Object: Fan

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Folding Fan
20th Century
Materials: Wood, Paper, Ink

Various cultures around the world have used handheld fans throughout the centuries. However, in Asia they are also important artifacts that are found in nearly all aspects of culture, from entertainment to art and even military use. This particular object is a Japanese folding fan that features a seascape and image of Mount Fuji (foo-jee).

What makes a Japanese folding fan unique?

Painted fan, gold and color on wood(Japanese cypress) folding fan, height about 30cm wide about 45cm, late 12th century, Heian Period, Itsukushima Shrine, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima, Japan. Via: Wikimedia Commons

Painted fan, gold and color on wood(Japanese cypress) folding fan, height about 30cm wide about 45cm, late 12th century, Heian Period, Itsukushima Shrine, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima, Japan. Via: Wikimedia Commons

The handheld Japanese folding fan, or sensu (sehn-soo), came about in Kyoto during the Heian period of Japan. Often called Japan’s Golden Age, the Heian period spanned hundreds of years of relative peace for the country that allowed for a greater development of the arts and poetry. The Heian period is also when the Tale of Genji was written by Murasaki Shikibu, and today many scholars believe it to be the first novel in the world! During this time, handheld folding fans were invented in Japan and became popular with the Japanese Imperial Court. Over time the Japanese folding fan has evolved as an integral piece of Japanese culture.

What are/were Japanese folding fans used for?

Japanese folding fans have served various functions over the centuries. Of course, they were used as most fans are used: to help keep someone cool! In Japan, the summers and rainy seasons can be very hot and humid. For this reason, Japanese folding fans are very popular accessories at outdoor festivals and places without air conditioning such as ryokan (ree-yo-kahn)—traditional Japanese homes and hotels. Historically, Japanese folding fans were also important because they were used to write notes and communicate with others via letters and poetry on the fans (paper was an expensive commodity back then, so nothing was wasted.) Large, colorful fans were used to decorate the homes of those that could afford them, and the Japanese military even used colorful fans as signaling flags! Japanese folding fans are also used in many forms of traditional Japanese ceremonies and entertainment such as the Japanese Tea Ceremony and kabuki (kah-boo-kee) theater. Over time, people decided to decorate their fans, and the practice led to a vibrant artist market specifically for such. This Japanese folding fan at the Institute of Texan Cultures is vibrantly printed with a scene of the ocean in front of Mount Fuji.

What is Mount Fuji?

Mount Fuji— also known as Fujisan (foo-jee-sahn) in Japanese—is the tallest natural geologic formation in Japan. It stands 12,380 feet tall, and even though it’s called a mountain, Mount Fuji is actually an active volcano! One of the most famous symbols of Japan, Mount Fuji is only about sixty miles away from Japan’s capital city Tokyo. Mount Fuji is arguably Japan’s most popular tourist destination for international and domestic tourists alike. However, the popular significance of Mount Fuji is not a modern phenomenon.

Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha. Image via: Wikimedia Commons.

Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha. Image via: Wikimedia Commons.

Over millennia, Mount Fuji has also been seen as a sacred place within the Japanese religion of Shinto. Shintoism places great importance on the various spirits and gods, also known as kami (kah-mee), that are believed to inhabit everything within the natural world. Mount Fuji features many Shinto shrines, with the most prominent being the Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha at the base of the Mount Fuji hiking trail. It’s been said that many famous and important people in Japanese history such as Minamoto Yoritomo, Hojo Yoshitoki and Tokugawa Ieyasu have traveled there and prayed to the gods at the base of Mount Fuji. Surrounded by a large forest and five lakes, one can easily see how Mount Fuji could inspire folding fan artists to try and capture the cooling image of Mount Fuji’s natural beauty!

Today, Japanese folding fans are very popular accessories that can serve multiple purposes—a prop in a play or dance; a means to keep the summer heat at bay; or even as a secret way to write letters! Regardless of use, today Japanese folding fans come in a wide range of colors and designs that further the popularity of Japanese culture. [Caira Spenrath, edited by Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Earhart, H. Byron. Mount Fuji: Icon of Japan. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 2011.

