Displaying Small Curiosities

I have an affinity for diminutive objects. From pieces of pretty rock to small handmade ceramics to tiny bakelite dice to sterling vesta cases to favorite matchbooks. Maybe you do too.


Most of these bits aren’t worth much. Most don’t have sentimental value. Most don’t even have a purpose! 

Other than the old sterling silver pieces (which do have some value), I don’t purposefully collect these. I don’t go out looking for them. I stumble upon them. For example, I spotted this tiny toby jug (I’m guessing it’s for a doll’s house) at an estate sale for a couple of bucks and thought, “Why not!”


And this little ceramic pot (marked VC for Native American Virginia Chinana) was in a box of stuff given to me by a friend.


I can’t remember where I got this little sparkly geode. Perhaps it belonged to one of my daughters at some point!


And these favorite matchbooks have been saved from years past and represent some lovely memories.


I found this little handmade chip carved box on eBay while doing some research. It was a sweet, inexpensive folk art piece, signed and dated ’87.


This crudely decorated Japanese incense burner (?) once belonged to a great uncle and I bought it from his estate for $1.00 when I was 16.


A few more of my “littles”: an old (likely Republic era) Chinese cloisonné container, an Indian or Tibetan metal and turquoise (?) egg-shaped box and an old glass Christmas ornament. Nothing special, nothing expensive, but still things with a bit of age and history that intrigue me.


Alas, most of my small things have been displayed in a dark, deep cabinet in our living room where they are never seen or appreciated. So it’s time to give them a place to live and breathe…or find them new homes!

So I started looking online at how people displayed their collections and curiosities.

Simple shelves like these really showcase these grouped items.


But my small items would get lost on shelves like this.

Hmmm…now a vitrine or a specimen box (like this one by John Lightfoot Greiner), would be a great way to feature some of these items on a coffee table.


But I’m thinking something like this cubby hole wall unit by Pottery Barn would really do the trick. Reminds me of the cabinets of curiosities of long ago.

“From the Renaissance to the 18th century, the cabinet of curiosities celebrated the act of collection for its own sake, in an almost haphazard accumulation of natural-history specimens and other bizarre objects.” – Philip Hoare  in “The Guardian” 

I can picture all my little bits in this.


Now I have to decide what I’m going to do!! (I’ll be sure to post a followup!)

I would love to hear if you have little curiosities and how you display them


    1. Hi Edwina. It’s a style of carving. Some Dutch versions are beautifully intricate. – Karen

      P.S. I edited “carved chip box” to “chip carved box” to make it more clear/accurate.


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