The People You Meet: Ben White

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Ben White runs what might be the only place in all of Melbourne where you can find a meteorite, a sextant and a stuffed arctic fox under the same roof.

“Anything that’s old and cool can go in the shop, basically,” White said.

The Wunderkammer, or “chamber of wonders,” certainly has no shortage of items in either category. Modeled on the oddball collections of Renaissance times, the Wunderkammer is abound with things only a few people have seen before.

Look to your right and you may see 180 million-year-old sandstone plates from Arizona, neatly arranged in a glass display case. Glance over to your left and you’ll find a boar’s head, its jaw locked in a permanent snarl.

White took the store over from his father six years ago, who started the store as a retirement hobby and quit when it became too popular. Despite the eclectic offerings, White says that running Wunderkammer isn’t all that different from running any other retail store.

“It’s still supplies, ordering stock, staying on top of stock levels, keeping the shop clean. It’s very standard to any other shop in that regard.”

In between jovially chatting with customers, White notices something distressing. The shop is almost out of his favorite item.

“There aren’t that many meteorites left,” he said. “I’ll have to top up in a couple weeks.”

He likes holding them; thinking about where they came from and how they got to be on Earth from so far away.

“I don’t really even have a favorite one; they’re all cool.”

After our conversation, White retreats into the back room to unpack some boxes of antique medical equipment; a commonplace activity in service of a store that is anything but commonplace.