Hutt, Julia, and Hélène Alexander. Ōgi: A History of the Japanese Fan. London: Dauphin Pub, 1992.

Japan. The Empire of Japan Brief Sketch of the Geography, History and Constitution. Making of America. Philadelphia: W.P. Kildare, 1876.

Katō, Genchi. A Study of Shinto The Religion of the Japanese Nation. London: Routledge, 2011.

Perry, Ronald W., and Hirotada Hirose. Volcano Management in the United States and Japan. Greenwich, Conn: Jai Press, 1991.

Totman, Conrad D. A History of Japan. Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishers, 2000.

Waring, Rob. Mount Fuji. London: Heinle, Cengage Learning, 2009.

Object: Jar

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Pottery, Bowl
Artist(s): (Possibly) Maria and Julian Martinez
San Ildefonso Pueblo
New Mexico
Material: Ceramic

We have a pottery mystery here at the Institute of Texan Cultures. This piece of pottery was given to the museum with little historical background provided. After cataloging, photographing and inspecting its condition, a signature was found on the bottom and it appears to read: Marie + Julian. These are the names of one of the most famous producing pottery couples out of the southwest. They were masters of their craft, perfecting techniques that others today can only aspire to match. Yet, for being masters of their craft this pot is a bit underwhelming. It does not have the quality most commonly associated with Marie + Julian pottery. Thus, we must investigate further.


Map by Paula Giese, via http://www.kstrom.net

First we should start with what we know about the piece of pottery we have in the museum collection. In analyzing the piece we need to make note of as many details as we can, because no matter how big or small they could be a clue. Notice the color, shape and designs. Each of these characteristics can help identify where a piece of pottery came from. For example, the southwest is well known for its elaborately decorated pottery. Some pieces have distinctive designs, some are made of characteristic types of clay or finishes, others have symbolic shapes such as the wedding vase. The shape of a wedding vase is a symbol of unity, the unity between a man and a woman. It has a large round base for liquid and two spouts for the couple to drink from. This pot is 6 x 8.5 inches, black, with evidence of design work on the upper shoulder of the pot. The inside was left unfinished and there are signatures on the bottom of the pot that looks like Marie + Julian.

Maria and Julian Martinez are legendary names amongst potters, avid collectors and museums. Maria Martinez grew up in San Ildefonso Pueblo, just twenty-five miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. San Ildefonso has a rich history with evidence dating back to as early as 1300 A.D. The San Ildefonso people had many struggles over the years, from an uprising in 1696 to later colonial encounters that would spread illness through the pueblo, such as smallpox and pandemics like the 1918 Spanish flu. A once thriving population was diminished to only ninety by 1918. Arts and crafts became essential to the San Ildefonso economy soon after during the 1920s as they lacked the people and resources to maintain a thriving agricultural economy. The influence and attention that Maria and Julian’s pottery brought to the community helped build the reputation of an otherwise suffering San Ildefonso Pueblo.

Maria Martinez learned traditional pottery techniques of the area from her family as a young girl. Later in an effort to prefect her craft, she studied the excavated pottery from local archaeological sites. Maria alongside her husband Julian Martinez would spend their lives designing and teaching pottery to others. The two married in 1897. Maria and Julian Martinez were a perfect team. Maria focused on making the pieces of pottery themselves while Julian would paint and add detailed designs to the pieces. Julian Martinez is known for mastering the technique that creates the black on black finish you see on this object.

