A cultural artifact is a human-made tool or ornament whose role is to give information about the culture of the creator and users of that too or ornament. The cultural artifact represents something and this representation may change over time. Moreover, the appearance and the use of an artifact may also change over time. There are so many examples of artifacts and nowadays man-made objects used in the modern society are also termed as artifacts. This paper will analyze a matchbook as an example of an artifact, evaluating its cultural roots and the cultural changes it might undergo.
Matchbook as a cultural artifact
The invention of fire was a great representative of human civilization. Processes involved in lighting fire have been simplified over centuries eventually leading to invention of the matchbook in 1982 by a Philadelphia patent attorney known as Joshua Pusey. Since its invention, the matchbook has become an important cultural artifact in the modern society.
A matchbook is a small folder made of paperboard and enclosing a given number of matches. A matchbook has a coarse surface on its exterior part. In order, to access the matches, one has to open the folder which is in most cases attached to an arrangement that is comb-like and is torn before using it. The outside part of a match-cover has printings of the logo of the producer in addition to artistic decorations which may function as a form of advertisement. A match-cover is a thin cardboard which encloses matchsticks in a pack. These covers are used for advertising and often attract people who have passion in collecting.
The major historical event that catapulted the invention of a matchbook is the discovery of fire by the Homo sapiens. Mankind needed fire as a source of heat, a form of chasing wild animals and for cooking food. Since then, several ways of lighting fire have been invented and evolved over time. The aim of these changes was to make the act of lighting fire much easy. The biggest inventory that made lighting of fire much easy was the invention of the matchbook. Therefore, the period where human beings discovered the use of fire might have influenced the development of a matchbook (Ezell and O’Keeffe, 1994).
The matchbook serves several functions in addition to a source of fire. One of the functions is in the communication and print media advertisement. The cover of a matchbook can serve as a surface on which words and letters can be printed and artistic designed drawn when needed. This enables advertisement of other services and products other that the matchbook itself and this advertisement may target a given audience. The matchbook cover can also serve as a medium for writing using a pencil or pen and hence passing of intended significant information through writing.
It is also evident that matchbooks can serve a function of storing and transporting small objects. Collection of objects is a practice that is common in virtually all human cultures. The objects commonly collected include coins, stamps, firearms, paintings, arrowheads, antiques, minerals, jewelry, seashells, motion picture films and many other objects. Therefore, the function of matchbooks as a tool for collecting and storing small object is a true representation of the human culture of collecting objects (Crouch, 2008).
Matchbooks can also be analyzed in the context of criminal justice. In this case, they are presented as evidence in criminal cases and have to be analyzed using a perspective of their various function. There are cases where criminal activity involves fire hence a matchbook which is a source of fire has a great relevance in the process of criminal justice system. A good example of an incident is a burning cigarette that ignites matches which in turn ignite a plastic bag containing flammable liquid eventually resulting to an explosion and loss of lives. The other relevant example is burnt matchbooks along with crack cocaine which can be used in court as evidence of use of cocaine illegally (Ezell, 1994).
There have been changes in the cultural functions of a matchbook and these changes are constantly evolving. The changes are caused by the altered legal and social attitudes towards the use of tobacco. Moreover, the changes are due to technological advancements which have led to invention of several tools which can be used as a source of fire replacing the matchbook. The changes have affected systems such as the justice system in the modern society and culture. More changes are also expected to occur in the future. Despite all the changes that have occurred, the matchbook still remains to be an important cultural artifact.
Matchbooks are great representation of cultural artifacts and the various changes such as legal attitude towards tobacco smoking will greatly affect the role of a matchbook as a cultural artifact. Technological advancements have led to development of disposable lighters which have replaced the matchbook as a source of fire. Despite all the changes and advancements, a matchbook is a true representation of a cultural artifact in the culture we live today.
Crouch, A. (2008) Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. Intervarsity Press.
Ezell, M. J., & O’Keeffe, K. O. (1994) Cultural artifacts and the production of meaning: the page, the image and the body. University of Michigan Press.
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