The Wearable Past (2018)
Curator: Tom Everrett, Curator of Communications, Canada Science and Technology Museum | June 2018
Collection Editor: Isabel Pedersen
Collection Archivist: Sharon Caldwell
Photos: Pierre Martin
Wearable technology is often defined by its relationship to digital networks and "smart" computing infrastructures. In other words, what separates wearable technology from other body-worn materials and devices is the ability of a wearable object to collect, process, and share information about a user’s location, biometrics, and/or behaviour across a digital network. From this perspective, a wristwatch does not constitute a wearable technology; a "smartwatch," however, does.
The objects presented in this collection—which appear alongside others in Wearable Tech
, a new permanent gallery at the Canada Science and Technology Museum—challenge this widespread, yet limited view of technology. As curator of Wearable Tech
, one of my goals was to help restore interest in, and appreciation for, historically significant technologies that have been developed to augment, shape, and extract information from human (and animal) bodies—often without the use of digital networks. Similarly, the goal of The Wearable Past
is not to undermine the significance of the "networked turn" in wearable technology design but, rather, to invite new connections between wearable technologies of yesteryear and today. The objects presented here are therefore best understood not as "dumb" antecedents to contemporary "smart" technologies, but as equally significant attempts to augment our bodies, adjust our behaviours, and influence our lives.