Contents: Introduction plenary Session Abstracts: Towards Museums of the Future

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Women and Technology in Denmark:

When Food Was Frozen and Washing Turned into a Game

From scientific analysis to actual exhibitions and guided tours at the Danish Museum of Electricity

Jytte Thorndahl, Danish Museum of Electricity, Bjerringbro, Denmark
Introduction: Museums of Technology are most certainly also for women. We must tell them stories that they can relate to and show the effects of technology on daily life. After the Second World War the Danish housewives became the technological specialists of the home. How did this happen? How did it influence the daily work and routines of the housewives of today?

Outline of the scientific project: Danish households in the countryside very quickly adapted the technology of deep-freezing food. From 1946 to 1954 more than 80% of Danish farming households had access to freezing facilities mostly in the form of a shared little freezing-house owned jointly by several households in the community, or in the form of privately owned freezers. The technology of freezing replaced the traditional but tedious methods of salting, smoking or other long-time preserving methods for keeping meat, vegetables and fruit. In towns and cities freezing was not adopted, small iceboxes or refrigerators could be useful, shops were just round the corner and daily shopping was possible. In towns housewives considered the freezer a wide open, empty and accusing monster telling about the wives lacking abilities to be a proper housewife. Not until the supermarkets offered three bags of frozen grocery for the price of two, was the freezer adapted in the city. – In the city the idea of common washing facilities spread quickly especially at the outskirts of the city –which after the Second World War very quickly turned into suburban housing areas with single family houses and housing facilities with blocks of flats. In the old housing areas in the middle of the city, full-time housewives carried on with the tradition of washing once a month, as they did for a long period in the countryside.

How to present the findings at the museum: We have an open-air section of the museum showing household utensils from different periods. We are planning to rebuild a small freezing house and setting up a communal washing house. Specific guided tours for school classes and housewives are offered on the subject of the role of the Danish housewives during the 20th century. The guided tours tell a story, which mix cultural history, anthropology and history of technology.

Conclusions: Tell the children housewives a story they can relate to and make them reflect at their own lives today.

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