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Bruno Latour’s actor- network analysis or empirical philosophy is the inspiration for this study of the actor status of the milk containers, with a focus on bottles from the 1930s and cartons from the 1960s. The bottles of the 1930s were an important element in the implementation through school meals of new dietary regimes. In relation to the social hygiene programme, the bottle had agency, concretising and internalising hygiene, health and modernity. By the time the bottle was a common consumer good in the 1960s, it was no longer modern and conveyed other ideas. It was heavy for the housewife to carry and took a lot of room in the new, but small, fridges. It was a resource problem for the industry and the associated fat milk content was a health problem for the health authorities. The bottle was replaced by disposable cartons. The article explores the technologies, logics and networks the two objects were part of. How their materiality made a difference is central to the analysis. While glass demonstrated the dairy industry’s technology, the carton hid it and became rather a platform for nostalgic representation signifying back to nature and life in the country.
The article focuses on the museum as a place whereas knowledge is produced and discusses the role of objects in the establishing of new field of knowledge. The starting point is the work on fashionable dress at Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Oslo (Kunstindustrimuseet i Oslo) and the parade of dress exhibited there in November 1933. Fashionable dress were obtained from museums and private people across the country, documented and presented to the public as a living exhibition, with dance, parades and tableaux. With new studies of materiality as an inspiration, I explore the role clothing had in the museum’s effort to establish fashion and dress history as a new field of knowledge. I examine museological practices with clothing. I am especially concerned of these practices tendency to freeze precise meanings and relationships to clothing such that they could contribute to the larger work of creating history. I show how the museum established fashionable dress as so-called «museological facts» and I argue that the relations between clothes and body were central in that work. The museum was concerned to find the right bodies to display, disport and exhibit dress in ways which appealed to their contemporary visitors. At the same time, these bodies were to contribute to establishing dress as objects of knowledge within Decorative Arts and Design, with a specific social connection and correct esthetic expression.
In the 1940s and 1950s, the architects Bjarne Tøien and Sverre Pedersen drew up plans for, respectively, Lillestrøm and Strømmen, two urban developments on the outskirts of Oslo. Their plans have several similarities. One is a clear demarcation between residential, industrial and town center areas. The home was to be separated from industry and commerce, the family and recreation sheltered from business life. Small houses surrounded by gardens of equal size, green spaces and play areas symmetrically arranged with wide, straight streets and vistas, the low rise development was designed to give residents air, light and space while detailed regulation of colour and form was to make urban developments into beautiful and good local communities; the 20th century ideal of order, peace and harmony. These were the principles of urban planning in post war social-democratic Norway. It is argued in this article that the plans reflect a concept of «the good life» and the good community, particularly as regards family form, social equality and a gendered division of labour. The resulting urban developments concretised these values in a material world that could be mentally and physically formative for the community and the people who lived there. Thus, urban development had a potential to influence people’s social practice, materiality had a potential influence on people and their actions. It was not Bjarne Tøien and Sverre Pedersen who were the actors, but rather the houses, buildings, streets, railway stations and corner shops that operated in interaction with people around them.
How were gymnastic clubs used and conceived in differing gymnastic traditions? This question is the starting point for an examination of how objects, tools and the body interact. Thus the article is a contribution to a theoretical discussion about the meaning of materiality in historical analysis.
The source materials are handbooks on gymnastics from Germany, Norway, the USA and England from 1800 to today. The article tells the history of the club’s journey from India to Europe in the inter-war period. Rhythmic gymnastics from Germany after the First World War, Norwegian school gymnastics in the 1950s and martial sports in the 2000s are treated in their historical context. The question is whether a tool, the club, determines its use by virtue of its materiality, or to what extent varying context changes both the use and the understanding of the club. The article asks what clubs «do» to the body and human action and relates empirical evidence to different theoretical explanatory models. It is argued that clubs display an inherent resistance to arbitrary interpretation. Clubs encourage action, make possible new experiences and thus have a potential to create new meaning in interaction with a body in movement, which also sets thoughts in motion.
The article examines from a materiality perspective the phenomenon of child labour as experienced by boys and girls in the tobacco industry in Christiania around 1900 as related later in sixteen memoirs. The body is revealed to be the child’s capital and most important tool in work. In the interpretation of the relationship between the child’s body on the one hand and the physical requirements of work on the other, the experiences which are stored in the child’s body and relived and talked about later are brought to light. The children both went to school and worked, but the days in the factory were so long and so many that they left a clear imprint on the children’s bodies. Both at school and at work the children were subject to a severe discipline which taught them about expectations and demands. But the objects in their environment also «spoke» to the children of what was expected of them and where they were in the hierarchy of the workplace. The children learned by observing and copying, and they gained practical skills and experience-based knowledge at work. In interaction with adults, the children were included in the working community and they experienced that practical knowledge provided a basis for mastery and professional pride. At the factory the child became a work child.