Current Exhibitions

several people in a large museum gallery looking at the items on the walls and in large glass cases.

Image of a young man's fist holding a carved stone arrowhead with handle side tipped with bright yellow silicone.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

This full-floor exhibition includes objects from Cooper Hewitt and nine other Smithsonian collections, spanning 1.85 million years of tool use and design, to explore how tools extend the human body—augmenting our ordinary grasp and power, extending the limits of our senses, sometimes even serving as substitutes (in the case of prostheses)—while considering how some tools break into our lives as radical innovations, whereas many others have remained almost unchanged in form and function for centuries.

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From December 12, 2014 to May 25, 2015

green plastic vase or urn with complex geometric striations all over the surface.

Making Design

Making Design, installed in a suite of renovated galleries on the second floor, is the first in a number of exhibitions devoted to showcasing Cooper Hewitt’s collection. Bringing together some 360 objects, including furniture, lighting fixtures, tableware, clothing, jewelry, books and posters, the exhibition provides an overview of five key elements of design: line, form, texture, pattern, and color (red, for this initial installation).

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Painting of an orange building with ornate exterior walls in what appears to be a desert.

Passion for the Exotic: Lockwood de Forest, Frederic Church

One of the great treasures of the Carnegie Mansion, on the second floor, is the former family library, created by the America’s leading Aesthetic Movement champion of Indian design, Lockwood de Forest.

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Pair of very old yellow cloth slippers against a pure white backdrop.

Maira Kalman Selects

Maira Kalman Selects fills the former first-floor Drawing Room of the Carnegie Mansion with 40 objects from the collections of Cooper Hewitt, other Smithsonian institutions and Kalman herself, arranged by the acclaimed author, artist, and designer to suggest the journey of a life story, from birth through death.

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From December 12, 2014 to June 7, 2015


Immersion Room

Cooper Hewitt’s extraordinary collection of wallcoverings is featured in a new high-tech space, the Immersion Room, offering visitors the unprecedented experience of using the Pen to select digital images of wallpapers or sketch their own design and then project them onto the walls at full scale to see their impact. More than an entertaining interactive experience, the Immersion Room gives museum visitors their first opportunity to discover Cooper Hewitt’s wallcoverings as they were intended to be viewed.

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Miniature model of a grand spiraling staircase.

Models & Prototypes gallery

The second floor of Cooper Hewitt features a Models & Prototypes gallery, where rotating installations provide insights into the important role of models in the design process. For the inaugural installation, the gallery showcases the exceptional models of staircases donated to Cooper Hewitt by Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw.

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Gold birdcage with jade and amethyst string of beads coming from the top and fancy bird toys and perches inside.

Hewitt Sisters Collect

Hewitt Sisters Collect, the first exhibition to share the remarkable story of Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt, who in 1897 established a museum within Cooper Union, recognizes their central role in the museum’s founding and genesis of the core collection.

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Ladislav Sutnar (American and Czech, 1897–1976) for A. B. Addo (Malmö, Sweden). Addo-x, 1958. Offset lithograph. 96.8 x 61.3 cm (38 1/8 x 24 1/8 in.). Gift of Anonymous Donor, 1994-109-7. Photo by Matt Flynn.


How Posters Work shows how dozens of different designers—from prominent pioneers like Herbert Matter, Paul Rand, Philippe Apeloig and M/M (Paris), to lesser-known makers—have mobilized principles of composition, perception and storytelling to convey ideas and construct experiences. Featuring nearly 125 posters from Cooper Hewitt’s permanent collection, the exhibition demonstrates how some of the world’s most creative designers have employed design principles to produce powerful acts of visual communication.

The opening of How Posters Work coincides with NYCxDesign, New York City’s official citywide celebration of design, held May 8–19, 2015.

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From May 8 to Nov. 15, 2015


Process Lab

In the dynamic and interactive Process Lab, visitors can brainstorm design solutions through hands-on and digital activities. The gallery emphasizes how design is a way of thinking, planning, and problem solving, and provides a foundation for the rest of the design concepts on view in the museum.

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Designing the New Cooper Hewitt

The museum itself is a grand design object, as shown in the ground-floor exhibition Designing the New Cooper Hewitt. Design briefs, sketches, photographs, blueprints and other illustrations from the team of designers reveals the process behind three years of renovation and transformation at Cooper Hewitt.

Exhibition Sponsors

Digital Experience supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Tools: Extending Our Reach is made possible by major support from GE. Generous support is also provided by Newell Rubbermaid, Dorit and Avi Reichental, and Esme Usdan. Additional funding is provided by the August Heckscher Exhibition Fund, Facebook, the Ehrenkranz Fund, and Smithsonian Institution funds from the Grand Challenges Consortia.

Maira Kalman Selects is made possible by the Marks Family Foundation Endowment Fund.

Exhibitions of the permanent collection are made possible by major support from Nancy Marks. Additional support is provided by Elizabeth and Lee Ainslie and the Henry Luce Foundation.

Hewitt Sisters Collect is made possible by generous support from Nancy Marks. Additional support is provided by Margery and Edgar Masinter and the Smithsonian Women’s Committee.

Passion for the Exotic: Lockwood de Forest, Frederic Church is made possible in part by the American Express Foundation. Restoration of the Teak Room is supported in part by the American Express Historic Preservation Fund.

The Immersion Room is made possible by major support from Amita and Purnendu Chatterjee.

How Posters Work is made possible by major support from Adobe Foundation.