Educational Specimen Box thumbnail 1
Educational Specimen Box thumbnail 2
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Not currently on display at the V&A

Educational Specimen Box

ca. 1850 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, on whose educational theories this specimen box is based, was advocating a holistic and child-centred approach to the education of the young as early as the 1790s. Pestalozzi advocated a radically different approach at a time when most teachers used methods which depended upon the written word and the 'correct' answer, and relied on punishment to make their pupils comply.

As well as suggesting that each child was an individual who should explore learning to find an answer, he insisted on the importance of the balance between head, hands and heart: the children should do practical things as well as study, and their education should be the route to social justice and freedom. He founded two experimetal schools which failed, but the crucial experience in developing his theories seems to have been his work with orphans whose parents had been killed during the Franco-Swiss wars of the 1790s. It was necessary to communicate with these traumatised children at a more personal level, and to base their education on their own knowledge and experience of life.

Although his work is now perhaps less well known than that of some later educational reformers such as Friedrich Froebel and Maria Montessori, his importance was recognised in using his name for the Pestalozzi children's villages which were set up after the Second World War of 1939-45, to care for refugee children. The Pestalozzi International Village Trust's work is currently offering educational opportunities to children from developing countries.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 5 parts.

  • Boxes (Containers)
  • Trays
  • Trays
  • Trays
  • Trays
Materials and Techniques
Mahogany
Brief Description
Educational specimen box, mahogany, for the education of children, assembled in England, ca. 1850.
Physical Description
Mahogany box of specimens for the education of children, based on a scheme originally devised by the Swiss educational reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827).
Dimensions
  • Closed box height: 130mm
  • Closed box width: 307mm
  • Closed box depth: 240mm
  • Open box height: 275mm
  • Open box width: 307mm
  • Open box depth: 240mm
  • Trays height: 25mm
  • Trays width: 286mm
  • Trays depth: 159mm
Object history
With B.6-2009, part of Lot 584 in the Sale of the Roger Warner Collection at Christie's South Kensington, 20-21 January 2009. The two pieces combined were bought for a total of £3,090, so notionally £1545 each.



The box of specimens for the education of children is based on a scheme originally devised by the Swiss educational reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827) in his work with orphans. He began with observation, leading on to consciousness, and subsequently to speech. Only then, he argued, would the child progress satisfactorily to learning how to measure, draw, write, and use numbers. His concept was adapted in England by Charles and Elizabeth Mayo: Elizabeth, who was a teacher in a Pestalozzi school, set out the uses of such a box in her book 'Lessons on Objects' which was published in 1830 with a preface by Charles. The idea was for lessons with the objects to progress from the observation of simple natural objects through to increasingly more complex and scientific levels. Ironically, many UK teachers seem to have used Pestalozzi's equipment within the rigid structure they were used to, rather than the more individualistic approach he had intended.
Historical context
Roger Warner (1913-2008) was a well respected antiques collector as well as dealer.
Production
According to Elizabeth Mayo's book 'Lessons on Objects', mahogany boxes with specimens of this type were apparently available for £1 15shillings (£1.75) from a number of London suppliers:

W Edwards, 40 High Street, Camden Town

Seeleys, Fleet Street

Ridgway & Bilby, Gray's Inn Road

T Varty, Strand

Suter, Cheapside

Harvey and Darton, Grace Church Street

Hatchard and Son, Piccadilly

Darton and Clark, Holborn
Summary
Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, on whose educational theories this specimen box is based, was advocating a holistic and child-centred approach to the education of the young as early as the 1790s. Pestalozzi advocated a radically different approach at a time when most teachers used methods which depended upon the written word and the 'correct' answer, and relied on punishment to make their pupils comply.



As well as suggesting that each child was an individual who should explore learning to find an answer, he insisted on the importance of the balance between head, hands and heart: the children should do practical things as well as study, and their education should be the route to social justice and freedom. He founded two experimetal schools which failed, but the crucial experience in developing his theories seems to have been his work with orphans whose parents had been killed during the Franco-Swiss wars of the 1790s. It was necessary to communicate with these traumatised children at a more personal level, and to base their education on their own knowledge and experience of life.



Although his work is now perhaps less well known than that of some later educational reformers such as Friedrich Froebel and Maria Montessori, his importance was recognised in using his name for the Pestalozzi children's villages which were set up after the Second World War of 1939-45, to care for refugee children. The Pestalozzi International Village Trust's work is currently offering educational opportunities to children from developing countries.
Bibliographic Reference
Mayo, Elizabeth.Lessons On Objects as Given to Children Between the Ages of Six and Eight in a Pestalozzian School at Cheam, Surrey. London: Seeleys, 1851.
Collection
Accession Number
B.5:1 to 5-2009

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record createdMarch 31, 2009
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