A Diva's Cabinet of Curiosities Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, The Living Room, Dec. 2016

Welcome to the glamorous world of 19th-century opera star Madame G.M.K., a formidable artist with an illustrious international career. Madame G.M.K is a fictional composite of 26 real-life opera divas from 1700 to 1920. Madame G.M.K. travels with 22 trunks and 14 pieces of hand luggage.Her special “home-like” case is the first to be opened whenever she finds herself in a new hotel. It is stuffed with mementoes and valuables and gives her enormous comfort. As she says: “I have to make a home wherever I can.”

Look through the cards that describe Madame G.M.K.’s possessions and read her comments (drawn from letters and memoirs of 26 real-life DIVA Museum divas).

If you like, choose an item that you feel will assist Madame G.M.K. in making her home on the road.

My 2016 "Diva's Cabinet of Curiosities," or Diva "Wunderkammer," was an interactive site within the larger "Wunderkammer" that is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. As Living Room Host, I offered brief welcoming orientations, as well as gentle facilitation and discussion. Visitors were encouraged to read the fact and fiction contained in the cards reproduced above, and handled objects in the case. They chose which "curiosity" they felt assisted Madame G.M.K. in making her home on the road.

Historical Backround. Renaissance Cabinets of Curiosities (also known as "Kunstkabinetts," "Kunstkammern," Cabinets of Wonder, and Wonder-Rooms) were encyclopedic collections of specimen objects from geology and archaeology as well as religious or historical relics, antiquities, and works of art. A Wunderkammer was considered a microcosm of the world and a memory theater.

Special thanks to Julie Schniewind, China Altman, Lisa Wong, Fay Chandler for gifts of objects as well as Lee Mingwei and The Living Room Project at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

All images originally printed in booklet as part of Living Room exhibition in 2016; content republished here digitally in 2018. Copyright Kathleen McDermott, DIVA Museum. Please credit.

Visit Divas à la Mode, a diva fashion show, at the Gardner Museum Living Room in 2017.

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Kathleen McDermott


Kathleen McDermott

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