Meet the Staff: Nate Wilcox

Can you explain a little bit about the Operations Department at Cooper-Hewitt?
The Operations department at Cooper-Hewitt includes Facilities, Visitor Services, Museum Logistics, IT support, Safety and Disaster management. The team is responsible for keeping the Museum’s facilities running. An important aspect of our work is managing the Museum’s relationship with several different Smithsonian central offices, including the Office of Protection Services, the Office of Facilities, Engineering and Operations, and Smithsonian’s Real Estate division.

What other responsibilities do you have outside of Operations?
In addition to my responsibilities in Operations, I coordinate and manage the Museum’s role in the RE:DESIGN project. Here again, this work involves close collaboration with central Smithsonian offices, which oversee construction, project and design management.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
It is exciting to be part of an organization undergoing a complete and all-encompassing organizational change. Every aspect of the Museum’s administration is impacted by the RE:DESIGN project.  It is incredibly rewarding to be involved in the logistics of the project, including coordinating the move out of the Mansion and envisioning the future of the visitor experience, knowing that we are making decisions that will define the organization indefinitely.

How would you describe good design?
I feel that good design is often dependent on a user’s expectations. I would describe good design as anything that has a quality that makes an experience either easier, more helpful or more enjoyable than one would expect it to be. 

Looking forward, what are you most excited about once the museum reopens?
I am most excited to see visitors in the galleries again. It will be amazing to see our visitor services staff in place and offering an immersive guest experience. It’s incredible how much effort has been put into this project, and I will be thrilled when the public can see the results.

What is your favorite Cooper-Hewitt exhibition to date? Why?
My favorite Cooper-Hewitt exhibition will always be whatever is currently showing. Our most recent exhibition was Graphic Design: Now in Production at Governors Island. The content and venue were unique and impactful. I particularly enjoyed the gallery design by Project Projects.

What was the most memorable moment for you at Cooper-Hewitt?
I have experienced some remarkable moments at Cooper-Hewitt, including finding myself on a chartered boat in the middle of the Hudson to scout out a potential offsite exhibition space, and officiating the First Annual Cooper-Hewitt Staff Holiday Party Ping-Pong Championship.

But the most memorable and important moment for me was the Mansion renovation construction kick-off meeting. The meeting was run by our talented Smithsonian Construction Manager, Janice Slivko, and, after a full round of introductions, Bill Moggridge talked about his expectations for the project. He spoke about the client being a design museum, and inherently that would mean we would be more engaged than a typical client. He also discussed the large number of stakeholders, which was reflected in the number of participants at the meeting. It took years for the Museum to reach this critical point in the project, and Bill’s introduction made me tremendously proud to be involved.

Finally, if you could redesign anything, what would it be?
I have never been happy with the Denver Broncos uniform. I can say that because I’m a fan. I would also consider redesigning the team's play book given their recent loss to the Ravens.