EASTON, Pa. - The stranger, the odder, the better. It's all about what piques your curiosity.
"People for hundreds of years have been collecting. Interestingly enough, a lot of these collections and curiosities are really the backbone for our modern museums," explained Britanny Merriam, senior curator at The Sigal Museum in Easton.
Collections like those of PT Barnum and Thomas Mutter, artifacts that led us to discover something new or, at least, entertain a few ideas. The collections then were housed in curiosity cabinets, which had different compartments.
They date back to the early Renaissance days, when you could show off what you had and where you'd been. Today's modern curio cabinet was born from the same concept.
"Cabinet of Curiosities" is on the second floor at The Sigal Museum, showcasing some never-before-seen artifacts pulled from the museum's archives.
There's a good luck wish from Teddy Roosevelt, who had a connection to Easton. It's believed he liked the countryside and attended the funeral of a friend, Colonel Charles Wycoff, in Easton. What you'll find are items with a story to tell, some so sensitive they're behind a curtain, like parts of ropes used in public hangings.
Others might illicit a "who knew?," like the story of 11 boys from Nazareth, Northampton County, who, before they were drafted, took a drag on a cigarette to seal their promise they'd all return home after World War II. They did and held Pequot Club meetings for 60 more years. Who would have thought to hold on to an old cigarette?
"I have a very fun job. I will say that, and one of the best things about it is the fact that every day I'm uncovering something strange," Merriam said.
Some of the items are so odd, museum staff hasn't been able to identify them. You'll see Easton's first baby carriage from 1857, a wedding gown with a waist so tiny the corsets must have been a bear. The dress is black, which is a fitting color, considering the bride met a tragic end. She was hit by a buggy while walking in Center Square.
And there's a nod to history, like the illustration of the Alfred Thomas. It was a steamboat in the 1860s, but on March 6, 1860, it exploded, killing 12 people. A portrait of George Washington, the ship's bell and the steering column survived. They are collections that help us see the world around us in a new light.
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