As educators, we find that touchables are an invaluable tool when working with students of all ages. When visiting the Frick, students are often introduced to objects they do not recognize because they don’t use them in their everyday lives. Allowing students to handle an object while they discuss the item’s use and purpose makes the historic object less unfamiliar. There’s just something about handling a historic object—turning a crank or buttoning an old shoe—that strengthens our connections to and deepens our understanding of the past.
One of our favorite ways to use touchables is a game we call “History Mystery.” Students are presented with several objects from the past, and they attempt to guess the objects’ functions just by looking at and handling them. Each of these touchable objects match up with another object that serves as a clue to the historic object’s purpose. Try it with the photos below—touchable objects are on the left, with their matching clue on the right. Scroll to the bottom of the page for answers. Good luck!
1. Pillow fluffer: Rather than fluffing your pillows with your hands, you would hit the pillow with this tool to keep the pillow fluffed and maintaining its shape.
2. Glove stretcher: Leather gloves shrink when they get wet. After inserting the glove stretcher into one of the gloves’ fingers, you squeezed the handle, causing the other end to open and stretch the leather out to its original size.
3. Soap saver: Instead of throwing away pieces of soap when they got too small, you could put the soap pieces into the cage, and then swish the soap saver around in the dish water.