My paper “Packaging playful technology: Boxes for technical toys in the collection of the Deutsches Museum, Munich” was presented in the workshop “Knowledge in a box: How mundane things shape knowledge production”, Kavala (Greece), 26-29 July, 2012.
The paper has responded to the workshop/conference call by focusing on the collection of technical toys in the Deutsches Museum, Munich. “Technical” (or “Construction”) toys originate from the world of construction and machinery; they are inspired by the architectural and technological environment and developed on the basis of the opportunities these environments afford for play. The author studied the toy collection of the Deutsches Museum as a scholar in residence (September-December 2011).
Boxes for technical toys are not mere containers to protect and carry the toy, but they are indispensable parts of the product; they support the significance of the playthings they contain and contribute to their functions and symbolism in multifarious ways. The paper presented boxes from the Deutsches Museum collection and analyzed patterns identified with respect to various domains: the kinds of play encouraged, the shaping of parental and consumer attitudes, the professional orientation of the young and the development and diffusion of specific attitudes towards science and technology, as well as the unfolding of wider political or social agendas. Thus, the paper contributed to the workshop’s core theme on the ways in which mundane, neglected, ephemeral and perishable artifacts shape knowledge production.