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World Collection: Unusual Materials

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Some of the objects in Reading Museum’s World collection are striking because of the materials they are made from. People in modern Britain are familiar with books made of paper, bags made of leather (or plastic!), and bells made of metal. Alternative materials that have been used traditionally by people in other parts of the world can seem strange, surprising or even shocking. In some cases, materials appear unusual because they are made from natural resources which are only found in particular regions of the world, such as lace bark and tapa cloth. All these objects demonstrate the variety of ways people have made use of the natural materials available to them, and show how the local environment can affect the cultural development of societies.

In contrast, objects made from recycled materials illustrate globalisation and international trade. The toy truck made from empty European beer bottles tells a story of the export of products to global markets, the recycling of waste products, and the re-sale of those waste products as objects made for the tourist market.

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