The Museum of Iron in Grodno
There is a unique museum in Belarus that has no analogues in other regions. Rare irons are kept in several exhibition halls! They all differ in weight, size and purpose. The smallest ones are used for laceworks and very heavy – for thick cloths; there are devices of delicate design and rather coarse ones; ones are made of wood and brass; gas or spirit-based – one can find anything there. All showpieces were gathered by the citizens of Grodno.
Every year the exhibition is being added to with new showpieces. Every collector wills to “boast” his unique antiquities, so they give them with pleasure to the exhibition. According to the founder of the unusual museum Alexander Shpakovsky, irons have been collected fr om all corners of the world; some devices have been specially brought from America, Asia and Europe.
We all used to see an iron in its common form with a slightly pointed tip. So visitors of the museum feel a rather natural surprise when they see an iron in the form of a frying-pan. It is an ordinary English device for ironing clothes that was filled with hot coal and then it could iron. An exemplar from India is of great interest, such are still used in this far country. It presents a “small” iron 15 kg weigh and sometimes their weight reaches 25 kg! So it is not surprising that only men iron in India.
But Europeans decided to take care of the weak half of mankind and invented lighter irons. As earlier women of fashion liked lace and other thin cloths, special tiny irons were invented specially for them; they were able to iron even the smallest pleats. Near these showpieces, you can see spirit devices that were used by Americans. This is the principle of their work: an iron was filled with spirit before ironing, then it was lit, the device became hot and the work might be started. However, such exemplars could not get accustomed in places wh ere the attitude to strong alcohol was not so conservative.
English irons of the XIX century were rather dangerous. The thing is that in order to make them work, it was necessary to connect the device with a gas pipeline by means of a rubber hose – so a gas-jet appeared. Such unsafe devices often caused fire outbreaks, so it was agreed to stop using such devices.
With regard to the first electrical iron, it was invented in the USA in 1882. It is true that there were used instead of spirals. The electrical arcs often gave women an electric shock. There were even fatalities. However, the idea was very interesting and perspective, so scientists refined scrupulously a model of an electrical iron. Today every housewife has such an interpretation of this model.
In addition to the opportunity to watch the “living” history of development of devices for ironing, you can try to iron with different irons in Grodno museum. For example, you can learn the principle of work of a wooden iron by means of softening of linen cloth. However, it does not look like a modern iron: it is just a clothes-beater and a finned board. How could people make clothes napless without pleats by means of this?
Visit it sometime or other and you are sure to be pleasantly surprised because you cannot find such a museum anywhere in Belarus!