The Carnegie Mansion on Fifth Avenue, home of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, is closed for the next two years as it undergoes extensive renovations. The Museum’s National Design Library – established in the 1890s by the Museum’s founders, the Hewitt Sisters, at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art – has occupied the Mansion’s third floor since the collections were obtained by the Smithsonian in the 1970s. During that time, the library has grown to include approximately 80,000 volumes, 4,500 trade catalogues, and several picture collections. More than two years of planning by staff, volunteers, and student workers have gone into the move of the library into two new spaces: connected townhouses adjacent to the mansion, known as the Miller and Fox Houses; and the Museum’s new collection storage and conservation facility in New Jersey. Library staff worked with the Smithsonian’s Office of Facilities, Engineering, and Operations and with design firms Beyer Blinder Belle and Gluckman Mayner to plan these new spaces. Over the past five months, the library’s collections have moved partially to Miller-Fox, and partially to New Jersey.

CHNDM Library Reading Room in the Carnegie Mansion

Two rooms of Miller House (the former M. Louise McAlpin residence, built in 1903, where the Carnegies’ daughter, Margaret lived with her husband, Roswell Miller) were refurbished. One oak-paneled room serves as the workroom and offices for library staff. The Fred & Rae S. Friedman Rare Book Room (formerly the Bradley Room in the Mansion), features state-of-the-art environment, security, and fire-suppression systems as well as compact shelving. The public spaces of the library are in Fox House, comprised of the reception/reference room and two reading rooms. The reception room contains current and bound serials and reference volumes, an area to greet and register visitors, and workstations with PCs, scanners, printers, and a microfilm reader-printer. The Arthur Ross Reading Room, an elegant, renovated parlor near the reference area, is adorned with a crystal chandelier and wall sconces by E. F. Caldwell & Co., a marble fireplace, mirrors, and modern seating and tables by Steelcase that accommodate twenty researchers, along with shelving for serials, course reserves, and student use.

Arthur Ross Reading Room in the new National Design Library

Another oval, wood-paneled room, also with a marble mantel and original Caldwell lighting fixtures, on the other side of the reference area serves as the ”quiet reading room” and can accommodate twelve researchers. Cooper Union Museum and Cooper-Hewitt exhibition catalogues, long runs of shelter magazines, and more reference works are housed here.

North Reading Room in the new National Design Library

On the first floor, the new compact-shelving stacks house approximately 20,000 monographs, serials, and master’s theses. Trade literature and past Cooper-Hewitt exhibition records are housed on stationary shelving here.


First-floor stacks in the new National Design Library

Approximately 60% of the monograph and bound serials collection are now in compact shelving in a 2,700-square-foot space at the offsite facility. The Caldwell, Kubler, Czech book cover, postcard, large trade catalogue, pop-up book, and archive collections have also been moved to New Jersey. The offsite facility provides space for years of collection growth.

Stacks at Cooper-Hewitt’s offsite facility

One thought on “National Design Library Moves into New Spaces

I am researching an Edward F. Caldwell Light fixture. American Louis XVI Revival Bronze Six light Chandelier. Stamped 165 Circa 1920. 20′ w,20″ d 26.5″ h. Looking for any drawings or watercolors of this fixture – Have a photo of the fixture that I can forward over if it is something you can help me with. Thank you Stephen Hentschel 303-506-9225 Denver CO

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