Deutsches Museum research fellowship

Between September and December 2011 I was Scholar-in-Residence at the Deutsches Museum, Munich, studying the collection of technical toys.

My project description:

Technical toys as a source for an innovation-oriented history of design

In a 1997 article, Burton describes the development of the history of toys through a survey of the literature and observes that “there is still room for the kind of material- based research that a museum is well qualified to conduct”. [1] This is certainly true for the Deutsches Museum, whose toy collection is worth of further research. The 1986 publication by Noschka and Knerr explored the material and pedagogical aspects of building blocks in the Museum’s collection, but has not been followed by other relevant work. [2]

This short-term research project aims to study the technical toys in the collection of the Deutsches Museum from a design-historical perspective and examine their role as agents of knowledge and innovation. Analysis of the toys in their historical context will illustrate the ways in which these toys have acted as expressions of novel ideas about technology and about users’ interaction with technology in daily life.

The overall aim of the project is twofold:
* To foreground the possibility of an innovation-oriented history of design and explore the historiographic implications of this idea;
* To provide the basis for developing a range of outreach activities for the public understanding of technology, design and innovation.

1. Anthony Burton, “Design History and the History of Toys: Defining a Discipline for the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood”, Journal of Design History (1997) 10(1): 1-21.
2. Annette Noschka and Günter Knerr, Bauklötze staunen: 200 Jahre Geschichte der Baukästen, Munich: Hirmer Verlag, 1986.