• Waschmaschine Scando.jpg Waschmaschine Scando, 1932, © Technisches Museum Wien
Household items between wish and reality.

Cherished – Praised – Unwanted

From 1 May 2018 theTechnisches Museum Wien is showing the exhibition ‘Cherished – Praised –Unwanted’, which looks at how householdtechnology has evolved over time. Featuring exhibits from the Museum’s owncollection inventories on show for the first time the exhibition examines howthe world of objects and our living environments have influenced each other ashousehold technology has become ever more sophisticated.

Technical objects are more than just expedient means.They are the expression of how we shape the world we live in. Conversely, theyalso help shape our actions. Wishes, expectations and projections, but alsoadaptations and normalisation permeate the processes of how objects aredeveloped and appropriated – and our households are no exception.

Domestic appliancesalways give rise to all sorts of promises such as time savings and reducedworkloads, cleanliness and convenience. Brand names often back up theseadvertising claims: the Super Soft Plusepilator makes hair removal seem like a pain-free process, and with names like Supermax and Tornado, vacuum cleaners seem to have almost unlimited power.Pressure cookers don’t just speed up the process of cooking, they make it Rapido, Presto and Turbo.

Company brochures anddirections for use advertise the benefits of these products and try to positionthem as emblems of progress and modernity. At the same time they reflect socialcircumstances. Indeed, many of these product leaflets from the time whenhouseholds first had electricity – the 1920s to the 1960s – are aimedspecifically at the housewife, sustaining conventional role models and socialnorms in the process.

At the exhibition,users both male and female talk about domestic appliances. They give an insightinto recollections of unwanted gifts, labour-saving purchases, disappointingclaims, and treasured ‘companions’ throughout their lives. It is an opportunityto find out just how much of a welcome novelty refrigerators were, and why anegg cooker was seen as a pointless innovation.

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