The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Feature Stories

10,000 Wonderful Things

Treasures of campus science and art gathered at the University Museum
  •  A digital collage of pieces from “Ten Thousand Wonderful Things.”

Some of the seldom-seen treasures of the University's science and art collections are on display at the University Museum of Contemporary Art.

Artist Anne Beresford calls the exhibition she has curated at the University Museum of Contemporary Art “Ten Thousand Wonderful Things,” but for her the most difficult aspect of curating the exhibition was limiting its size. “We could have made it three times as crowded,” she says.

Beresford drew on the riches of multiple campus collections of science and art for the exhibition: biology, anthropology, botany, and the library’s Special Collections and University Archives, as well as the collection of the University Museum itself.

She has juxtaposed these objects alongside her own art, seeking connections between her work and the natural collections. In her artist’s statement, Beresford says: “I looked with an outsider’s eye, appreciating [these artifacts, objects, and art] for their beauty and for their fascination as newly discovered treasures—treasures that the university holds for all to see, free for all to enjoy.”

Some of the seldom-seen treasures brought to light at the museum are lovely speckled pastel-hued birds eggs, a 1920 medicine bottle from an archeological excavation, a seahorse preserved in a jar, annotated sheet music, and a specimen box of jewel-toned beetles.

Appropriately, several of Beresford’s pieces in the exhibition come from her ongoing series “Free 4All,” which celebrates things that most of us enjoy for free.

Art history majors Rachel Mathison ’15 and Jacob Liverman ’15 have created an online virtual exhibition running simultaneously with “Ten Thousand Wonderful Things.” This “Wunderkammer,” or cabinet of curiosities, gives virtual visitors access to detailed information about objects from the collections as well as the ability to choose objects and create a unique, user-specific gallery.

“Ten Thousand Wonderful Things” will be at the University Museum of Contemporary Art in the Fine Arts Center from September 25 to December 6.

Another important exhibition, “Chuck Close Photographs,” will be at UMCA from September 11 to December 6. World-renowned artist Chuck Close ’95H was a member of the UMass Amherst art faculty in the mid-1960s.

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