Key visual of the exhibition The second life of things. Stone, metal, plastic

The second life of things

Stone, metal, plastic

Exhibition | accessibility.time_to

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Exhibition

Our throw-away and consumerist society is a recent phenomenon in the history of humanity. The way people handled materials and objects used to be driven by scarcity and shortages. Up until the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century, it was normal to hand down clothes, repair tools, reuse building materials, melt down bronze objects to make new ones, and recycle glass containers. Whether they were made from fabric, metal, stone or glass – it was possible for all manner of things to have a second, third, or even infinite life. The exhibition takes a look at the methods of the circular economy past and present. Objects from the Stone Age to the present day show how their history can raise awareness of the value of things.

 

Guided tours

Sa 12.10.2024

13:30 – 14:30 Uhr

Guided tour

The second life of things

Do 31.10.2024

18:00 – 19:00 Uhr

Guided tour

The second life of things

Key visual of the exhibition The second life of things. Stone, metal, plastic

The second life of things

Guided tour for private groups

Guided tour of the exhibition "The second life of things. Stone, metal, plastic ".

Tour: 1 hour

Guided tours can be arranged outside opening hours: Mon between 9.30 am and 6 pm, Tue to Fri between 9.30 am and 7.45 pm. Sat and Sun between 10 am and 5 pm

Registration:  

 2 weeks in advance

Duration:

 

60 minutes; special packages can be offered on request

Group size:

 

max. 25 participants per tour

Languages:

 

English, German, Italian, French. Other offers upon request.

Cost:


 

 

CHF 180 for the guided tour + CHF 10 admission per person

Children up to 16 years free.

For groups of people with permit N, S, B, F (refugee) or F (foreigner), the guided tour and admission are free of charge.

accessibility.sr-only.person_card_info Reservations desk

+41 44 218 66 00 reservationen@nationalmuseum.ch

Schools

Key visual of the exhibition The second life of things. Stone, metal, plastic

The second life of things – Introductory tour

Intermediate level | Secondary level I and II

Guided tour of the exhibition «The second life of things. Stone, metal, plastic».

1 hour
Guided tours are free of charge for school classes from Switzerland.

Guided tours in English can be arranged, even outside opening hours. Guided tours are free of charge for school classes from Switzerland.

Booking:  

at least 2 weeks in advance

Duration:

 

1 hour guided tours, other services by prior arrangement

Group size:

 

max. 25 people

Cost:
 

 

Guided tours for school classes from Switzerland are free of charge.

accessibility.sr-only.person_card_info Reservations desk

+41 44 218 66 00 reservationen@nationalmuseum.ch

Blog articles

Media

The second life of things. Stone, metal, plastic

National Museum Zurich | 14.6.2024 - 10.11.2024
published on 13.6.2024

Repair, reuse and repurpose: A new exhibition at the National Museum Zurich takes a look at the methods of the circular economy – from the Stone Age to the present day.

Although the term itself is relatively new, the circular economy has existed since the beginning of human history. Our ancestors also produced waste and polluted the environment. But prior to today’s throw-away, consumerist society, the need to overcome scarcity and shortages determined the way in which we handled materials and objects. Wherever possible, they were recycled, repaired, refashioned or reused.

By presenting objects that were mended, reused and cherished across generations, the exhibition heightens our awareness of the value of giving a second life to things.

Evidence of materials being reused can be found as far back as the Stone Age. Damaged flint blades and stone hand-axes were not thrown away: they were specifically repurposed so that they could be used again. Later, bronze pots and jars, jewellery, tools and sculptures were hoarded in depots, melted down and transformed into coins and weapons, for example. Some objects, on the other hand, remained unchanged but were handed down and used from one generation to the next. Examples include a 17th-century cradle in which numerous members of the Waser family from Zurich were most likely first rocked to sleep.

