Prototype Pastoral: Gender, Craft, and Technology, 1965-1980


Getty/ACLS Postdoctoral Fellowships in the History of Art


Prototypes are, in a sense, crafted objects; extending beyond the bounds of existing designs necessitates tinkering and risks failure. Beginning in the 1960s, the still-nascent computing industry positioned craft and handmaking as ways to reassert the human potential of information age technology to an increasingly wary public. By examining three women who joined this emergent technology with handcrafting, Prototype Pastoral tells an alternative history of the prototype, one that is object-centered and grounded in gendered notions of skill. These case studies include prototypes that directly relate—often through the genealogy of copyrights and patents—to contemporary technologies, yet they suggest different ways of conceiving our relationship to it. Based in extensive archival research, this project situates these craft prototypes within a network of American art museums, industries, and government agencies. It demonstrates how concepts of feminine labor and handmaking are embedded in now-ubiquitous notions of creativity and computing.