, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 387-414,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

„Man lasse doch diese Dinge selber einmal sprechen“

“Let these things speak for themselves”. Experiment Kits, Instruction Manuals, and Narratives between 1870 and 1930

Experiment kits, such as physical cabinets, chemistry sets, and electricity kits designed for amateurs and children, gained huge popularity in Germany around 1900. These home laboratories connected themselves to the things of everyday life as objects of investigation and everyday knowledge as their framework of reference. In the previous centuries, portable laboratories had already accompanied travelling scientists and intellectuals. Experiment kits however, while still portable, were designed to serve as extensions of classrooms and lecture halls. The kits – available through teaching materials catalogues and early forms of mail-order catalogues – illustrate the increased attention that was given to experimental practices in general education between 1870 and 1930. An examination of these objects, which consisted of instruments, substances, and supplementary contents arranged in wooden, metal, or paper boxes, together with an analysis of their instruction manuals, shows how the miniature laboratories structured the spaces within which experiments were supposed to take place.