chapter  10
12 Pages

In working condition

Though we tend to always refer to and recognize the past in its visual form, it can also be defined in terms of our other senses. It is possible to define a past in terms of the changing sounds or smells. Sound, smell, taste and touch are highly evocative senses and they add greatly both to the intensity and apparent 'reality' of any experience and to gaining a more comprehensive understanding of what the past was like. A steam train is a far more involving experience when you smell it, hear it and feel it thundering past. You also understand much better what it was for, how it worked, how people felt about it, when you see it motion. Working historic objects (objects performing their original function, usually moving mechanical objects) attempt to provide both this feeling and a greater level of understanding though intensifying the sensation by more fully informing the range of human senses. Working objects, rather than being just aesthetic entities, create an evocation of the past which provides an 'informative activity' for those experiencing (viewing, smelling or hearing) it. As described in Section 9.1, to appreciate the true meaning of an object it is important to be aware of the spirit and purpose of an object. For many objects which were designed to be working objects the 'context' of an object is to be active (e.g. in motion). Similarly, for working objects, the 'true nature' of the object only becomes fully evident when it is working,

thus the activity is informative. It is impossible to fully appreciate the nature of any musical instrument until it has been heard. The music (activity) is not random or meaningless, but it informs the viewer in an aesthetic sense, as well as making the purpose and form of the object more understandable. Therefore, working objects are not purely historic documents and aesthetic entities, but also 'informative activity' providers. This capacity does not relate to the physical structure of the object either as a historic document or an aesthetic entity, it only relates to the object in operation as it transforms from one state to another, thus it is definable as a third characteristic of an object, related purely to its activity as a working object.