The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History will look inside the evolutions of the smartphone and dozens of other everyday technologies in the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service’s (SITES) “Things Come Apart” exhibit, on display January 19 through May 5, 2019. This captivating exhibition, featuring the works of creative photographer and tinkerer Todd McLellan, is on a 12-city national tour, asking visitors to contemplate the intricacies of such technologies as the quarter-inch-thick smartphone that can be used as a watch, a camera, a theater, a map and even a mobile bank.
Through more than 40 captivating photographs, videos and objects encased in acrylic, “Things Come Apart” displays the complex parts that have spurred revolutions in product design and functionality across multiple industries and the staying power of classic designs, from the ever-changing navigational systems to the evergreen bicycle. McLellan spent countless hours disassembling objects of all sizes and functions—from a watch to a laptop and a Walkman to an upright piano—with painstaking precision into hundreds or even thousands of pieces. With each object fully stripped to its bare parts, he methodically worked backwards, laying out each item in reverse order from the protective case to the smallest circuits until the true scope of each design was captured. The resulting images, grouped alongside other items built for similar purposes, provide a visual history lesson of mechanical innovation and highlight the contrast between old-world craftsmanship and sleek modern engineering.
“We don’t always think about the tools we use, but working on this project has given me a greater respect for engineering of newer technology,” said McLellan, who also disassembled bicycles, compasses and power drills, among other things. “It’s remarkable how much modern design packs into so little.”
Younger visitors to the exhibition will also have the opportunity to become part of the experience through the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center’s Spark!Lab activities. These collaborative, hands-on challenges offer hypothetical situations that allow critical thinking and team creativity to flourish and provide fun skill building in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). The Spark!Lab activity kits are provided through a grant from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee.
The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History thanks Sandia National Laboratories as the sponsor for this exhibition. “Things Come Apart” is included in the price of admission to the Museum and is on display January 19 through May 5, 2019. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. Exhibition descriptions and tour schedules are available at www.sites.si.edu.
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