Maria Martinez…San Ildefonso Pueblo video:

The inscription seems like a dead giveaway that this piece of pottery must be a work of Marie and Julian Martinez. The signature even has the ‘+’ symbol that is typical of their pieces produced between 1925 and 1943. Yet, the history of Maria Martinez signing pottery is a long one. When Maria and Julian first began producing pottery they didn’t sign their work. Even after they did start signing their works,  the style of the signature would periodically change. Maria, while not officially changing her name, would sometimes sign her name “Marie.” It is said she was advised to do so because Marie was a more commonly recognized English name and Julian’s name was omitted entirely at first because pottery making was the work of women. As their work developed and gain notoriety they began to sign each piece ‘Marie + Julian’ and this would remain their signature until 1943 when Julian Martinez passed away. Marie surrounded by the support of her children would continue to make pottery with her daughter-in-law and son who took on the black on black design work of his father.

The following video can tell you more about Maria Martinez signatures.

Compared to many of the pieces of pottery by Maria and Julian Martinez the craftsmanship of this piece is lacking. The black on black design is barely recognizable at first glance and has a rough, raised and bubbled look to it. This might be the result of damage, or simply a “bad batch” made of lesser quality materials or due to a problem with the firing conditions. The signature indicates that it couldn’t be one of their earlier works, when they were still learning their craft, as those pieces would have been unsigned. Of course, due to the popularity and value of Maria pottery, this piece could also be an attempted forgery. Unfortunately we don’t always get all the details when objects are donated as museum artifacts, and many authentications must be based on expert opinions. Without further research, we can only say that this piece might have been made by Maria and Julian Martinez. What do you think? Is this a Maria Martinez original? Let us know by writing a comment below! [Trisha Taylor, edited by Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

Additional Resources:

C. Norris Millington. Modern Indian Pottery. The American Magazine of Art Vol. 24, No. 6 (JUNE 1932) , pp. 449-454.

Cody Hartley. Maria Martinez, Industrial Designer. IA. The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology . Vol. 34, No. 1/2, IA IN ART (2008) , pp. 73-86. Society for Industrial Archeology.

F. W. Putnam. Archeological Frauds. Science . Vol. 1, No. 4 (Mar. 2, 1883) , p. 99. American Association for the Advancement of Science.

L. P. Gratacap. An Archeological Fraud. Science . Vol. 8, No. 196 (Nov. 5, 1886) , pp. 403-404. American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Object: Compass


Compass replica
Date: Unknown
Origin: American
Material: Wood, Iron and Ceramic

Exploration is how many countries were born, without exploration we would not have the United States, we would not have the technologies, foods or even cultures that we experience today. Yet, every good explorer needs tools to help them navigate across the worlds’ terrain or vast seas. At the very least an explorer should know which direction they are going, and the compass was one of the first tools created to help give us direction. This replica compass has a small cup on a wooden base, along with an iron and wood crosspiece. This compass design is used by filling the cup with water and floating the wood and iron crosspiece in the water. The iron, if magnetized, will be pulled toward the north. Rubbing it with a magnet or lodestone can temporarily magnetize the iron or any other metals.

Instructions for making your own homemade compass can be found here, and videos teaching you more about magnetism and compasses can be found here.

The lodestone is a naturally occurring stone with magnetic properties. Suspending the lodestone from a string or floating it on a piece of wood allowed it to move toward the northern magnetic pole, the north, because of its magnetic properties. How the lodestone itself is created is still debated. One theory suggests that lightning magnetizes the stones. Evidence to support such claims is that lodestones are often found near the earth’s surface, where lightning would be able to reach them. The origin of the name lodestone comes from Middle English, lode meaning way or course. Thus, the literal translation gives us the way or course stone, used by early mariners to show them the way.

Learn more about the lodestone and its mysterious power from this short video:

Before the compass the stars in our solar system were the main tools used to identify north, south, east and west. With the sun rising and setting the same way each day and stars mapping out what we today call constellations, a pattern was formed and directions were set. Directions, before the compass, were based on landmarks, such as a tall mountain or common streams. Some even claim that these early ways of giving directions is how Europe got its name, from the Phoenician word Ereb, meaning ‘toward the setting sun’. As the business of trade was important to many counties, devising a way to determine direction was crucial. It is not known for certain when the first compass was discovered, but the Chinese were amongst the first to write about the compass. With the discovery of the lodestone we find evidence of the earliest directional tools. Interestingly enough,  early Europeans thought they were being pointed north, meanwhile the Chinese, using early compass technology, thought they were being directed south. This leads us to another confusion at hand, the moving north.

