There are a lot of ways to learn about a given group of people. One can ask: What are their views about the world?  What do they hope for the future?  How do they evaluate the past?  One can observe how they live, talk, eat, dress, work, have fun, etc. Or one can investigate what kinds of things they have.

Things are a very powerful reservoir of information. But since language is a much more effective medium of communication, we tend to pay attention to words and to ignore things. With time we even lose the ability to understand the messages they send. We could learn a lot from archaeologists:  Though they normally have only a few remaining things belonging to an extinct group of people, they can still tell us a lot about this group.

The project The Lace Curtains of Berlin is a kind of archaeological experiment. Unlike true archaeology, it does not deal with an extinct group of people but with an existing one. It doesn’t look under the earth but behind windows. It doesn’t use shovels and brushes but a camera. Like archaeology, however, it studies things used by a certain group of people in order to investigate who they are.

The people in question are the Berliners and the things studied are their lace curtains. Though oblivious to most people, the curtains send out messages and tell almost as much about the people behind them as many an anthropological study would.

The lace curtains shown in this book are only a very small sample of what is available. There are literally hundreds of different kinds. To those readers who will make it to Berlin, it’s like an appetizer. To the majority who won’t, it’s the only chance to experience this wonderful example of textile poetry (see Essay: Poetic Dimension).

The aesthetic experience is complemented by the intellectual challenge of trying to understand the people behind the curtains. The curtain ensemble possesses a puzzle-like dimension: Single puzzle pieces don’t tell much individually and only start making sense when put together. The more puzzle pieces you have, the better you can recognize the picture. 

The purpose of this archaeological experiment is to delight the eye and to intrigue the mind, to show the things and to let them send their messages. The reader is invited to enjoy the lace curtains’ textile poetry and to decipher the puzzle.