Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Did You Pick Out the Correct Answer for this Mystery Artifact?

I’m here again to let you know some information about an artifact from our collection. It’s last week’s mystery artifact and it looks like this:

We had some pretty good guesses: an egg mixer, a rug beater, a lightbulb changer…but this artifact is in fact a sort of seasonally appropriate artifact, as fall is about to start. It's an apple picker, or an "apple-picker basket." 

Maybe you’ve seen something like this before. If you’ve been to an apple orchard where they let you pick your own apples, they might offer you a tool that looks like this:

This one has a little piece of foam at the bottom for a safe place for your fruit to land.
With both the one seen above and our mystery artifact, you use it to pull apples or other tree-fruits from high branches. How do you do this? It’s pretty simple: you place the picker around the apple you’d like to pick and gently pull away from the tree. If the fruit is ripe enough, it should drop right into the basket of the fruit picker, and you can put it in your bag for safekeeping. 

There are other types of apple pickers, including this one, that allows you to clamp onto the fruit and twist it to get it to release from the branch. 

Also, there are varieties with a cloth bag instead of a wire basket, which allows for less bruising of the fruit when it drops. 

Most of these types of tools have very long handles so that someone can pick high up fruit from standing on the ground. What's strange is our example, the Mystery Artifact is actually not that long. We're not quite sure what that is. It's possible someone who owned this one added a shorter stick. Even though this wouldn't help them get fruit from the highest branches, it would definitely help with things that are out of reach, and perhaps even would help quite a bit when using a ladder.

Have you ever used one of these before? Does this make you wanna go out to your local orchard and pick apples? Let us know what you think about this mystery artifact, and stay tuned for a new one soon. Of course, you can always come in to the museum to check out this artifact, a number of our past mysteries, and so much more. We're open daily 1-5 pm. Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 12, 2016

C'mon and tell us what this Mystery Artifact is!

It's Mystery Artifact time!

Here's this week's object: It has a wooden handle and a top section made of wire. 

The basket on the top of the artifact is sort of egg-shaped. It has an opening in the front and loops that come to a point on the sides. It's about 9 inches from top to bottom, and less than 6 inches wide. 

The handle on the bottom is wooden, square, painted red, and about 26 inches long. 

It's a pretty simple artifact, so perhaps it's simple to figure out its use? Let us know if you know what it is! You can let us know your guesses/answers here on the blog, by telling us on Facebook, tweeting at us, or even by commenting on our Instagram

If you need a closer look at this artifact or just want to check out some of the other recent mystery artifacts (or any of our great exhibits), you can always come to the museum. We're open daily from 1pm - 5pm. Come visit us!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Red Hot Mystery Artifact Reveal...

Hello again! Last call for any guesses on this here Mystery Artifact? We got a guess for the lantern on an old firetruck, but it's a little stranger than that...

This is a heater for a car...more specifically, for the engine block of a car. Perhaps the patent for this mystery artifact can explain it better: The invention relates to portable oil burning heaters of the distillate type which are especially adapted for keeping warm the motors of automobiles and airplanes when stored in unheated garages or parked in the open in localities subject to low temperatures. 

The way you use this artifact is to hang it by the hook under the hood of one's car. Though this might seem weird now, the patent is from 1940, when the hoods of cars were much more likely to fit something like this heater. 

The canister at the bottom is meant to be filled up with kerosene, and inside the cylindrical part on the top is where the flame sits. The can-like cylindrical part on the top of this object is actually just a snuffer, and it would be used with the screen underneath exposed. The patent for the artifact says this is ok because: "air can enter through the screen but flame cannot pass from the interior to the exterior of the screen there is no liability of explosion or danger of accidental fire."
These days, a very similar kind of thing is used, but without the flame (which seems a little scary, right?). Many people, especially in northern states here in the U.S., Canada, Scandinavia and so on, use something called a block heater, which is a heater inside the hood of their car. These block heaters are powered by electricity, and is usually plugged into an outside outlet, like this:

A block heater in use in Sweden.
Both the modern block heaters and these kerosene ones were meant to keep a few things in particular warm. Block heaters keep coolant warm. I know, that sounds weird, doesn’t it? The coolant spreads the heat that it receives throughout the engine block, and that makes it easier for the car to start. One of the most important things that gets heated in this process is the motor oil, which can congeal at low temperatures. If it gets too cold, it's pretty much impossible for the oil to do its job of lubricating the engine. So, perhaps the heater doesn't keep the engine "red hot," but it does keep it warm enough to keep your automobile working safely. 

I don't know about you, but I found this artifact pretty fascinating (and a little dangerous). I'm pretty glad it doesn't get quite cold enough here in central Illinois to need one of these heaters!  Stay tuned for another mystery artifact! As always, if you're interested in a closer look at this or any of our recent mystery artifacts, please come visit us and take a look around the museum. We are now open 1-5 pm 7 days a week.