3rd July 2009 at 01:00

It is a rare person who has never given in to the temptation to buy a gadget that, the adverts promise, will transform their lives, save them money or make a chore less onerous. An exhibition for all the family has opened at Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery which highlights some of the weird and wonderful gadgets produced in a 100-year period from 1850- 1950.

Wacky Machines, which runs until September 13, focuses on 70 fascinating objects from a collection of more than 1,500 amassed over the past 30 years by retired London businessman Maurice Collins. His criterion for collecting is: "The more eccentric and unusual, the better, and the more effort for less reward."

Among the gadgets on show are the "Little Miss Puff Sleeve Stretcher" from the 1950s, which promised a "no ironing needed" solution to the vexed problem of how to make a little girl's sleeves look perfectly puffed. A 1907 metal hot water bottle for shoes - shaped like a shoe - was just the thing to warm footwear before going out into the cold. And an "apparatus to prevent projecting ears" assured purchasers that it could be "worn with comfort during sleep."

All the objects on show were invented to deal with - some more successfully than others - a wide range of problems and needs; hence, early examples of burglar alarms; a tennis ball cleaner and a mini reading lamp kit for travellers in Victorian times, complete with candle and matches.

It is fascinating to see how gadgets such as automatic tea-makers have developed since their first appearance in 1902 and how others, such as eyelash curlers, have changed hardly at all. Real inspiration for inventors of all ages, complemented by quizzes and activities.


Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now