In David Macaulay’s book, Motel of the Mysteries, amateur archeologist Howard Carson uncovers an ancient burial chamber filled with artifacts from a civilization known as Usa, which thrived some 2000 years before the world in which he lives. Using these artifacts, Carson theorizes about the nature of this ancient civilization. The artifacts include all the things you would have expected to find in a motel room in 1985, but each is examined through Carson’s 4022 lens. Carson develops a detailed description of the life and habits of the Usa people based on these artifacts. The toilet becomes a Sacred Urn, and one can purchase a reproduction coffee set in the Museum Shop.
Look at the objects around you. What would you make of them, if you were, like Howard Carson, to stumble upon them buried but preserved 2000 years in the future?
Macaulay, the author of several books that explore how various systems, including the human body, are put together and how they function. In The Way Things Work, he provides detailed illustrations of the inner workings of a number of familiar objects.
Understanding how things work and what goes into making them is an important part of the maker’s quest. Most of the makers I have met were the kids who would take their toys apart to see where Elmo’s giggle comes from or who were convinced that they could fix something once it broke. What did you take apart? Were you able to put it back together? What’s the last thing you fixed for yourself instead of throwing it away or replacing it?