Written by Cooper-Hewitt Docent Anna Daley. Anna is a graduate of the Cooper-Hewitt/Parsons the New School for Design Master's Program in the History of the Decorative Arts and Design. She teaches the History of Graphic Design at Parsons and the History of Industrial Design at Montclair State University.
When a museum goes dark, not only are there no visitors, but there is also no need for docents for those visitors. Fortunately for us, our fearless leader, Kimberly Cisneros, has organized tours of design exhibitions throughout the city to keep us connected to the design world and each other. In October we visited “Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900-2000” at the Museum of Modern Art. As a docent and a design educator, I relished the opportunity to see De Stijl and Constructivist-designed nursery furnishings and picture books to supplement my understanding of the more familiar highlights of the movements.
More recently, on March 20th, one of our very own docents, Joan Edelstein, lead us on tour of “Designing Tomorrow: America’s World’s Fairs of the 1930s” at the Museum of the City of New York. Joan had, in fact, attended the 1939 World’s Fair in New York as a small child. Her enthusiasm for the subject was palpable and it was a treat to hear her memories of the spectacular sights, such as the two-story, lighted waterfall on the façade of the Italian pavilion. I have taught the 1939 World’s Fair for years, so I was thrilled to see “Elektro the Moto Man,” a seven-foot tall robot, which I was entirely unfamiliar with, and the fair’s most popular souvenir, the buttons given out at General Motor’s Futurama pavilion, which read “I have seen the future.” Joan ended our tour by taking us to the third floor to see “Making Room: New Housing Models for New Yorkers,” an exhibition focusing on the city’s growing need for housing for single people. The most exciting aspect of this exhibition was the scale model of the 325-square-foot micro-units that will be built on East 27th Street. We all greatly enjoyed this tour, and I know that we all learned something new that directly connected to items in the Cooper-Hewitt permanent collection or to previous exhibitions. We are eagerly looking for the venue for our next tour!