Movement of the magnetic north pole from 1600 to 2000. During the period of the great northwest passage expeditions, the pole moved slowly through that very region. Via: Truls Lynne Hansen Tromsø Geophysical Observatory - University of Tromsø

Movement of the magnetic north pole from 1600 to 2000. During the period of the great northwest passage expeditions, the pole moved slowly through that very region. Via: Truls Lynne Hansen
Tromsø Geophysical Observatory – University of Tromsø

Now the north isn’t actually moving, but the magnetic north is, which is the direction that a compass leads you. Our magnetic north is shifting because it uses magnetic properties from the magnetic field of the earth. As the earth’s hot liquid core shifts it sends out electrical currents that make up the earth’s magnetic field and this changes the location of our magnetic north. It is still accurate for general direction but the compass can’t lead you to the geographical north pole. The geographical north, also often referred to as the ‘true’ north, is a fixed point in our Northern hemisphere. It is believed that mariners, most often our earliest known compass using explorers, were the first to notice the deviation between the true north and magnetic north. Thus, by the 1500s we had substantial mapping of the earth’s magnetic field, but it was later explorer John Ross, along with his nephew James Clark Ross, that would first locate the magnetic north pole.

Geologists have watched the magnetic north travel ever since, through traces of paleo-geomagnetism, which is just a long word for the study of the history of earth’s magnetic field found in rocks and minerals. They found that the magnetic poles of the earth have actually traded places several times over thousands of years. So the north we see on the compass today was once actually the southern magnetic pole, but the poles will switch again, so keep an eye on your compass. [Trisha Taylor, edited by Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Gillian M. Turner. North Pole, South Pole: The Epic Quest to Solve the Great Mystery of Earth’s Magnetism. New York, NY: The Experiment, 2011. 

James Clark Ross. On the Position of the North Magnetic Pole. .Vol. 124, (1834) , pp. 47-52. The Royal Society.

Jordan Howard Sobel . Kant’s Compass. Erkenntnis (1975-).Vol. 46, No. 3 (May, 1997) , pp. 365-392. Springer.

R. Glenn Madill. The Search for the North Magnetic Pole Arctic. Vol. 1, No. 1 (Spring, 1948) , pp. 8-18. Arctic Institute of North America.

Roald Amundsen. A Proposed Expedition to the North Magnetic Pole. The Geographical Journal .Vol. 19, No. 4 (Apr., 1902) , pp. 484-489. The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers).

Photo quiz

The answer to last month’s quiz is…


Exhibit mounts!

Object: Passport

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United Kingdom
Materials: Paper

With the United States often being called the ‘Melting Pot’ of the world, Texas could certainly be called the ‘Melting Pot’ of the United States! For years people from all over the world have immigrated to Texas in search of a better life, granting Texas a regional and state-wide diversity one would be hard to find anywhere else.

Map via: World Easy Guides

Map via: World Easy Guides

Once people made the choice to get to the United States, how would they do so? Traveling from one country to another wasn’t always as easy as it is today, but international traveler’s need for a passport has effectively remained the same for over one hundred years. This passport in the Institute of Texan Culture’s collection is a British passport that once belonged to a young 15-year old boy from Manchester, England named Harry Finkel.

What is a passport?

By definition, a passport is a government document that identifies the citizenship of the holder and allows the holder to travel to foreign countries with the continued protection of the country that issued it. For instance, if you hold a passport from the United States of America, you are globally recognized as a U.S. citizen and allowed to travel to any country that allows U.S. citizens to visit. If you were to get into trouble, you could call a U.S. Embassy that would work on your behalf to assist you as an American citizen. This artifact was issued by Great Britain in 1920 to Harry Finkel, and because of that Harry was allowed to travel to the United States as a recognized citizen of Great Britain.

