Unseen Connections: Researching and Exhibiting Cellphones at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History

  • 06 May 2020
  • 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
  • Online via Zoom (must register to receive log in information)


IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This talk will be presented online using Zoom. Registration is required. Log in information for Zoom will be emailed to those who have registered by 3:00 pm on Wednesday, May 6.

Speaker:  Joshua Bell, Curator of Globalization, Director, Recovering Voices Program and Acting Director of the National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Date: Wednesday, 06 May 2020
Location:  Online meeting via Zoom
Time: 7:00 pm

About the talk:

What do we touch when we hold our devices? What are the unseen connections that we have to the world through our cellphones? Guided by these questions, in this talk I will discuss my collaborative research on cellphones since 2011 which is helping to inform the exhibit Cellphone: Unseen Connections that I am curating at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. This exhibit looks at the social, cultural, economic and ecological entanglements/impacts of cellphones on humanity. Doing so, the exhibit will help highlight people from around the world whose lives are bound up in the creation, use and circular economies of cellphones. 

About the speaker:

Joshua Bell (D.Phil 2006) is cultural anthropologist, the Curator of Globalization at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. Combining ethnographic fieldwork with research in museums and archives, Bell examines the shifting local and global network of relationships between persons, artefacts and the environment. Since 2000 he has been working with communities in the Purari Delta of Papua New Guinea to document transformations in the wake of regional resource extraction, as well as communities’ heritage traditions. In 2011 he began an ongoing collaborative project on the material, social and linguistic dimensions of cellular telephony in Washington, D.C.. He directs the Summer Institute of Museum of Anthropology, a summer course funded by the National Science Foundation which teaches graduate students how to effectively engage with museum collections. He is director of the Recovering Voices program, which connects communities to Smithsonian collections in the effort to support language and knowledge documentation, sustainability and revitalization, and is currently serving as the Acting Director of the National Anthropological Archives. Bell has edited several books and written articles on materiality, expeditions, the politics of heritage and history, visual return, history of collecting, media and cell phone repair.

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