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Posts Tagged ‘Smithsonian

“Some assembly required”*…

Photographer Todd McLellan disassembles things. As the Smithsonian explains in the web intro to an exhibition of his work…

What makes a watch tick? How does a sewing machine stitch? Where does an iPod get its shuffle? For those who have ever asked questions like these, Things Come Apart is a revelation.

Through extraordinary photographs, disassembled objects and fascinating videos, Things Come Apart reveals the inner workings of common, everyday possessions. Images of dozens of objects explore how things are designed and made and how technology has evolved over time. For example, the individual components of a record player, a Walkman, and an iPod illustrate the technical changes in sound reproduction over the years, and images of the parts of a mechanical and digital watch demonstrate different approaches to timepiece engineering.

As a visual investigation of design and engineering, Things Come Apart also celebrates classic examples of industrial design like the sewing machine, the mechanical pencil, and the telescope. Additionally, the exhibition explores ideas about reuse, repair, and recycling….

More on the exhibit (with examples) at “Things Come Apart@smithsonian; Even more on McLellan’s website (and at @Todd_McLellan).

* the frequently-encountered qualification in advertising and product packaging


As we take it apart, we might recall that it was on this date in 1843 that Charles Thurber was issued the first patent for a typewriter that actually worked. The forerunners of typewriters had been around for some time; the first known patent was issued in England in 1714, but for a machine that never worked and was never manufactured. Thurber’s “printing machine” did work– but was so slow as to be impractical. He patented an improved (but still painfully sluggish) version a few years later… then moved on. Typewriter development continued in other hands, but slowly. It wasn’t until the late 19th century (and the introduction of a QWERTY keyboard design as a standard) that typewriting became a wide-spread practice.


Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 26, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that’s why it is so complicated”*…


Late-19th-century earrings incorporating real hummingbird heads

Home to drawings, textiles, jewelry, furniture, and thousands of other design objects, the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum is taking increased advantage of the internet’s digital real estate. The museum recently completed a massive digitization project that places almost its entire collection online; nearly 200,000 objects are now accessible and searchable, allowing online visitors to see just how rich its holdings are. Many of these works currently reside in the institution’s storage facility, so the project is a means of placing them in the public eye on a platform that also offers background information on each one…

Whitehead & Hoag Company, “Cawston Ostrich Farm, South Pasadena, California” (c. 1900)

More at “From Tiny Stairs to Taxidermy Earrings, 200,000 Objects from Cooper Hewitt Go Online“; dive into the collection here.

* Paul Rand


As we shake out the duster, we might recall that it was on this date in 1940 that a teenager named Marcel Ravidat discovered the entrance to Lascaux Caves in southwest France.  Following a dog down the narrow entrance and into the cavern, Ravidat and three friends came upon (part of) the now-storied collection of wall markings– 15,000- to 17,000-year-old paintings, consisting mostly of animal representations– that are among the world’s finest examples of art from the Upper Paleolithic period.




Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 12, 2016 at 1:01 am

Pi in the sky…


As we watch sheep chase ice cream cones across the summer sky, we might recall that on this date in 1974, at 8:01 a.m., a “10-Pak” of Juicy Fruit chewing gum with a bar code printed on it was passed over a scanner at the Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio– and became the first product ever logged under the new Universal Product Code (UPC) computerized recognition system.

Sharon Buchanan (pictured above 30 yrs later) performed the first ever bar code scan when she rang up this 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum, which is now at the Smithsonian.  (source)

Crèche or credit card?…

Readers may recall that L. Frank Baum was famous before he wrote The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz— he was a celebrity in the then-emerging world of consumer marketing, one of the first great window dressers.

Baum’s art flourished as retailing grew, finding its apotheosis on the Christmas displays that graced department stores around America.  Now, thanks to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, readers can take a stroll past the Holiday windows and Christmas store displays of yore…

Giant Christmas candle carousels, Marshall Field & Company, main aisle, Chicago, about 1956

Take the (online version of the) trip at “Holidays on Display” (and see William Bird’s book of the same title).

As we channel Ralphie’s Red Ryder lust, we might  raise a cup of testimony tea to Emily Dickinson, who was better known during her life as a gardener and botanist than as a poet; only 7 of her 1775 poems were published in her lifetime– which began on this date in 1830.

The Maid of Amherst

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