What do passports look like?

Depending on the country, passports vary in color and design. Sometimes, the design and color of a passport can change as years go by! For example, this English passport from 1920 has a dark blue cover with the British Coat of Arms in gold front and center. Today in 2015, passports from the United Kingdom (which contains England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) have a red color with a much different seal than the one from 1920.

Passports are important because they serve as an important source of international identification. As a sign of this importance a passport a person’s full name, address, birth date, age and picture are shown so that countries know who is traveling in or out of said countries. Some countries even give a short description of the passport holder. Passports also have many pages that allow for other countries to stamp, which often shows when a person entered or left the country.

Does a passport mean you can go live in a country that you’re visiting?

Unfortunately in the United States and other parts of the world, in order to travel to a country with the intent to live there a person would need more than just their passport.

When a passport is stamped, the country that stamped the passport is allowing a person to visit—not to stay permanently. When Harry Finkel and his family moved to Texas in 1923, they needed separate documents issued by the United States that allowed them to stay long enough to pursue American citizenship. Usually this is granted through a visa or a permanent resident card (also now known as a Green Card in the US because today, it’s green!)

Did Harry Finkel and his family immigrate to Texas permanently?

2014_3_16bThey sure did! Even though Harry Finkel was born in England, his mother and father were Lithuanian and Russian Jewish immigrants who had moved to England in search of a better life. In 1923, Harry Finkel and his family decided to move to the town of Luling, Texas (not far from San Antonio!) and opened up a dry goods store. Although the store closed in the 1960’s, Harry Finkel’s family greatly contributed to the prosperity and culture of a small Texas town.

If you’d like to learn more about the Finkel family in Luling, Texas, the Institute of Southern Jewish Life talks about them and their community here.

How can I get a passport?

If you’re interested in getting a passport, the U.S. Department of State has information on how you can apply here.[Caira Spenrath, edited by Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Bridges, Anne C. Huff. Do You Remember?: Early Days in Luling Texas. [Luling? Tex.]: [publisher not identified], 1967.

Kaplan, Inc. Becoming a US Citizen: Understanding the Naturalization Process. New York: Kaplan Pub, 2006.

Leavitt, Amie Jane. US Laws of Citizenship. 2014.

Ornish, Natalie, and Sara Alpern. Pioneer Jewish Texans. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2011.

Schulte, Jörg, Olga Tabachnikova, and Peter Wagstaff. The Russian Jewish Diaspora and European Culture, 1917-1937. Leiden: BRILL, 2012.

University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio. The Jewish Texans. San Antonio, Tex: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio, 1996.

Don’t forget your Texas FolkLife Festival tickets!


Festival Dates and Hours

Saturday, June 13            11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Sunday, June 14              Noon – 7 p.m.

Festival Ticket Pricing

Adult (13 )             $10 in advance*      $12 at the gate
Child (6-12)            $5 in advance*        $5 at the gate
Children 5 and under are FREE
Group sales 10 adult tickets in advance  $8 each.
*There may be convenience fees for advance purchase at some locations and online.

Advance tickets also available at HEB Stores, Ft. Sam Houston, Lackland AFB, Randolph AFB and the ITC Store and online at texasfolklifefestival.org. Availability date to be announced.
Tickets to this weekend’s festival can also be purchased HERE!

Other Festival Info


Object: Ketubah

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Marriage Certificate (Ketubah)
Materials: Animal Parchment, Ink

In many cultures around the world, marriage is a major life event that celebrates the legal and/or spiritual union of two people. Marriage ceremonies have been around since ancient times, but today weddings have increasingly become large themed parties with elaborate decorations, formal dresses, and a gathering of friends and family. However, if you are the one getting married, a key component of the wedding day would be having your marriage certificate signed. For people of Jewish faith, this marriage certificate or ketubah (keh-too-buh) is not just an essential part of the wedding day, but an important object throughout their marriage.

