Emotions, Transformations, and Restorations

Three workshops during 2014 at The Institute of Making, University College London.

How do people react to materials emotionally, and how has this changed over time? People respond when confronted with unfamiliar materials, when they see dramatic changes in physical forms, and when they seek to restore material states that they feel have been lost. This project explores the theme of the emotional history of materials in a series of three workshops entitled Emotions, Transformations, and Restorations (ETR). For each workshop, we will bring together a presenter, a respondent, and six researchers drawn from a range of academic disciplines. Each workshop will use practical demonstrations with materials to encourage reflection on our emotional responses to materials and their properties, and how these responses might signal new historical questions. ETR is the first part of a larger research project (currently in the planning stages), which will develop innovative approaches to making materials and making practices more central to historical inquiry.

We have chosen three workshop themes, Emotions, Transformations, and Restorations, which are intended as a means to transcend the disciplines and point to new ways of engaging with materials and history. Ideally they will move beyond disciplinary and even interdisciplinary research.


What is the history of people’s emotional responses to materials? Researchers have a good knowledge of how humans interact, but what about humans and materials in e.g. medical interventions? How do rubber, leather, plastics, or metals shape medical or other experiences?

Crystals of serotonin,
Crystals of serotonin,


How have people experienced and made sense of changes in the state of materials in the past? How did they react to changes between liquids, solids, and gases, or sudden colour or texture changes, or transformations such as explosions?

Larva (caterpillar), pupa (cocoon) and adult moth on a plant
Larva (caterpillar), pupa (cocoon) and adult moth on a plant


How have people sought to restore properties of materials they perceive to have been lost in the past? What is the history of repairing, cleaning, reinvigorating and restoring material objects?

Manuscript, 16th century, before restoration
Manuscript, 16th century, before restoration

After each of these workshops, the research participants will blog about their experiences on this site and consider how these might shape their historical investigations.

The header image on this website is from Celia Pym, ‘Stop Looking like a sweater’, 2013


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s