If you know how to fabricate a candle from fat or a pen from fishbone, you can survive in prison. If you know how blood reacts to lemon juice, you can remove stains. If you know why polylactide is more sustainable than polyethylene, you can change the world.
Today, knowledge about materials, their origins and processing is valued and desired more than ever before. At the same time, such knowledge is specialized, concealed and expert-owned. How can it become available to everyone?
This exhibition recounts the story of learning with, about and through materials in eight chapters: in science, at school, in commerce, craft and at home, in novels and movies, in the archive and on the Internet. The centrepiece of the exhibition is an Object Lesson Box: a small cabinet developed for teaching purposes in the 19th century that contains over a hundred materials.
From tree books, slag gravel and shell silk to hares’ scuts, cork stoppers and cloud leather and from historical DIY books to a digital material archive, the exhibition shows that material literacy has always been relevant, why it was forgotten, and what it may look like in the future.
The exhibition was curated by Ann-Sophie Lehmann (Groningen University) and Imke Volkers (Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge) and was first on display from September 16, 2016 through January 16, 2017, at Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge. As a travelling exhibition, 'Object Lessons' will be shown at Gewerbemuseum Winterthur (CH) until October 1, 2017.