Our collection contains many household items and tools. These objects give historians a look into the daily lives of people in the past. While history is often taught as a series of defining events, daily routines can show us more about society at any given time. Household items are also often the only glimpse into the lives of people traditionally not given a voice in the historic record. Women, children, and domestic servants spent much of their time in the home, but did not leave as many written records as men did. Household objects can therefore be used to give us an understanding into their experiences.
Housework, including kitchen work, was traditionally called the “Woman’s sphere.” Although it has historically been undervalued, housework was and is work, and often very physically demanding, especially before modern conveniences. In the very early days of Auburn’s settlement, there were few social distinctions among women. Women of all classes worked hard in the home; making their own candles, carding and spinning wool, and working in the kitchen. Food was largely grown and prepared at home. Clothes washing was done by hand. Sweeping and rug beating were common activities before the vacuum cleaner. Think about having to haul water out of a well and carry it to the house every time you needed it. Try out the yoke and imagine using it to carry buckets of water.
Historically the kitchen was a purely utilitarian room. It was placed far from the public rooms of the house and used solely to produce meals. Today however, the kitchen is seen as the heart of the home, and is used as a place to gather and socialize. Food preparation is celebrated and food is the easiest way for most people to identify with their cultural heritage.
Think about your family traditions. How many of these involve food? Does your family have a specific recipe for special occasions? When you smell a certain food, does it bring back memories?