The toaster, the hair dryer and the vacuum cleaner

The telephone and the vacuum cleaner.

The telephone and the vacuum cleaner.

What do these things have in common? Apart from the fact that they are all pretty ubiquitous electrical domestic appliances, they were all at Lotherton Hall to be handled and marvelled at (“it’s really heavy!”) by the young visitors to Old Science Week today. Some of these items were borrowed from Artemis, Leeds City Council’s artefacts loan service, by Dee Matthews, Lotherton Hall’s Learning and Access Officer, and we showed them to the children, encouraging them to work out what the less obvious ones were and compare them to their modern day equivalents.

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The surprisingly heavy hair dryer.

The hair dryer and the vacuum cleaner were fairly obvious, but the old toaster was slightly more problematic; on first guess it was usually identified as a heater. The advantage of using objects to engage with the idea of ‘old science’ is it can offer something to all visitors, and it encouraged all sorts of responses from curiosity to sharing stories. The objects will be at Lotherton until Thursday, and we will be encouraging children to think about how they use electricity at home, and what life would be like without it.

DSC00497At the same time, children can also participate in craft activities. Today this meant colouring in or making ice creams out of paper, cotton wool balls and lolly sticks – to connect in with the old ice cream maker we had on display, nearly always the most difficult object to work out – not to mention fascinating discussions about Disneyland and lightsabres. Over the next few days, other activities will include making paper lanterns, to tie in with the history of electric light at Lotherton Hall, and using plastic cups and string to make telephones.

And if these are conducted with more exciting conversations about Star Wars and My Little Pony, then so much the better.