Download Cooper-Hewitt Collections Data

A data visualization of Cooper-Hewitt collections created by Bart Davis.

Cooper-Hewitt is committed to making its collection data available for public access. To date, we have made public approximately 60% of the documented collection available online. Whilst we have a web interface for searching the collection, we are now also making the dataset available for free public download. By being able to see "everything" at once, new connections and understandings may emerge.

What is it?

The download contains only text metadata, or “tombstone” information—a brief object description that includes temporal, geographic, and provenance information—for over 120,000 objects.

Is it complete?

No. The data is only tombstone information. Tombstone information is the raw data that is created by museum staff at the time of acquisition for recording the basic 'facts' about an object. As such, it is unedited. Historically, museum staff have used this data only for identifying the object, tracking its whereabouts in storage or exhibition, and for internal report and label creation. Like most museums, Cooper-Hewitt had never predicted that the public might use technologies, such as the web, to explore museum collections in the way that they do now. As such, this data has not been created with a "public audience" in mind. Not every field is complete for each record, nor is there any consistency in the way in which data has been entered over the many years of its accumulation. Considerable additional information is available in research files that have not yet been digitized and, as the research work of the museum is ongoing, the records will continue to be updated and change over time.

Is anything not included?

Please be aware that images are not included. While we have provided a way to reference the thumbnail images connected to the records, these images themselves are not part of the dataset being released and are not covered by the same license. If you wish to use the images for anything other than personal, private usage, please contact us.

What can I do with it?

The prospective uses for this data in the scholarly realm are extensive, from researchers who may reveal new patterns and connections across the collection, to new relationships between datasets in global catalogues of design and decorative arts, to improved Wikipedia articles. The dataset can also be used by developers in creating exciting new applications, which may combine the museum’s collection records with other data to produce a timeline, online publication, widget or mobile tool. Other museums that have released their metadata in this way have often been surprised by the innovative ways in which their data has been used and improved upon. Cooper-Hewitt has made a simple Collection Wall prototype to demonstrate some of what is possible with this data.

Are there any restrictions?

In order to reduce any uncertainty about the "legitimate uses" of this dataset, Cooper-Hewitt has licensed this release under a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) dedication. This license is the most permissive available and allows for all types of reuse. It is explained in full in the accompanying license file. Following the lead of Europeana, we have also released some guidelines for use which suggest that users:

  • Give attribution to Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.
  • Contribute back any modifications or improvements.
  • Do not mislead others or misrepresent the Metadata or its sources.
  • Be responsible.
  • Understand that they use the data at their own risk.

OK, I understand all of this. So, how do I download it?

We have placed the dataset and associated files on a repository on GitHub. This ensures that you are always downloading the most current released version of the dataset. You can also ask questions and communicate with others experimenting with the data.

If you'd like to know more about the process of releasing this data, we've posted an article on our Cooper-Hewitt Labs blog about it.