The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum is re-opening on 12/12/14 in New York City after having been closed for renovations since 2011 and will feature eight new exhibits upon opening among a whole host of other new features to the museum. Based on what I’ve seen, Cooper Hewitt is creating the most hands on museum experience possible. And all the new features lead me to believe it will be the most interactive museum at the Smithsonian.
Let’s start with “The Pen”, possibly the coolest new museum innovation I’ve seen since Smithsonian started the project to digitize its entire collection. Upon entering, you’ll be given a special pen that “enables every visitor to collect objects from around the galleries and create their own designs on interactive tables. At the end of a visit the Pen is returned and all the objects collected or designed by the visitor are accessible online through a unique web address printed on every ticket. These can be shared online and stored for later use in subsequent visits.” What better way to learn about design at a design museum than by designing yourself? “Beyond working as a tool for drawing, it encourages visitors to engage with the works on view in the museum, rather than looking at them through the small screen of the more traditional approach of a ‘museum App’.”
“The Pen” has uses all across the museum, especially in the Immersion Room. You’ll be able to use “The Pen” to choose wallpapers from the collection or create your own and project them onto the walls to see what the designs look like in action. It will give the viewer a chance to see large parts of the collection as they were intended to be seen without going through tons of little samples you’d get at a normal design museum. They even have something called The Process Lab, a place for hands on learning for all ages and interest levels. You might see a group of kids working on a project right next to professional designers and students of the craft working with the extensive support features available. There will be eight new exhibits opening along with the museum on December 12th but one, Tools: Extending Our Reach really stands out to me. Basically it will cover the entire human history of tool use and its progression and advancement over time. From tools of survival (stone blades and axes) to tools of design, the exhibit will cover 1.85 million years of human history. I can’t wait to see how they bring it all together.
If you find yourself in New York City anytime soon, then the Cooper-Hewitt is definitely worth a visit. If you’d like more information about the process of renovating the museum, everything including who, what, where, when, why and how, click here.