on March 28, 2007
This wonderful museum of social/cultural history or “Museum of Things that Never Pass” is situated in a group of attractive 14th Century almshouses surrounding a lovely courtyard. The first few rooms look at subjects such as birth, marriage, education, and death in the late 19th/early 20th centuries exploring the rituals surrounding them and, in particular, the religious attitudes prevalent at the time, the latter touching on such themes as sexuality and the place of women in society. There are detailed information sheets in each room, available in a number of languages, and though the exhibits themselves are not labelled in English this really doesn’t matter as the information sheets give such good background information. The next rooms look at more communal aspects of society such as café culture, sport, and entertainment. Exhibits include costumes, toys, household items, musical instruments, photographs, and posters, plus some very individual objects such as talismans given to pregnant women and nursing Mothers to protect themselves and their children at a time when birth was a dangerous procedure and early infancy a difficult time.Across the courtyard rooms traditional shops such as the pharmacy, barber shop, bakery and, our favourite, the sweet shop are reconstructed. The latter, with a little booklet describing the different styles of traditional sweets made in Belgian, their names and significance – many of which are still made and can be seen on sale in the chocolate shops outside – took me back to my own childhood of ‘penny bits’ and the excitement of jars and jars of colourful, tempting boiled sweets, and candies.In the latter part of the museum are rooms decorated in the style of 1950s to 1970s with, again, a selection of household items, toys, etc. of the period. There was great excitement when one of the display cases was found to contain original Star Wars Trading Cards and I also felt quite wistful gazing on the same kind of plate-warmer I remember gracing our dinner tables in the early '70s. There are also a room of wonderful home movies on a variety of subjects such as weddings, days out, conformations, meals, etc. acting as a kind of moving commentary on what you’ve seen before.The museum reminded me a lot of another museum of social history, the Castle Museum in York, and like that museum I found myself fascinated by the ordinary yet remarkable minutiae of everyday life, how some of it changes and some remains the same as the years pass.
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