91 Stories: Cabinet of Curiosities

“I shall never open your drawers without fear of snakes and creeping things” – Mary Morton Allport.


Even the smallest of objects can spark the most significant of memories; a glinting object shining between particles of sand, dusting off the grains and revealing the smooth shell of a mollusc, once housing sea life.

Those seemingly everyday moments in childhood, are brought to life by the carefully stored collection of Morton Allport’s curiosities.

How could you say no to the temptation of opening a mysterious antique cabinet?

Recognising the need to conserve the cabinet and its contents, curator Ruth sought the help of an objects conservator to open Morton Allport’s shell cabinet.

As the cabinet was opened and the contents revealed, it brought with it not only the well-preserved and ordered collections of an avid Tasmanian naturalist, but a glimpse into Ruth’s own past.

A story that starts with a locked cabinet, a self-confessed arachnophobe and an expert in Tasmanian land snails, becomes one curator’s tale of discovery.


Follow intricacies of fossicking, shell collecting and the skills passed on from father to daughter, in the latest 91 STORIES: Cabinet of Curiosities. View the cabinet in the 91 Stories online exhibition.


Image: https://stors.tas.gov.au/ALLPORT_AQN_F041 Morton Allport’s shell cabinet, digitised item from: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office.