Friday mystery object #64 answer


On Friday I gave you this anthropological object to identify (courtesy of the helpful staff and volunteers at the Horniman’s Study Collections Centre):

I asked you where it was from, what it was for and what it was made from. The first two questions were correctly answered quite quickly – Manabu Sakamoto correctly identified the seal on the side of the vessel as Chinese and Wildaker worked out that it was for holding tea (in leaf form I hasten to add). So, it’s a Chinese tea-caddy.

However, what it was made from was a much trickier issue. Suggestions ranged from Ostrich leather (by Prancing Papio) to knitted silk (by Wildaker). Zigg recognised that it was compressed into shape and that it was plant based, and ObenedO suggested it was made from rice or mushrooms, but nobody (except Melissa, my lovely wife) correctly recognised it as being made from the rind of a citrus fruit – probably an orange (despite the clue “…I begged the @MuseumGeekGirls to keep their eyes peeled for something interesting…“).

I have no idea how the orange rind was prepared and treated to make it take shape, but it’s an impressive bit of craftsmanship. Moreover, the tea stored in this container would probably have taken on a wonderful citrus tang from the oils in the rind. Even now the object has a lovely spicy citrus smell, despite being about a century old. What an ingenious use of a material that is normally thrown away without a second thought.

Thanks again to the @MuseumGeekGirls, I recommend following them on Twitter for a quirky insight into the day-to-day experiences of working in the collections of a museum. Hope you enjoyed this object!

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