Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/643

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
619
MUSEUMS OF HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS.

vivals of primitive times is exerted in preserving the objects themselves as well as the recollection of them, for future study. Thus are explained the origin and growth of ethnological museums, of which the one in Berlin is one of the best specimens.

The second circumstance that has determined with hardly less force the direction of late research is the shaping of archæology into a real science of prehistory. The growing interest in the European states in collecting the antiquities of the country, with the activity of Danish and Swedish students and the co-operation of several German investigators, have been the means of introducing general order and chronological consistency into this previously chaotic domain. The discovery of the Swiss pile-dwellings kindled zeal in the study through all Europe; and prehistoric museums are now among the institutions in the completeness of which each nation has a peculiar pride.

In this study, out of the graves and dwellings of our ancestors, is unfolding before us a new picture of the growth of human civilization; and we observe with surprise and wonder how it serves as a complement to the conception supplied by the view of the development of savages, so that one supplements the other. We look at our ancestors themselves as they stood in their day where savages are now.

Art-history proper is preceded by the history of labor; a long story, that began in the farthest primeval time, is still continuing, and is destined to continue ever. There is no boundary-line between the two, for no man can say where art begins, or toil for daily living ends. Art proceeds out of the labor of the day, as a flower from a bud. History and prehistory are only outwardly separate, while inwardly they are undistinguishable. As prehistory survives in the present savages, so likewise prehistoric traditions pass over into the lives of civilized peoples. The recovery and preservation of these traditions is a not less important aid to the understanding of civilization than prehistory itself; for they furnish the threads by which we can trace the connection of the past and the present in immediate sequence.

The connections of the oldest traditions are afforded first by language and legends, for the study of which no museums are required. Next to these in value are material objects, particularly useful ones, with which are associated antique designs and mythic—sometimes superstitious—meanings, and which also in their forms, decorations, and applications give very definite views of their age. It is the purpose of the projected museum of costumes and household goods to collect these objects—not the only purpose, for there are many stages in the historical development of peoples which have left their traces in dress and furnishings, but the principal one. A museum of costumes and household