What is a ketubah?

Photo of rabbi reading a katubah by Jenna Leigh Weddings, via http://thebigfatjewishwedding.com

A ketubah is a key component of a Jewish wedding ceremony, similar to a certificate of marriage used for legally documenting the union with the government. However, in Judaism the ketubah is more than that— by definition, the ketubah is a binding religious document that outlines and details the husband’s marital obligations to his wife. Usually written in Aramaic (an ancient language very closely related to Hebrew), the ketubah is read out loud by a scholar of the Torah such as a rabbi during the marriage ceremony, after the exchanging of rings. After the ketubah is read, it is handed to the groom who presents it to the bride. The ketubah is placed in a safe place and is regarded as an integral part of the couple’s married life.

What are the groom’s obligations?

The ketubah usually states what the groom must provide for his bride for the duration of their lives together: things like food, shelter, protection, and love. Some ketubahs also state the groom’s intentions of fidelity. Another key component of a ketubah is the amount of money that the wife is to receive if the couple separate or the groom passes away. In ancient times, the ketubah was a legal contract that was strictly enforced. Today, in some countries such as Israel, the ketubah is still a legally-binding contract. In places such as Europe or North America however, a ketubah is more of a symbolic document. Even though the ketubah is not always considered a legal document in modern times, for Jewish couples who observe this tradition, the ketubah is a beautifully decorated reminder of their commitment to each other.

 What does a ketubah look like?

Ketuba from Yeman. Taken from The Ketubot Collection of the National Library of Israel San’a, Yemen, 1794

Traditional ketubah are usually written in ink on materials made of parchment paper or rolled animal hides. Today ketubah are made out of many types of materials, even stained glass!

Kehtubah also can be written in a number of languages. In ketubah that are produced today, there is often an ornate front written in Aramaic or Hebrew with a less decorative back, often in the couple’s native language. Ketubah also have spaces where the date, couple’s names and the signatures of witnesses are to be written. This particular ketubah at the Institute of Texan Cultures is very ornate, with printed floral elements and grand columns. Today, ketubah can be manufactured or created by hand—in both cases, the intricate designs and symbolism behind those designs become a work of art. Popular images include biblical scenes and images of nature, and geometric patterns. Some modern ketubah are even created with a variety of art media—photographs, watercolors, and lace! [Caira Spenrath, edited by Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Davidovitch, David. The Ketuba: Jewish Marriage Contracts Through the Ages. New York, N.Y.: Adama Books, 1985.

Eis, Ruth. Ketubah: An Exhibition of Illuminated Jewish Marriage Contracts, Rings, Amulets & Bridal Gifts from Oriental and European Communities. Berkeley, Calif: Judah L. Magnes Memorial Museum, 1969.

Hamline University. The Ketuba. An Exhibition of Jewish Marriage Contracts. St. Paul, Minnesota: Hamline University, 1975.

Monger, George. Marriage Customs of the World An Encyclopedia of Dating Customs and Wedding Traditions. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO, 2013.

Object: Barometer

I-0430a (6)

Chelsea Clocks Company
20th Century
Material: Metal

It’s important to keep track of the weather. The weather can have a dramatic impact on our material needs such as food, clothing and building materials. These are our absolute basic necessities and depending on where you live, your environment will provide you different resources. The hot summers of Texas often leave us with a low water supply, in drought, so watching when the rains will come can help us manage our crops so we can have food on the table and protect our homes.

This Holosteric Barometer can help you predict if you should bring a raincoat or pack the sunscreen when you leave the house.  The Chelsea Clock Company made this particular barometer. Founded in 1897 and named after Chelsea, Massachusetts, Chelsea Clocks Company hit it big in the early 1900s when the Navy purchased over a hundred hand-crafted ship bell clocks for their fleet. After this initial purchase, every branch of the military was outfitted with Chelsea clocks; you can still find them on mantels in the White House today.

