"The Mask—Arrayed" Project Explores Material, Technological, and Cultural Aspects of the Face Mask

"The Mask—Arrayed" explores the material, technological, and cultural aspects of the most iconic artifact of the COVID-19 crisis—the face mask.

In our new project, "The Mask—Arrayed," historians of science, technology, medicine, and the environment unmask in short essays from around the globe the complexity of a seemingly simple object, unveiling its many layers and different usages in both material and non-material terms.Image of masks

As the crisis requires us to adapt to a new world with the skills and knowledge we already possess, each author brings their specific research expertise and interests to meet the challenge.

"The Mask—Arrayed" is enriched by artist interventions and interviews with people who have interacted with the mask in very special ways. We observe new knowledge, technologies, and materials in the making, follow processes of adaption and invention, and ask how claims of knowledge and technological functionalities are constructed and defended. The project strives for geographical breadth, though not for universal claims.

The project is hosted by Department III (Artifacts, Action, Knowledge) and is inspired by the department’s unique perspective on studying the history of science that considers the changing role of artifacts: texts, objects, and spaces. The idea emerged during the department’s first virtual meeting necessitated by social distancing.