Radioactive items discovered in antique cupboard



An 18th century collector’s cupboard with mostly apothecary items apparently had 56 hidden drawers at the back of it, with all kinds of objects in them, some of which have turned out to be radioactive.

During the renovations of the museum a few years ago, the cupboard was properly restored and cleaned. After a thorough inspection of all the drawers, experts found some uranium, a common material used for colouring glass back then. Radioactivity was only discovered in the 20th century by Henri Becquerel, although Marie Curie eventually coined the term.

Researchers found almost 2000 different bits of flora in the drawers, including seeds, flowers, roots, animal parts, rocks, minerals and fossils, all used to entertain guests of the unknown original owner. The cupboard is two metres high and was made around 1730 in Amsterdam. It was moved to England soon after and bought back by the Rijksmuseum from an art dealer in 1956.

The curious cupboard is currently on display at the Rijksmuseum.

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