A cabinet of curiosities is made up of an eclectic collection of object that becomes a representation of all the world’s wonders and oddities in miniature.
During their world-wide voyages Åland sailors experienced much that was new and different. They were fascinated by the exotic things they saw and brought unusual objects home to show to friends and family.
Beautiful carvings and scary weapons, strange nuts and stuffed animals, ancient grave goods and kitsch souvenirs; all these things exist among the collections of curiosities that sailors have accumulated through the ages.
This pirate flag is a real gem. There is only one other authentic skull and crossbones flag known of in the world. The flag is about 200 years old and came to Åland from North Africa’s Mediterranean coast where piracy was rife well into the 19th century. The flag is made from cotton and was once black, but weather, wind and the ravages of time have taken their toll. The skull and crossbones flag was first used in the early 18th century by pirates in the Caribbean and soon spread to other areas. Famous pirates had their own designs including motifs such as skeletons, hourglasses and various weapons. These symbols signalled the pirates’ readiness to fight to the death and were designed to terrify the crews of ships they attacked.
The unmistakable Staffordshire dogs, a given
decoration in every British bourgeoisie home during the Victorian era, were a common homecoming gift from the British Isles. The dogs came in mirrored pairs and were often placed in a window. They could be faced looking in or out, standing nose to nose or tail to tail. Each setting carried its own meaning but it wasn’t universal. In some homes, the dogs were faced outwards when the sailor was at sea and inwards when he was at home; in others it was the other way around.