Artist and storyteller Creeping Toad shows you to make your own Cabinet of Curiosity:

In Victorian times, a Cabinet of Curiosity might have had drawers and more drawers, shelves and secret compartments. It might be small but was probably large. It might be a glass fronted cabinet full of dried butterflies or stuffed birds. It might be a beautiful case for your preserved mermaid. Buxton Museum and Art Gallery is full of small treasures and larger wonders from a collection of keys to a stunning (if rather grisly) display of butterflies (kept in the store it doesn’t come out very often). We even have our own mermaid but she is both Distanced at the moment and visiting the Natural History Museum

Butterfly pic 01

We know that a lot of our Museum visitors have collections of their own: fossils, crystals, stones, small dolls, beads….people have talked to us about all these. We have been encouraging you to make your own museums. In the first of these Make Your own Museum posts we showed you how to make small storage and display boxes. Now, let’s set about making Cabinets of Curiosity to hold some of those small boxes.



Making a cabinet at home could be as simple as filling a cupboard with treasures (do check with someone before tipping plates all over the floor). I like making my own so here is a guide to making your own Museum Box for small delights and strangenesses

You will need:

  • a cardboard box – with a hinged lid or a loose one
  • a cutting mat
  • a craft knife
  • ruler
  • felt pen
  • colourful magazine
  • scissors
  • glue: you could use a glue stick but white glue/PVA is stronger
  • paintbrush for PVA
  • a small sheet of acetate: clear plastic film: hunt around, maybe a file cover from a stationery shop, the cover of a damaged DVD case
  • small boxes
  1. Cut the window: have a look at your box and draw a window in the lid: rectangular, oval, wobbly, as long as it is not bigger than your piece of acetate. Cut out the window: use a craft knife on a cutting mat and BE CAREFUL!

Cabinet 1

  1. Decorate your box: we usually use magazine pictures but have done lovely Cabinets with old maps, wrapping paper. Whatever takes our fancy. Neat cutting? Rough tearing? What do you prefer?

Cabinet 3


  1. Inside the box as well? Just make sure you don’t glue the box shut by mistake!


  1. All done? Find your small boxes. Are you using ones like those we made before? You could look around and see what else would do. Matchboxes? Packing box? A box jewellery came in? Tiny tins for spice or tea. Origami?


  1. Add the boxes to your Cabinet. If you want to glue them down – make sure the main Cabinet can still close. Keep them loose and you can rearrange them.

Cabinet 5

  1. Fit the plastic window to its space: glue or sticky tape the sheet into place on the inside of the lid.

Cabinet 2

  1. Now add some treasures! Treasures might not all fit in your small boxes: there might be bags or bundles as well. You might make a miniature guidebook – that will follow in another blog.

Cabinet 7

Other cabinets made at earlier BMAG events: