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About the Cabinets

What is a “cabinet”? It is both a physical glass-and-wood case and the carefully selected collection of materials that fill it. Ward’s catalogs show individual specimens for sale, but his real interest was in selling complete collections to institutions in order to support teaching and for museum display. In January 1890, Ward distributed a list of 80 institutions that had purchased cabinets.

In 1862, the University of Rochester agreed to purchase a cabinet from Ward's, with funding provided by a long list of donors (called Subscribers). The collection was originally housed in Anderson Hall on the Prince Street Campus, near the current location of the Memorial Art Gallery, and later moved to Sibley Hall.

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The Museum in 1927 in Sibley Hall. 

The collections would move twice more, each time diminishing in number: to Dewey Hall (1930) on the River Campus, and then to Hutchison Hall (1974), where they are currently on display.

This kind of change and collection evolution is typical. One goal of this Project is to learn how the Cabinets at other institutions fared over the last one-hundred-plus years: Are there materials still on display? Still used in the classroom? If your institution has specimens or records, we hope to hear from you.