This photo shows a ducking-stool, an instrument historically used for the social humiliation and punishment of women deemed to be wicked.
Usually these women were accused of being "scolds," which meant that they had dared to challenge male authority in some way or were just generally uppity. The "scold" would be bound to the chair and either exhibited to public humiliation in the street or ducked in a river or pond as further punishment. In medieval times, ducking-stools were sometimes used to determine whether a woman was a witch. Bound to a wooden ducking-stool and thrown in a river, the unfortunate woman would be found to be a witch if she floated, but innocent if she drowned. Witches, of course, were executed by hanging or burning. Not very good odds either way.
This photo shows two examples of a "scold's bridle."
The iron muzzle or cage would be placed on the head of a woman accused of being a scold, shrew, gossip or practitioner of witchcraft. A heavy iron bar (often with spikes) would project into her mouth. So long as she did not speak, everything was fine. But if she tried to speak or protest, the movement of her tongue would cause painful torture by the bridle. The lesson to women publicly humiliated by forcible wearing of a scold's bridle? Hold your tongues.
Today we are rightly horrified about the persecution of Islamic women by the Taliban. But we must never forget that our Western forebears also had a similarly brutal history of using physical and emotional violence to keep women in a subordinate position.
On Monday, a cheerier post about other exhibits at the Museum of Witchcraft.