Before the industrial mass production of textiles began, these too were used until they fell apart and were no longer serviceable. The well-to-do often gifted their cast-off clothing to servants, after which the remnants would be torn into rags and used as dusters, in paper production, or even as toilet paper. Particularly expensive garments worn by the nobility would likewise take on a new life in churches and monasteries as liturgical vestments, dresses for figures of the Virgin Mary, altar cloths or wrapping for relics.

Before the 20th century, the main factor driving the development of reuse, recycling and upcycling strategies was the scarcity of resources. Today, both excess production and environmental pollution are forcing us to think hard about the circular economy. New technologies can open up new opportunities in this respect: the internet enables us to swap and sell used objects. Contemporary fashion designers upcycle to breathe new life into old or use waste materials to create new clothing and accessories.

And the exhibition is making its own contribution to this ethos. Many of the structural elements were previously used for other exhibitions or can be used again in future. The exhibition runs from 14 June to 10 November 2024 at the National Museum Zurich. It will then go on display at the Forum of Swiss History Schwyz from 7 December 2024 to 27 April 2025.

Images

Plate

This ceramic plate has been repaired using metal clips. Holes were bored to accommodate the clips, then both holes and cracks were filled with putty. Ceramic vessels had been repaired in a similar fashion right back to prehistoric times. Langnau im Emmental BE, around 1800-1830.

Swiss National Museum

Venus statuette

Sculptures such as this originally adorned private villas. This statuette may have been broken accidentally, or it may have fallen out of favour with the head of the household. It ended up being used as building material in a wall of the Late Roman fort of Augusta Raurica. Kaiseraugst AG, 200–260 AD, limestone.

Museum Augusta Raurica, Augst

Evening chores

Farmhouse parlour in the evening: several people are gathered around the family table engaged in typical evening chores. Two women are doing handiwork – one sewing, the other weaving yarn. Two men are repairing tools: new wooden tines are being carved and fitted into a rake. Print, probably Jakob Kaiser, probably Lucerne LU, around 1850.

Swiss National Museum

Times of crisis

Things were reused as much as possible during the two world wars. Women’s organizations in particular made a significant contribution to the task of collecting reusable materials. Women from the “Frauenzentrale” Zurich at the collection campaign for families with many children, Zurich, 1943.

Swiss National Museum / ASL

Fish hook

A somewhat unusual fish hook: the decorative, vase-shaped head of the shank reveals that this was once a cloak pin. Such pins were used in the Bronze Age as pieces of jewellery to fasten cloaks, capes and other items of loose clothing. Zurich-Alpenquai, around 900 BC.

Swiss National Museum

Kinetic sculptures

The Swiss artist Jean Tinguely collected material from scrapyards and rubbish tips, which he proceeded to transform into Dada-inspired artworks. Most of his sculptures include an electric motor that not only makes them move, but also generates sounds – a crucial element of his work. Heureka, sculpture made out of scrap metal, Jean Tinguely (1925–91), Zurich ZH, 1963–64, photograph.

Swiss National Museum

Waste collection

The graphic designer Hans Anton Tomamichel (1899-1984) was commissioned to design information boards by the Office for scrap management. He used images of tin tubes, tin cans, fabric and bones to draw attention to the large quantities of such materials that before the war were thrown away and now were supposed to be collected. ‘Collect scrap material and waste!’ design, Hans Anton Tomamichel, 1939/40.

Swiss National Museum

Bedspread

This fragment of a bedspread with three layers of fabric testifies to extremely frugal times, during which people threw nothing away, despite being fashion-conscious. It went without saying that such a bedspread would be repeatedly patched with leftover scraps of fabric. Fragment of a cover, India and France, various manufacturers, 18th/19th century, Indienne printed cotton.

Swiss National Museum

Uniformed

This depiction of the 3rd Swiss Regiment at the time of the Napoleonic Wars shows that uniforms were also mended: The officer in marching uniform on the right is wearing a faded coat and worn grey trousers that have been patched at the crotch and knees. Illustration, around 1808.

