about

Cooper Hewitt’s permanent collection includes more than 210,000 objects, which span thirty centuries and a wide variety of materials. The Conservation Department cares for and studies these pieces to ensure their preservation for today and into the future. Conservators provide expertise in the conservation of works on paper, textiles, and three-dimensional objects made of media ranging from brittle glass to pliable plastic. Sarah Barack, Head of Conservation and Senior Objects Conservator, offers a further introduction to the department.

Explore below the department’s work related to the museum’s collection and exhibitions and follow Cooper Hewitt’s Conservation Department on Instagram @cooperhewittconservation.

A large textile with a grid of blue, purple and white squares is shown in a gallery display.
Imaging Indigo with Multiband Reflectance Subtraction
by Jessica Walthew (objects conservator), Kira Eng-Wilmot (textile conservator), and Pauline Nguyen (conservation intern) Nebula by Eduardo Portillo and María Dávila is made with a beautiful variety of fibers and dyes, including indigo in different intensities and in combination with the red dye cochineal to yield a dark purple color. This woven textile features an...
Textile with step motif in reds, oranges, and natural colors shown next to an ancient clay pot depicted wearing a tunic with the same motif.
Multiband Imaging of Cochineal-dyed textiles
by Jessica Walthew (objects conservator), Kira Eng-Wilmot (textile conservator),  and Pauline Nguyen (conservation intern) Several contemporary designers featured in our current exhibition Nature by Design: Cochineal (November 16, 2019–May 25, 2020) were inspired by historic materials and chose this fascinating cochineal dyestuff for their work. James Bassler’s textile Six X Four II is made with discontinuous warps...
Gallery view showing a selection of textiles and objects on display, with pink variegated wallpaper surrounding the room.
Spotlight on Current Research: Multiband Imaging for Dyed Textiles
by Jessica Walthew (objects conservator), Kira Eng-Wilmot (textile conservator), and Pauline Nguyen (conservation intern) Cooper Hewitt’s Conservation team recently acquired a Multiband imaging (MBI) photography kit, a useful tool for investigating pigments, coatings, and other artistic materials. In preparation for the exhibition Nature by Design: Cochineal, we worked with our summer intern Pauline Nguyen to...
X-Ray Vision: Exposing 40 Years of Gadgets
Digital Collection Intern Nicolai Garcia recounts the experience of producing x-ray images of electronic objects from Cooper Hewitt's collection.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane!… I think it’s a “b”!
This post was written by guest authors Martha Singer, Mette Carlsen, Jakki Godfrey, and Kerith Koss Schrager, a  team of contract conservators who carried out Cooper Hewitt’s recent glass rehousing project. Today we’re taking a behind-the-scenes look at the nitty-gritty of object numbering in the museum. Object numbers aid in tracking storage locations and other...
Glass Collection Storage at Cooper Hewitt
This post was written by guest authors Martha Singer, Mette Carlsen, Jakki Godfrey, and Kerith Koss Schrager, a  team of contract conservators who carried out Cooper Hewitt’s recent glass rehousing project. The Product Design and Decorative Arts department at Cooper Hewitt contains over 40,000 objects in all, and has a long history of collecting glass...
Conservation Investigation: Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI)
Cooper Hewitt’s object conservators’ technical study and conservation of the surtout de table (designed by Pierre-Phillipe Thomire, ca. 1805) in the museum’s permanent collection was recently presented at several conservation-focused conferences (including focuses on sliver-leaf mirror and gilt metal). Information about the treatments and special imaging techniques used to study the piece were also shared...
Conserving Silver-Leaf Mirrors
“Conserving Silver-Leaf Mirrors in a Surtout de Table at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.” Sarah Barack, Jessica Walthew, and Drew Anderson. ICOM-CC Glass and Ceramics Interim Meeting, London, England. September 5–7, 2019. Download a PDF of the presentation poster here (6.5 MB). Sarah Barack, Head of Conservation and Senior Objects Conservator, will be presenting the...
All that Glitters
“All that Glitters: Treatment and Technical Study of an Ormolu Surtout de Table at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum,” Sarah Barack, Jessica Walthew, and Jakki Godfrey. ICOM-CC Metals Interim Meeting, Neuchatel, Switzerland. September 2–6, 2019. Download a PDF of the presentation poster here (6.5 MB). Sarah Barack, Head of Conservation and Senior Objects Conservator,...