Designing Motherhood is both a book and an exhibition, but it’s also so much more. The latter is on view at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia until May 2022, while the book and second exhibition are set to release and display at the Center for Architecture and Design in September of this year. Created by historians and writers Michelle Millar Fisher, Amber Winick, and Juliana Rown Barton, as well as in partnership with the Maternity Care Coalition, the work is an exploration of the ubiquitous nature of human reproduction, but also how it can be a unique and individual experience.

Globally, people experience motherhood differently, based on a number of factors, and also throughout time. The tools relating to contraception and birth have changed throughout history, and depending where one lives and how one identifies, there are many elements that contribute to a distinctive experience of reproduction. Designing Motherhood investigates and challenges perceptions relating to reproduction, pregnancy, and gender.

Examined by way of material culture, workshops, speaking events, and written work, the objective is to inform about the history of design from the nineteenth century to present, and the culturally relevant significance relating to birth and pregnancy. A great quote from the curatorial team reads, “The material culture of human reproduction speaks volumes about its perceived value (...) Designing Motherhood unpacks the history of science, design, and culture to deepen an understanding of ourselves as people and a society, and looks for ways where design can address some of humanity’s most pressing issues.” The relevance of the tools and healthcare available to us can make or break our experiences and are telling about our culture.

Designing Motherhood actually started as an Instagram account, where they continue to post their research and promote events and art. Pregnancy pillows, menstrual cups, dance classes, stereotypes and fertility, women who choose not to have children, these are just some of the topics which you may find on their social media and through their exhibition and book.
Designing Motherhood is a book that is out now, as well as an exhibition on view at Philadelphia's Mütter Museum through May 2022.
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Zapatista mothers breastfeeding, 2006. Photo by and courtesy of Bernardo de Niz
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Maternity Care Coalition staff serving their clients in Philadelphia, 1980s. Courtesy of MCC and the University of Pennsylvania Library Archives (MSColl760, Box 44, Folder 56)
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Woman wearing Sari, Bengaluru (then called Bangalore) India, 2006. Image by and courtesy of Philippe McLean
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Margaret Millar with Silver Cross pram, 1982. Image courtesy Michelle Millar Fisher
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