Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Break, Repair, Repeat: Spontaneous & Improvised Design

July 25, 2019 Innovation Impact

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How does an 18th century teapot with a repaired spout relate to a hacked Speak n’ Spell?

Spontaneous design can be as trivial as using duct tape to fix a broken car bumper—or as critical as building a temporary survival shelter.

A new pop-up exhibit, Break, Repair, Repeat: Spontaneous & Improvised Design is the result of a collaboration between Curator of Decorative Arts Charles Sable and Curator of Communication & Information Technology Kristen Gallerneaux. The pair looked deeply into The Henry Ford’s collections, finding objects that had been broken, repaired, or created through improvisation—and acquired a few new artifacts along the way.

Some objects in this exhibit have been altered many times, have led multiple lives, and served various purposes. They have been intentionally modified to serve very specific practical needs, or to share an artistic vision.

From the traditional “make-dos” that originally inspired this exhibit to custom clothing—from pirate radios to handmade instruments—this exhibit exposes interesting collisions and connections, cutting across many of The Henry Ford’s collections areas.

Ultimately, this is an exhibit about unscripted innovation and the messiness of creative problem-solving. And the objects in it? They are intriguing because they are just the “right amount of wrong.”

See the artifacts included in this pop-up exhibit in this expert set. Break. Repair. Repeat. will be on exhibit in the cases outside The Gallery by General Motors in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation until September 15, 2019.

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