Seb Chan Joins Cooper-Hewitt as Director of Digital and Emerging Media

Release Date: 
Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Seb Chan Joins Cooper-Hewitt as Director of Digital and Emerging Media
New Position Will Make Design More Accessible

The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum is pleased to announce the appointment of Seb Chan as director of digital and emerging media, effective Nov. 28. By creating this new role, Cooper-Hewitt places digital at the center of the museum’s redevelopment and transformation into a 21st century museum, integrating web and social media−blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube−with mobile experiences and ensuring that these endeavors remain sustainable. Chan will lead a digital renewal at the museum, elevating and expanding Cooper-Hewitt’s online user experience alongside its physical renovation period and reopening in 2013.

“Seb is admired internationally as a wise council and expert advisor about every aspect of museums in the digital realm,” said Bill Moggridge, director of the museum. “We are thrilled that he will be with us to help us connect the physical to the digital and vice versa!”

Chan is an internationally recognized technology and digital strategy specialist in the cultural sector. For the past decade he has worked at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney putting digital engagement at the core of the museum’s activities. In 2006, he brought the museum's collection online en masse, bringing new public value to the digitized collections and opening them up for broad access through liberal open licensing policies and the widespread adoption of Creative Commons. The Powerhouse quickly became an international benchmark for presenting collections online. In 2008, he was promoted to Head of Digital, Social and Emerging Technologies, managing the museum’s web, mobile, digitization, research library and digital literacy teams. In this position, he worked to integrate digital content production into everyday practices across the organization, while continuing to foster a culture of experimentation and R&D resulting in the early adoption of mobile, QR codes and the use of iPads to deliver gallery experiences.

He has also led national online collection sharing projects, and is committed to connecting individual collections to their wider context and holdings in other institutions. Chan received the Gold Medal Muse Awards from the American Association of Museums for online collection presence (2008) and for digital communities (2011).

Beyond the Powerhouse, Chan has consulted widely for museums and libraries across North America, Europe and Asia on digital strategy and emerging technologies and he has been a regular speaker at both web and museum sector conferences. His long running and widely read museum technology blog can be read at or Chan can be followed on Twitter @sebchan.

“Cooper-Hewitt has always been one of my favorite New York museums and its high quality and intellectually challenging exhibitions, as well as its national education programs, have been very inspirational,” said Chan. “I’m looking forward to working with the collection, staff and trustees to capitalize on the wealth of opportunities that exist, especially increasing public access while communicating the important role of design in building a better world.”

About Cooper-Hewitt’s Expansion
Cooper-Hewitt’s redesign focuses on adapting a 20th-century historic house to meet the needs of a 21st-century museum. The $64 million capital project includes enlarged and enhanced facilities for exhibitions, collections display, education programming and the National Design Library, and an increased endowment. When the museum reopens in 2013, gallery space will increase by 60 percent.
During the renovation, Cooper-Hewitt’s usual schedule of exhibitions, education programs and events will be staged at various off-site locations, including “Design with the Other 90%: Cities,” on view at the United Nations Oct. 15 through Jan. 9, 2012, and “Graphic Design: Now In Production,” on view at Governors Island May 26, 2012 through Sept. 3, 2012.

About the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design and presents compelling perspectives on the impact of design on daily life through active educational programs, exhibitions and publications. The museum has been a branch of the Smithsonian since 1967.

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