Wall Street Journal, and a former co-host and producer of Undiscovered. She also plays the banjo.

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