Like all material objects, the history and background of furniture is a mirror of change in societies. The continuing development of societies in economic, political, cultural and philosophical terms, as well as changes of physical and geographic nature are all reflected in furniture. The understanding of the context of furniture therefore has value far beyond questions of attribution, rarity, value, association or other equally interesting aspects. It is very much part of the material culture of a society. From the meanest stool to the grandest cabinet, all furniture and furnishings are part of the jig-saw that represents particular moments in history.
The careful study of artefacts and their cultural context will enable us to understand a little more of how materials, techniques, tools, trade and consumer usage were understood in their own time. In conjunction with the practical physical analysis and inspection by conservators and historians, other sources of history are needed to develop what can be learnt from the objects themselves. These other sources include, inventories, account books, diaries, journals, design and price books, paintings and drawings as well as aspects of interior design and architecture. The important contributions to be made from other disciplines need to be acknowledged but there is some way to go before they are fully part of the furniture historian's armoury. However, anyone interested in learning more about furniture, those who made and used it, as well as its wider role in various societies will enjoy following the multifarious paths that make up the history of furniture.
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