Check out this video on the Chelsea Clock Company – http://video.pbs.org/video/2230714713/

Chelsea Clocks outfitted many Navel ships with this holosteric barometer because it measures the pressure of the air by weighing it. Air gets its weight from water that the barometer records in millibars. What this mean is as the air releases moisture, or holds in moisture, the barometer can give a reading from very dry to stormy. If there is a lot of moisture in the air, your barometer will read rainy or stormy. In the course of a day you normally won’t see the barometer needle move very much, with only a slight change caused by the transition from morning to evening. The cooler over-night temperatures release moisture from the air; we see this as dew on our grass in the morning, making the air lighter. Heat from the sun during the daytime hours pulls moisture into the air by the process of evaporation, making the air heavier and moving the needle of the barometer.

Statue of Evangelista Torricelli, Photo via: Sailko, Wikimedia Commons

Statue of Evangelista Torricelli, Photo via: Sailko, Wikimedia Commons

In 1860 Paul Naudet & CIE of Paris applied the term holosteric to the barometer. Holosteric simply means without liquid. The first accurately functioning barometer developed in 1643 by Evangelista Toricelli used mercury to measure the pressure change. The holosteric barometer eliminated the need for mercury. Paul Naudet placed a mechanical piece to read pressure change into the barometer. The holosteric barometer uses a thin piece of metal that flexes as the pressure changes and moves the needle of the barometer. The thin piece of metal is called a diaphragm. The barometer came a long was to become holosteric. When Toricelli first began discussing measuring the weight of air he was very controversial. His opinions clashed with other great thinkers of the time such as Galileo who made many foundational discoveries, such as the thermometer Galileo’s theory in 1612 was that we all lived without pressures because air doesn’t weigh anything. Galileo was sure that air must not weigh anything because we walk freely within it, just as a fish can swim freely in the ocean. Toricelli was not convinced by this, he believed that air was more like a sponge and its weight came from the water it soaked up in the atmosphere, so Toricelli developed the barometer to measure that weight. He suggested that there were forces of pressure all around us, all of the time. Along with the aid of many others experiments were conducted and results gave way to the barometer.

Try creating your own barometer and start tracking the weather in your area. What kind of environment are you living in? [Trisha Taylor, edited by Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

Additional Sources:

Arthur M’Gwire. Description of a Self-Registering Barometer. The Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy .Vol. 4, (1790 – 1792) , pp. 141-143. Royal Irish Academy.

Isis. Vol. 54, No. 1 (Mar., 1963), pp. 11-28. Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of The History of Science Society.

On the Rise and Fall of Mercury in the Barometer. The Dublin Penny Journal
Vol. 2, No. 58 (Aug. 10, 1833) , pp. 47-48. Dublin Penny Journal.

Middleton, W. E. Knowles. The History of the Barometer. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1964.

Object: Hearing Aid

2012_6_7 (1)

Hearing Aid
Date: 19th Century
Material: Metal and Enamel

Hearing aid technologies have a long history, going nearly as far as deaf culture and community itself. Hearing technologies over time have empowered the deaf culture in the fight to be recognized as able citizens, not individuals with a disability. As one might guess much of the culture and identity of the deaf community is centered on language, but it is also focused on shared knowledge and a large support system. The deaf community is more than a group of non-hearing individuals; it is made up of people who share a history, language and struggle, which is an integral part of cultural development.


London Dome IMAGE CREDIT: OTICON, ERIKSHOLM MUSEUM Via: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/soundandfury/cochlear/cipop/popup4.html

This object is very similar to the early London Dome Ear trumpet or, as it was also known, the Grand Opera Dome (1850-1880s). This device got its name because of their popularity at the opera. The dome shape of the piece made them well equipped to pick up voice frequencies. It is a simple hearing device, with a large thin metal dome attached to a smaller metal tube that would fit into the user’s ear. Struggles for the non-hearing to be seen as normal in the eyes of a hearing society were evident in many of the hearing aid technologies throughout history.

