Hidden In Heritage

2-3PM (GMT) Virtual Event with Jaipreet Virdi

Early modern hearing devices were grand feats of mechanical ingenuity. Some were built to be as large as a house; they were hardly practical, or personal objects for aiding hearing. By the nineteenth century, the design shifted and hearing devices were designed to be conspicuous, concealed in the body or masked as furniture: urns, fans, walking canes, and headbands contained cleverly obscured trumpets. Using examples of historical hearing devices, this talk discusses the socio-cultural context that was driving the concealment features of some of these designs and why, despite the variability of models, only the more expensive objects have survived to this day. How does the perseverance of certain objects end up skewing the story we are telling? Exploring the materiality of our hidden hearing heritage, we also explore the stories of people who used these devices, some of whom wielded their ear trumpets not as objects of stigma or concealment, but rather, as objects of power.

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