Swiss National Museum

The second life of things. Stone, metal, plastic

Key visual of the exhibition

Swiss National Museum

Haute Couture gown

This dress was created by the fashion design Kévin Germanier, who was born in the canton of Valais. He is internationally renowned for his glamorous upcycled fashion. Germanier works with fabrics, beads and sequins that have been discarded due to overproduction or imperfections. Look 27, Kévin Germanier (* 1992), Paris FR, Spring/Summer Collection 2023, upgecycelt sequins, beads, plastic, PVC, wood, glass, resin.

Swiss National Museum

Haute Couture gown

This dress was created by the fashion design Kévin Germanier, who was born in the canton of Valais. He is internationally renowned for his glamorous upcycled fashion. Germanier works with fabrics, beads and sequins that have been discarded due to overproduction or imperfections. Look 27, Kévin Germanier (* 1992), Paris FR, Spring/Summer Collection 2023, upgecycelt sequins, beads, plastic, PVC, wood, glass, resin.

Swiss National Museum

View of the exhibition

© Swiss National Museum

View of the exhibition

© Swiss National Museum

View of the exhibition

© Swiss National Museum

Swiss National Museum press contact

+41 44 218 66 63 medien@nationalmuseum.ch

Other exhibition venues

The exhibition will also be shown at the Forum of Swiss History Schwyz from 7 December 2024.

Exhibition imprint

  • Overall management Denise Tonella
  • Project direction Jacqueline Perifanakis
  • Curators and Concept Jacqueline Perifanakis, Daniela Schwab
  • Scenography SKENO Kommunikation im Raum ° Szenografie, Mik Gruber
  • Exhibition graphic LDSGN Designstudio, Thomas Lehmann
  • Illustrations Claudia Blum Kabeljau, Zürich
  • Project support Heidi Amrein, Luca Tori
  • Advisory committee Günhan Akarçay, Heidi Amrein, Beat Högger, Markus Leuthard, Sabrina Médioni, Denise Tonella
  • Project controlling Sabrina Médioni
  • Cultural services and museum education Lisa Engi, Vera Humbel
  • Technical management Henrike Binder
  • Exhibition construction Ira Allemann, Ian Hügi, Marc Hägeli, Philippe Leuthardt, Sophie Lühr, David Schwitter
  • Conservation management  Tino Zagermann
  • Conservation and mounting of objects  Leonie Baumberger, Sarah Longrée, Jürg Mathis, Anna Jurt, Carolin Muschel, Ulrike Rothenhäusler, Alexandra Schorpp, Tino Zagermann
  • Loans department Laura Mosimann, Claudio Stefanutto, Samira Tanner
  • Object logistics and assembly Christian Affentranger, David Blazquez, Simon d’Hollosy, Reto Hegetschweiler, Aymeric Nager
  • Photography  Jörg Brandt
  • Picture library Andrea Kunz, Fabian Müller
  • IT | Web  Alex Baur
  • Media stations Alex Baur, Thomas Bucher, Ueli Heiniger, Pasquale Pollastro, Danilo Rüttimann, Tweaklab
  • Marketing and Communication Andrej Abplanalp, Anna-Britta Maag, Sebastiano Mereu, Carole Neuenschwander, Alexander Rechsteiner
  • Advertising graphic Manu Beffa Graphic Design & Art Direction
  • Translations Marie-Claude Buch-Chalayer, Bill Gilonis, Marco Marcacci, Laurence Neuffer
     

Wir danken:

  • Silke Langenberg, Orkun Kasap, ETH Zürich
  • Walter Milan

Items generously loaned by

  • Museum Augusta Raurica
  • Museum der Kulturen Basel
  • Ufficio dei beni culturali, Bellinzona
  • Defne Çetinkaya, Zürich

The Swiss National Museum would like to thank the Willy G. S. Hirzel Foundation for its support.