In the earliest written records we find philosophers and saints giving the first perspectives on individuals who could not hear, and they felt they were inherently inferior to those who could hear. This notion was based on the idea that the deaf could not be properly educated because they lacked language. In the deaf culture’s formative years they were cast out of religious institutions because they were thought to be under the punishment of God and without language could not learn about faith. It was not until Saint Augustine that the deaf community was recognized as having the foundations of language. He claimed that their body movements and gestures could be considered language and thus they could learn about faith and find salvation.

St. Augustine by Sandro Botticelli

St. Augustine by Sandro Botticelli

Saint Augustine opened the door for the individuals with a severe hearing loss to be recognized as part of society and by the 6th century we saw physicians in Europe trying to ‘cure’ the deaf. It wasn’t until the 16th Century that schools for the deaf were developed. Doctors realized it was not something that could be ‘cured’ because being deaf is not always related to illness. These schools would become the foundations of modern deaf culture. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet in the 1800s traveled to Europe to learn about deaf education, after his to return to the United States he established the American School for the Deaf. His son Edward Miner Gallaudet would follow in his father’s footstep giving deaf culture their first university, Gallaudet University.

Over time we see technologies develop from the cumbersome ear trumpets of the 1700s to royal armchairs in Europe equipped with devices to amplify sound for whoever was occupying the chair. There were even end tables with vases or urns disguising amplifying technologies. Over time, with the drive to no longer be immediately recognized as non-hearing, technologies became smaller and more easily disguised. Developers tried everything, even fitting devices to glasses and shaping earpieces to fit directly into the ear canal, which leaves us with today’s most powerful and controversial hearing aid technology, the cochlear implant.

The cochlear implant is the most recent hearing aid technology developed and it has by far caused the most heated debate in the deaf community since its inception. This is an electronic device that is surgically placed under the skull flesh behind the ear. An external portion is attached and connects to the implant using a magnet. The external portion allows the individual to control the sound volume or turn the device on and off. For some this device gives them the opportunity to be a part of the hearing community, as well as the deaf community. Parents with children who are born with a severe hearing loss are encouraged to consider the implant at an early age so as the child matures they learn how to hear and speak. Often individuals who get the implant later in life find speaking to be a challenge, as they have to develop the muscles to speak as well as learning the language itself. The documentary ‘Sound and Fury’ (2000) outlines the controversy of the cochlear implant as it follow a family as they investigate the benefits and cultural consequences of this new technology. The deaf culture has overcome many struggles but must continue educating others to build an understanding of what it means to be deaf and help preserve their culture. [Trisha Taylor, edited by Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

Video clips from the documentary ‘Sound and Fury’ can be seen here.

Additional Resources:

Bruce Kent; Sandra Smith. They Only See It When the Sun Shines in My Ears: Exploring Perceptions of Adolescent Hearing Aid Users. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. Vol. 11, No. 4  (FALL 2006), pp. 461-476. Oxford University Press.

P. Prinsley; G. J. Madden; D. J. Premachandra. Provision Of Hearing AIDS. British Medical Journal, Vol. 299, No. 6705  (Oct. 14, 1989), p. 979. BMJ.

Supply Of Hearing-Aids. The British Medical Journal. Vol. 2, No. 4729, Educational Number  (Aug. 25, 1951), pp. 70-71. BMJ.

T R. Scott Stevenson. The Working Of A Hearing-Aid Clinic. The British Medical Journal. Vol. 1, No. 4559  (May 22, 1948), pp. 990-992. BMJ.

Value Of Hearing-Aids. The British Medical Journal. Vol. 2, No. 4674  (Aug. 5, 1950), pp. 364-365. BMJ.

44th Annual Texas FolkLife Festival…coming soon!

Print The Texas FolkLife Festival is just around the corner now, be sure to save the dates (June 13th and 14th)! More information about the event, VIA park & ride services, tickets, and schedules can be found at the Institute of Texan Cultures website. Hope to see you there!

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