People at tea in the Victorian Age. A way to show off social status.

Our current time is full of creativity and innovation. One area we see this is by sharing ideas of conservation, reuse and recycling to preserve and protect our precious metals and environment. This is not new really but seems to be a pattern in history. As people evolved throughout the centuries and in their societies, they found ways to improve their daily lives. Conservation seen progressively shows these changes. Each generation finds a problem that is likely to affect future generations and they set about to solve it. People used creative thinking and a bit of tinkering to provide solutions for theirs and future generations while at the same time preserving their heritage. They passed the information down and this is important because in our time when we struggle with something we look to the past to see what worked and what did not. We then discover starting points for new areas to consider. Still, it is interesting to gauge change over time by looking at how much ideas have evolved. This leads to the wonder of what kinds of things helped to form the ideas for change. Some would say that people of the past were unskilled or un-knowledgeable. This may be true in some cases and in others, it can be judging them because we fail to take into consideration of how people lived, their environment and how much or how little inspiration for ideas they might have had. The outcome just might be that people in the past were as smart as we are today, or even had a little more advanced intellect.

417 - Victorian Dresser Set with Brush, Mirror, cut glass Hair Receiver & Pin holder
Two containers pictured to the right were used to store hair from brushes and combs.

In the Victorian Era, it was common for conservation, re-use and recycle. Women and girls, for example, re-used their hair, fallen out in brushes and combs, to create beauty or for other household uses. Men repaired and rebuilt broken dishes or other items of daily use. People conserved, reused and recycled porcelain dinner plates carefully and tenderly mended them not by tape or glue (a modern convenience) but by stapling metal pieces into them thus holding them together. Men shaved broken areas to create a new pattern or look that was unique to each family. In the Victorian Age, uniqueness was a status symbol for which individuals and families could be proud.

Broken plate that is repaired using string and metal staples.

Like Nancy Feldbush, says in her published article in the monthly magazine of the Michigan Historical Society’s, Chronicle…“The next time you visit a museum with household items, keep an eye out for this wonderful historical sample of conservation at its “greenest.” (1)

I certainly will. I have seen plates like this before in museums, but I thought they were just preserved that way by museum staff. Now when I observe the plates I can imagine further what kind of status symbol it was for the family. I will wonder how much importance this piece was to the many lives that touched them.

Reference used:

(1) Nancy Feldbush, Historical Tidbits: A Riveting Tale of Conservation, ” in Chronicle: 37, no. 3 (Fall 2014) :10.