The New Cooper Hewitt Experience

two silhouettes standing before a colorful glowing display of a repeating orange and green pattern. the pattern is blurred at the edges, as if rushing toward the camera.

Design your own wallpaper in our Immersion Room

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The museum boasts 60 percent more gallery space to present its important collection and temporary exhibitions and offers an entirely new and invigorated visitor experience, with interactive, immersive creative technologies.

Cooper Hewitt’s renovation provides the opportunity to redefine today’s museum experience and inspire each visitor to play designer before, during and after their visit. Visitors can explore the museum’s collections and exhibitions using groundbreaking technologies that inspire learning and experimentation. This new participatory experience has been specifically designed to engage all audiences—students, teachers, families, designers and the general public—and make you want to visit time and time again.

The Interactive Experience

The new galleries provide the opportunity to explore the collection digitally via the Collection Browser application, draw their own designs in the Immersion Room, solve real-world design problems in the Process Lab, discover the Carnegie Mansion using Mansion History, and understand how donors have influenced the museum’s collection through the People Browser application.

Visitors can “play designer” on the world’s first 4K resolution touchscreen tables, which were developed by Ideum, and feature specialized interactive software designed by Local Projects. The 84-, 55-, and 32-inch tables use projected capacitive touch technology – the same technology found in popular tablets and smart phones. The ultra-high-definition resolution allows visitors to zoom in on objects to see minute details like never before.

The Collection Browser is available on seven tables installed throughout three floors of the museum, giving visitors access to thousands of objects in the museum’s collection, including those currently on view in the galleries. The largest tables allow up to six users to simultaneously explore high resolution images of collection objects, select items from the “object river” that flows down the center of each table, zoom in on object details, learn about its history, and related objects organized by design theme and motif. They can also draw a shape that will bring up a related collection object, or try their hand at drawing simple three-dimensional forms.

In the “Hewitt Sisters Collect” exhibition on the second floor, the People Browser application, focuses on the relationship between donors and objects in the collection. Visitors can navigate by donor, read biographical details and learn about how objects were collected in the early 20th century.

Another screen on the second floor reveals the history of the Carnegie Mansion before it became the Cooper Hewitt. Visitors can navigate the Mansion History application using the original floor plan of the building and browse through architectural details, original fittings and fixtures, and the quirks of the mansion’s original residents.

The pen – coming early 2015

Launching in early 2015, the new interactive Pen will further enhance the visitor experience with the ability to “collect” and “save” information, as well as designing on the tables. The Pen is a portable device, carried in the hand and tethered with a wrist strap, which visitors can use as a tool to collect and create.

When visitors enter the museum, they will be given the Pen with their admission ticket which will contain a dedicated web address for that visit. To collect objects, a visitor will touch the end of the Pen to any object label, storing the object’s data in the Pen’s memory. Visitors will touch their Pen to the interactive tables to transfer their collections and explore them in more detail. Using a unique web address printed on every visitor’s ticket, everything collected via the Pen becomes accessible outside of the museum on any smartphone or computer after their visit. Visitors can build their collections over future visits.

The Pen will be returned at the end of every visit.

Find out the full story behind the realization of the Pen and how it works.

Immersion Room

The Immersion Room on the second floor uses digital and projection technologies to bring the museum’s collection of wallcoverings, the largest and most significant in North America to life. Visitors can browse hundreds of high-resolution digitized wallpapers and see them projected at full-scale, floor-to-ceiling on the surrounding walls. Visitors can also sketch their own designs, adjusting color palettes and manipulating repeat patterns, that are projected on the walls. Selected wallcoverings are accompanied by brief audio commentary with designers, who share design insights and inspiration.

Learn more.

Process Lab

In the dynamic and interactive Process Lab, visitors will brainstorm design solutions through hands-on and digital activities. It will emphasize how design is a way of thinking, planning and problem solving, and provide a foundation for the rest of the design concepts on view in the museum.

Learn more.

Transforming the building

The transformation of the Carnegie Mansion into a 21st-century museum respects the spirit and character of the landmark building (the former residence of Andrew Carnegie), restoring key elements to their original grandeur while providing much-needed upgrades to lighting and signage, more flexibility to reduce installation time and better accommodate object handling and above all enhanced public access on every level.

The multiphase project has also provided for the creation of the new Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Library (completed in 2011), which includes the Arthur Ross Reading Room, an additional study room, the Fred and Rae S. Friedman Rare Book Room, reference spaces, a workroom, open stacks and offices, as well as the development of the museum’s website, the collection move to expanded off-site facilities and the growth of the endowment.

A team of leading design firms have joined forces to realize the project. Gluckman Mayner Architects developed the overarching vision for the interior renovation of the mansion, in collaboration with executive architect Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners LLP, which oversaw the engineering, architectural and historic-preservation aspects of the project. Hood Design is evolving the original Richard Schermerhorn Jr. design from 1901, using durable local New York schist as terrace pavers, garden pathways and in the reimagined rockery, tying the garden to its larger context of Central Park. Diller Scofidio + Renfro designed the casework and the first layout of the movable display cases for the exhibitions in the first- and second-floor galleries, as well as the new SHOP Cooper Hewitt retail space; Thinc Design conceived the Tools exhibition design; Local Projects focused on the design and production of the interactive media concept; and Ideum developed the interactive table hardware. Goppion engineered and fabricated the casework on the ground-, first-, and second-floor galleries.

Through reprogramming of portions of the mansion and the adjacent townhouses, as well as reconfiguring conservation and collection-storage facilities, the project will increase the museum’s total exhibition space from approximately 10,000 square feet to 17,000 square feet, including the 6,000-square-foot gallery on the third floor, which has never before been used for public exhibitions.