Sunday, September 28, 2014

Chatting About Depressing Things

In class on Tuesday, my class had a live chat with Jamie, a worker from the Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester, England. Before the Google Hangout, there was preparation involved in getting ready for the live chat.

Preparing for the Chat

In class last Friday, we were told about the live chat. We found out that Jamie would be our tour guide and we would be talking to him during the Google Hangout. First, we went onto the Textile Galleries on the museum's official website. The webpage had PDF files on the side that we clicked on to learn more about some influential textile designers and creators. An interesting fact about Richard Arkwright, the creator of the Water Frame, was that he was more of an improver on other people's ideas than an inventor. I found this surprising because I thought he was the type of person who was more like a leader and created his own machines more often. We then watched a special video Jamie made for us, explaining some terminology and machines around the museum. Our job after the video was to use our Google search skills to see what each machine did and what each word meant that he mentioned in the video. I learned about the hopper feeder scutcher, which is used to break up cotton bales into loose clumps of fiber that can be processed further. Also, the draw frame, which is a machine for combining and drawing slivers of the textile fiber. (A sliver is a continuous strand of loose cotton ready for drawing and twisting). We then prepared possible questions to ask Jamie for the chat. Some questions my group came up with were; 'has anyone gotten hurt in the museum?' as well as 'how have textile machines changed since the Industrial Revolution?'. That was the end of class on Friday, and the chat was coming up on Tuesday.

The Chat

On Tuesday, we got into class and prepared to take notes on the chat. Throughout the chat with Jamie, I learned a lot of things about working on the mills in England. A big idea that was discussed was the health/well-being of the workers. It was very clear that the mill owners had no concern for their workers' health. Profit was much more important than the well-being of the workers. Many people got arthritis from working so much. The bathroom conditions were disgusting - one bathroom for over 100 people. Illness was very common, clearly. It was spread very quickly, because someone would put their mouth on a tool and pass it onto someone else. Another huge aspect was breathing in cotton fibers. The dust would get into many peoples' lungs since certain parts of the mills were filled with dust. Getting hurt was also very common. Workers got hurt in the rollers, shins could get hurt and hair could get caught. The carriage could run into them, also. It was a very dangerous place to work in general. A lot of women went deaf from hearing looms running all day, and many had no front teeth from the shuttle hitting their front teeth. Another thing I learned is that every member of the family was apart of the process. The children would 'comb' the thread, the mother would usually spin the thread on the spinning wheel with a pedal. Eventually, weaving began to be a woman's job. There were both positive and negative impacts of industrialization on families. A positive thing was that money was being made to help pay mortgage. However, the negative impacts overlook that in my opinion. The pollution was awful from all the factories, making it more dangerous to breathe in fumes near a factory. The environment in general was dirtier. Also, the life expectancy was very low due to living and working conditions. This means many families fell apart because of their parents dying at a young age. The mills would then buy orphans, because there were so many due to life expectancy, and hired them as slaves and acted as apprentices to them so they could work there once they were able to. In general, life was depressing for workers in many ways.
The "Throstle Frame" - many workers got hurt working with it.


I thought the Google Hangout was a good idea. I learned a lot from Jamie, the explainer. I think it was easier for me to understand things with an expert on this information talking about it. I liked how he is a historian in a real museum and was able to answer our questions and show us real machinery close up. The only thing I disliked was the quality of the chat, and I usually could only understand every other word he was saying. Also, I could not see the details of the machines he was explaining. That isn't anyone's fault, and was predictable since he was in another country. I think we should do this again with experts throughout the year, and I think other people would also like to. 

An image of an orphan that the mill took in. 

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