Research Seminar: Stories about Maintenance - Recasting the Histories of Technology, Business, Labor, and Organizations

Andrew Russell, SUNY Polytechnic Institute and Lee Jared Vinsel, Stevens Institute of Technology

Thursday, April 20, 2017 - 6:30pm

Hagley Museum and Library (Wilmington, DE)

Copeland Room, Library Building

The concept of maintenance and the groups of people who do it—call them the maintainers—recently have attracted scholarly and popular attention. The central insight of this work, some of it published by the authors of this paper, is that our culture’s obsessions with novelty and “innovation” draw attention away from the more mundane processes of maintenance. The premise of this paper is that histories of business and technology in the United States will look different if we consider maintenance as a foundational concept and practice. The essay begins with a discussion of the fascination with innovation among historians of business and technology, before moving to consider the place of maintenance in history, particularly in the United States after 1870. Some implications of our shift in perspective—from innovation to maintenance—include renewed considerations of infrastructure; public and private regimes of regulation and governance; and the deep connections between labor, social stratification, and technology.
Commentator: Philip Scranton
The seminar is open to the public and is based on a paper that is circulated in advance. Those planning to attend are encouraged to read the paper before coming to the seminar. Copies may be obtained by emailing Carol Lockman, Reception at 6 p.m., seminar begins promptly at 6:30 p.m., and takes place in the Copeland Room of Hagley’s library building.