The Institute for the Humanities FellowSpeak Series invites former fellows to return to the Osterman Common Room to talk about their scholarship. In November 2017, Elizabeth Keslacy, the 2014-15 A. Bartlett Giamatti Graduate Student Fellow, presented "The Design of Environment: Rethinking Architecture at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum (1968-1976)."
Currently a lecturer at Taubman College, Keslacy talked about how the notion of “environment” took on a plethora of meanings in the 1960s, encompassing both the natural and the man-made, locating the concept within the complex connections between objects, cities, users, and systems. The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum entered the fray, she explained, as they reframed their legacy of decorative arts collections through the new paradigm of design. The museum took on the legibility of environment as a key problem in the reshaping of its mission and collections—particularly with respect to architecture. In her presentation, Keslacy explored how the museum resisted the social-scientization of “environment” by highlighting the continuities between architecture and everyday objects, and the agency of the layperson in shaping and interpreting their milieu.