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The Collation

Browsing the #wunderkammer

One of the great things about running the @FolgerResearch twitter account is pulling together the Wednesday Wunderkammer from the Folger Digital Image Collection. It’s a chance for me to explore what’s in the constantly growing collection, making new discoveries and highlighting some of the things that catch my eye. It’s a different sort of interaction with the Folger’s collections than I usually have. As a scholar and a teacher, I am usually looking for something specific—a book by a particular author, a work on a certain subject, an object with specific characteristics. But in doing the #wunderkammer, I get to browse and experience the collection serendipitously. It’s a joy to shift gears from searching to browsing and to look at something for no more reason than it tickles my fancy.

Yesterday, for instance, I tweeted about a recently digitized mid-sixteenth-century six-language dictionary:

[blackbirdpie url=”!/FolgerResearch/status/106378727063158784″]

  1. I say “serendipitous discovery” but of course it’s only a discovery to me, not to the plenty of scholars who have read and cataloged this manuscript. But part of the joy of research is finding things that are unexpected to you, even if they’re not unexpected to the rest of the world.
  2. Wondering why I keep putting a number sign in front of “wunderkammer”? It’s a hashtag—a way of marking words so that they are linked to other tweets using the same hashtag. In this instance, clicking on #wunderkammer in any of the tweets in this post will search for all posts with the hashtag #wunderkammer. Hashtags were often used to link interests and trending topics, such as #earthquake or #openaccess. But, in the way that all language is organic, hashtags are now often used to signal tone (#kidding), sottovoce comments (#notreallykidding), or jokes (#whatmycatateforbreakfast). Susan Orlean has a nice blog post for the New Yorker on the joy of hashtags.