Home Tech “It is very difficult to get spare parts”: the London museum “retires” its gallery of domestic objects

“It is very difficult to get spare parts”: the London museum “retires” its gallery of domestic objects

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A display of kitchen utensils and equipment at Secret Life of the Home.

tThey changed the lives of our parents and grandparents by using technology to address the curse of drudgery at home. Thanks to the vacuum cleaner, the refrigerator, the washing machine and the microwave, household life was transformed in a few generations.

But now the UK museum’s main collection of household appliances – from horse-drawn vacuum cleaners to pop-up toasters – is about to close. On June 2, the Science Museum in London will permanently close its gallery secret life of homea 29-year-old treasure trove of household appliances ranging from the first microwaves to the first flushing toilets.

“Our devices are becoming obsolete, many of the interactive displays are not working properly, and we are finding it very difficult to get replacement parts,” Jessica Bradford, senior curator at the Science Museum, told Congress. Observer last week. “It’s simply time to retire the gallery.”

Over the summer, hundreds of these devices (which also include the first gramophones, as well as a set of gas-heated curling irons from the 1920s, a mechanical fly trap and a raisin smoker from the late 19th century) will be brought to the Science and Innovation Park from the museum, near Swindon and put it away. Public visits will be allowed, as well as school and research visits. “If a historian is researching the impact of the vacuum cleaner on everyday life, this will still be the place to go,” Bradford said.

A display of kitchen utensils and equipment at Secret Life of the Home. Photography: Science Museum

However, the collection of household wonders originally assembled by the Science Museum will no longer be available for occasional visits by the public who have flocked to the gallery since its opening in 1995. “There is no doubt that the secret life of home The gallery was popular,” Bradford added.

“However, much of that attraction has to do with nostalgia. People remember old gadgets from their childhood: their parents’ gramophones or double-bath washing machines. “Nostalgia is not necessarily the approach the Science Museum should bring to our galleries.”

Among the most striking exhibits is one that traces the rise of the British vacuum cleaner. The first of these devices were the size of carts and were drawn by horses. Pipes and nozzles were inserted through windows or doors so operators could vacuum a house. People would pay large sums just to vacuum their homes this way. Nowadays we can vacuum a room in a matter of minutes anytime we want.

This ease of use would suggest that people need to spend less and less time cleaning and cooking. In fact, we seem to spend as much time doing housework as we did 50 years ago. “If it’s easier and faster to do laundry, you tend to do it more often,” Bradford added.

Booth’s original British Red Trolley vacuum cleaner, 1905. Photography: Science Museum Group Collection

“So we probably spend the same amount of time cleaning our houses and clothes as we did 50 years ago. It’s just that we are doing it more intensely. Certainly the idea that there was going to be this revolution in national technology and suddenly we would be languishing in free time just hasn’t come true.”

Some appliances, such as refrigerators and stoves, have maintained their popularity since their first appearances in our homes. Others flourished and then disappeared, like Teasmades, which once graced the cabinets of millions of bedrooms across the country.

A Teasmade was designed to ensure that a freshly brewed cup of tea was ready for consumption when a person got out of bed. However, its initial development was, to say the least, haphazard. One of the first devices, dated 1904, used a metal arm attached to a brass alarm clock that, at one point, moved to strike a match on sandpaper and light an alcohol lamp. He then heated water in a brass teapot and once boiled it was poured into a teapot while a bell rang to announce that the tea was ready. The risks of fire or burns were considerable.

Automatic tea-making machine, consisting of a wooden base supporting the alarm clock, an inclined kettle and a methylated spirit stove, with a flat copper kettle of oval shape, patented by Frank Clarke of Birmingham, in 1902 and manufactured by Automatic Water Boiler Co, Birmingham. England, 1902-1910. Photograph: Jennie Hills/Science Museum Group

The advent of electricity meant that the use of gas or spirits to fuel Teasmades could be avoided, and they gained popularity that peaked in the 1960s and 1970s, even appearing in the video for Queen’s I Want to Break Free in the one where Brian May gets scalded by one. However, since then demand has plummeted to the point that, in the few places where they are sold as new devices, they are sold as a retro novelty.

Many of the advertisements that were used to promote household appliances are also displayed. With only a couple of exceptions, these focus on women as the people who were expected to use these devices. Glamor-dressed wives are seen shoveling coal into kettles in an advertisement for Coalite Nuts; others politely debate the hygienic virtues of Ekco’s plastic toilet seats, while another group celebrates the installation of a friend’s new Parnall washing machine by hosting a coffee and blanket-washing party.

Reddened? The secret life of home. Photograph: Jennie Hills/Science Museum Group
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However, the most popular exhibit in Secret Life of the Home was the cross section of a flushing toilet. This showed how a cistern is filled with water and then emptied to remove excrement into the toilet bowl, while an elbow of water at its base prevents sewer odors from entering a house.

The device was a favorite of almost all the children who visited the gallery, especially when it failed. A small plastic poop, used to demonstrate the daily fate of our bodily waste, frequently disappeared because it had been expelled from the exhibition and was at the bottom of the display case. The staff had to return it to its original place.

“In fact, that interactive display is no longer operational,” Bradford said. “It stopped working a while ago, which at least tells us it’s probably time to move on.”

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