Via Smithsonian News Desk, May 30, 2023

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History will present “Cellphone: Unseen Connections,” a new exhibition on the technological, environmental and cultural impacts of cellphones, Friday, June 23. “Cellphone” will offer visitors a chance to explore the many ways that cellular phones bring people closer to one another, often in ways they never even realized. The multi-faceted, first-of-its-kind exhibition features interactive displays and hundreds of objects from the museum’s collection, including minerals and an array of artifacts from around the world.

“Cellphones are one of the most significant technological creations in the annals of humankind,” said Kirk Johnson, the Sant Director of the National Museum of Natural History. “We are proud to bring the behind-the-scenes story of this revolutionary device to museum visitors.”

As the fastest spreading technology in human history, cellphones became universally indispensable in an instant. With the power of constant connectivity, these devices have reshaped entire industries and revolutionized how people document and express their lives. But behind their screens, cellphones hold a deeper story about the ways people are connected to the Earth and to each other through the technology they create.

Cellphones are at the epicenter of personal networks. But the variety of ways cellphones connect people to others, beyond just texts and calls, are often unseen. To keep these essential devices online, a global system of people and infrastructure work around the clock. “Cellphone” will help put a human face on this international supply chain to reveal what is involved in making and maintaining these devices. Visitors will be introduced to the stories of more than 35 people, including innovative engineers making wireless communications widely accessible, young people campaigning for more inclusive emojis and Indigenous students utilizing language apps to revitalize their mother tongues.

“‘Cellphone’ explores the global stories and natural histories of our mobile devices,” said anthropologist Joshua Bell, the exhibition’s lead curator and the museum’s curator of globalization. “Visitors will learn how technology is intimately connected to the natural world, provides new forums for culture to flourish and transform, and is an important dynamic of what it means to be human in the 21st century. My hope is that everyone will see themselves in this exhibition.”

More here. 

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