The word plastic means, more or less, “pliable” or “moldable.” Plastics are so pervasive in our lives that it’s hard to remember how recent they are. The first modern plastic was only invented in the 1850’s, and it wasn’t until a hundred years later, the 1950’s, that plastics were mass produced in sufficient quantities that they began to displace the materials humanity had always used before for its household objects. A trip through this living history museum brought that civilization-changing divide into focus.
Now, people on another continent can injection-mold our dolls, water pipes, cereal bowls, and toilet seats for us. We’re surrounded by cheap, colorful plastic; if you’re indoors, it’s a pretty good bet that you can reach out and touch something plastic right now. But almost within living memory, humanity had little or no plastic to work with. They were making what they needed out of natural materials, and they often were producing those items within their own communities.
They made things out of metal.
They made things out of wood and glass.
They made things out of natural fibers and leather.
And they made things out of ceramic.
Because so many of these materials were worked locally, complicated sets of tools were on display everywhere at this Bavarian museum. What we would expect to find hidden away in a factory, Bavarians of the old days might have right in their living rooms, like this cobbler, who had his workshop in his house. (I love the specially modified stool.)
Woodworking tools were everywhere. It brought into sharp focus for me just how valuable my woodcarver, Paul, was to the village that took him in in my werewolf story, By These Ten Bones.
To read my latest blog posts, please click on the “Green and Pleasant Land” logo at the top of this page. All photos taken in June, 2014, at the Museumsdorf Bayerischer Wald, Tittling, Germany. Photos and text copyright 2014 by Clare B. Dunkle.