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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Development of the Proper Medicine Cabinet

When toilets went from outside somewhere to having its own room in the house, it brought a lot of changes. The actual design of such a room was first considered as luxurious and comforting, but easy-to-clean and sanitize design win out. Then there's the medicine cabinet. Medicines were previously kept in the kitchen, where Mom could keep up with them. Then the medicine cabinet was invented, which was at first just a medicine box on the wall. What to keep in this cabinet was a question enthusiastically answered by those who sold such products, and it was Mom's duty to keep it well-stocked, as we learn in an interview with historian Deanna Day.
Right, there’s the familiar image of the snoopy house guest who goes into the bathroom and starts poking around in the medicine cabinet to see what sort of pills you have or what kind of lotion you use, only to be discovered when things start falling out and crashing to the floor. You write about a James Thurber short story that plays on this.
Yes, “Nine Needles.” It plays on the idea that the medicine cabinet holds tools that you use to take care of your very private bodily needs, and they’re sort of hidden away. But at the same time that the medicine cabinet is a private space, it also has a public dimension; it’s a hideaway but—unlike perhaps other closed-off spaces in the home—it’s in a room that guests are actually invited into. Then it becomes a private space that guests are actually given a private opportunity to explore, if they want to. It feels like a minor transgression to open the cabinet and see what kinds of things your hosts are using on their bodies, a relatively low-stakes form of gaining secret knowledge about them.
I believe that's a little naive, as there are friends, acquaintances, and even family members who will look in there to see what they can take. But all that aside, the story of the development, expectations, and curation of the medicine cabinet can be found at (appropriately) Cabinet Magazine.

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