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fig. above: Knife, presumably Steyr in Upper Austria, ca. 1530. The knife is exhibited at MAK Labor's thematic area 'Eating & Drinking'. Photo: (C) MAK/Katrin Wißkirchen.

fig. below: The thematic area 'Helmut Lang Archive' at MAK Labor by the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts was opened to the public on the museum's 150th anniversary on 12 May 2014. Photo: (C) MAK/Nathan Murrell.

How to create an understanding for changes in society?

There are many ways to approach changes in societies through history; one of them is to research the design history of everyday objects like knives for eating, mediums for communicating (letters, copies, e-books), or visual expressions by fashion designers such as seen at MAK Labor in Vienna.

Today on 12 May 2014 exactly 150 years after the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) opened for the first time its doors in Vienna, the museum unveiled the new exhibition concept 'MAK Labor' to the public. Several thematic areas on across 1,900 square meters allow historical as well as interdisciplinary views on people's social living. The thematic area 'Eating and Drinking' for example provides insights into people's behaviour and how it's reflected by objects. It presents artifacts from the more 'raw' European Middle Ages (no dining table decoration, hands and knives were the most important tools) over times when the evolvement of 'fashion' and 'manners' (Renaissance, Baroque) interconnect with the invention of tableware sets, until objects from more recent times.

One of the aims of the exhibition makers in collaboration with the Austrian design team EOOS under the curatorial supervision of the Institute of Design Research Vienna was to inspire visitors for the understanding of contemporary design movements in historical dimensions and interdisciplinarily.

One of the new special areas at the museum is dedicated to fashion designer Helmut Lang. At the 'Helmut Lang Archive', visitors will find documents concerning the label's store architecture, advertising campaigns, fashion show videos, etc from 1986 until 2004.

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