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.

Image features square black form, hinged at the top and opened to reveal an LDC screen showing a black and white drawing of an office with clock and in and out boxes on the wall, a file cabinet, and a desktop in the foreground having a telephone, rolodex, letter, pad, and calendar. A row of icons for different functions is below the desk. A short antenna is attached on right side of the lid, near the hinge. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
A Predecessor of Today’s Smartphones
This week’s posts feature case studies from Cooper Hewitt’s Digital Collections Management Project, a conservation survey of born-digital and hybrid objects in the permanent collection. The two-year project was coordinated by an in-house team of conservators, curators, and registrar, and was conducted by digital conservation specialist Ben Fino-Radin and his team at Small Data Industries....
Conserving the Surtout de Table: Cut Glass
Written by Sarah Barack, Head of Conservation, Senior Objects Conservator Thanks to a generous gift from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, Cooper Hewitt’s spectacular surtout de table centerpiece was the focus of a recent technical study and conservation treatment by the museum’s conservation department. In this series of posts, conservators will be sharing the results of...
From the Dinner Table to Museum Display: Case Study of a Napkin
How textiles are stored greatly impacts their future condition. Creases created by folding textiles become deeply engrained; stress along these folds can create breaks in the fibers, eventually leading to tears; discoloration from light exposure, internal chemical degradation, and exposure to acidic environmental factors like wood furniture, non-archival paper, etc. intensifies along the exposed surfaces...
Conservation for Multisensory Engagement
The exhibition The Senses: Design Beyond Vision challenged Cooper Hewitt's conservation team in its innovative use of multisensory installations. Learn how conservators addressed specific object issues, including scratch-and-sniff wallpaper, pillows, and chocolate.
Conserving the Surtout de Table: Gilt Metalwork
Conservators Jessica Walthew and Jakki Godfrey discuss their approach to cleaning and enlivening the gilt-metal features of Cooper Hewitt's surtout de table.
Protecting the Iridescent
Have you ever noticed shimmering rainbows floating along puddles in the road? This bright iridescence is created by oil floating on the water, and is caused by the way light interacts with itself as it travels through the oil film to the water below. We often refer to this phenomenon as interference colors (good explanation...
Life in the Lab: Conservation at Cooper Hewitt
Cooper Hewitt’s permanent collection includes more than 210,000 objects, which together span thirty centuries and reflect cultures from around the world. The Conservation Department’s main responsibility is the care and technical study of these pieces, to ensure their preservation for today and into the future.
Button, April Showers, 1943
April Showers
April showers bring May flowers, but these buttons tell a more interesting story. In the 1940s plastics were quickly being incorporated into all aspects of everyday life. Lightweight, inexpensive, and available in a wide range of colors, plastic was popular with designers and manufacturers of countless goods—including women’s accessories. Nylon was invented in 1938 allowing...
Roughly cylindrical form of thin paper layers fanned out to form chair; the front and top cut and shaped to form contoured seat, low arms, and back, the seat further compressed and contoured by designer sitting in chair.
A Precious Posterior, Preserved for Posterity
The Honey Pop Chair is made entirely of paper. 120 layers of honeycombed, glassine paper. Designed by Tokujin Yoshioka, who is known to use materials in unexpected ways, the chair starts out as a completely flat honeycomb and then unfolds into a semi-chair shape. The first person who sits in it has an important role to...