Meet the Staff: Matthew O'ConnorCan you explain a little bit about the type of work you do here at Cooper-Hewitt?
I serve as the Production Manager for the Exhibitions Department. Essentially I oversee all of the exhibition-related fabrication, construction, and installation details.

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Juggling multiple installations on different floors or locations at the same time. It can get quite tense especially if any of the artists are alive and have input into his or her exhibition.
         
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Getting to work closely with the objects–the collection is incredible. That, and having a front row seat to watch the whole exhibition come to fruition.

How would you describe design? What is good design? Bad design?
I don't think I'm capable of describing design, but one could easily recognize good design from bad design. Does it work? Is it comfortable to use? Is it built to last or is its intent to be disposable, and if it's disposable, what will happen to it post-use? It's important to note that there is not a black-and-white answer to these questions, and the severity of the answer will vary given the different subject. But the more you think about how we use the things we use in a day, the easier it becomes to differentiate good design from bad design.

How has the renovation either opened new doors or posed new challenges for you?
It has certainly given me a new perspective on the Carnegie Mansion. Once you've seen the guts of a structure you have a whole new appreciation for its construction. Working on the post-renovation exhibition details has been great as well. It forces you to think about the various different miniscule details of how an exhibition space works, and you can no longer take things for granted like where the outlets and ceiling light tracks are–as you're one of the group deciding where they should be. It's scary and exhilarating.
 
Looking forward, what are you most excited about once the museum reopens?
I'm really excited to see the mansion back up and running again with a full garden and the opening exhibitions are really going to be something special.
            
What is your favorite Cooper-Hewitt exhibition to date? Why?
I'd say it's a toss up between Rococo: The Continuing Curve and Fashioning Felt. Not only was Rococo packed to the gills with gorgeous objects, but the exhibition design had a really simple aesthetic. The objects were louder than the exhibition design and as a museum purist, that's important to me. I feel with Felt, however, I learned more about a design process. I firmly believe that the curator of the exhibition chose great objects that were not only fantastic examples of felt and the felting process, but were equally as crowd pleasing to look at. Often that's not easy to do.

What was the most memorable moment for you at Cooper-Hewitt?
Installing the structure that supported the yurt in the conservatory ceiling.

What is the future of design?
I believe paying closer attention to the post-consumer life of products and how it impacts the earth will become the greatest driving force in design at some point.
 
Finally, if you could redesign anything, what would it be?
A few things I suppose: the center console in my car, the human neck (we  have a rib cage over our abdomen organs but our jugular vein is essentially exposed, who designed this?), and the fold-up grocery carts, as I've never seen one of those that wasn't going to fall apart at a moment's notice.

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