Project Details


Hands are a means of knowing the world and making the world. With our hands, we experiment, test, innovate, and manufacture designed objects, images and systems whether on the small scale of the designer-craftsperson, or the macro scale of hired hands operating mechanized, industrialized mass production processes. As consumers, we use our hands to learn, touch and operate designed goods, whether innovatively or according to a script, and we use our hands to communicate. Yet, our hands are hidden in plain sight and largely escape scrutiny, either on a day-to-day basis, or in academic research in the humanities.
The research proposed here forms part of a larger study, the first on the significance of the hand for design history. It examines the tacit processes of craft and the impact of mechanization on design and manufacture, and considers the hand as a tool of communication in design and fashion
before exploring the place of the hand in our digital culture and the possibilities of inventions and innovations in prosthetics, specifically of the hand.
The research planned for this Lemelson Center Fellowships focuses on three key examples of innovation and invention: Firstly, the development of the prosthetic hand. A variety of innovations come together in these complex objects. My interest in prosthetic hands is several: I am interested in them as designed hands, the results of invention and innovation, and as objects melding bespoke
and reproduceable techniques, and - in use - as sensory tools used for learning about and operating in the world because of, rather than in spite of, their prosthetic status. This leads to the second, related, focus for the planned research which concerns the role of the hand - prosthetic or otherwise
- in learning as instantiated in practices of access to museum collections, and to objects more broadly, for people with disabilities and those without. Finally, my project will form part of the work of recuperating the customization and adaptation made by disabled people (see Linthicum 2006) to mass-produced goods which do not meet their needs as practices of invention and innovation.
Effective start/end date27/09/2018/12/20


  • NK Decorative arts Applied arts Decoration and ornament
  • TT Handicrafts Arts and crafts
  • AM Museums (General). Collectors and collecting (General)
  • E151 United States (General)
  • F001 United States local history
  • T201 Patents. Trademarks


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