Secret Life of the Home

Children in the Secret Life of the Home gallery



The Secret Life of the Home presents a range of domestic appliances used, for example, for washing and ironing clothes, preparing and cooking food, cleaning, lighting, and entertainment. Cartoons are used to illustrate the use of many of the objects, and hands-on exhibits help to explain how some of the machines work.

Use the gallery to explore the following ideas relating to Science and Design and Technology:

  • Appliances have been developed to assist a range of domestic chores.
  • The design of appliances (including the materials used to make them) has changed, especially in the last hundred years.
  • Electricity has replaced other forms of power used to operate many domestic appliances.

Some questions to encourage discussion of the exhibits:

  • What was used before flush toilets?
  • How are the carpet beater, sweeper and vacuum cleaner different/the same?
  • How is the mushroom stone (aka rubbing stone) different from the other irons?
  • How has the design of irons changed over time, and why?
  • How did the charcoal iron work? Was it a good idea? Why?
  • How do a mangle and washing machine each get water out of clothes?
  • Why do the fruit peeler, raisin stoner etc have so many cogs?
  • What was used to power a washing machine/iron/vacuum cleaner before electricity?

You could also ask general questions such as:

  • Who would have used this gadget/appliance/device?
  • Would you like to have used this gadget/appliance/device? Why?
  • How have the materials used to make household appliances changed over time and why?
  • How have the ways that household appliances are powered changed over time and why?
  • Imagine you are the inventor of one of the items. What are its advantages over previous versions?

Students could choose an exhibit and design an advert for it, or prepare a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style pitch to promote their chosen item to the rest of the class after the visit.

The gallery is also great for KS2 work relating to the Victorians because many of the items on display date from that era.

suggested 30-45 minutes
Suitable for:
ages 7-16
Places per session:
not applicable
Pre-booking req'd:
Supervisory ratio:

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