A Change Is Gonna Come: Black Speculative Futures for the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Collection

Join Dr. Dori Tunstall for a lecture examining the Black presence in the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum collection, from 19th-century Congolese status cloths to Art Sim’s Spike Lee film posters. Considering the history and methods of 19th-century collecting practices, Tunstall will address a gap in the collection’s Black objects and storytelling and will present five design objects and stories representing significant contributions to Black futures of making including Sarah Elisabeth Goode’s cabinet bed and Robert Gumbs’ Black is Beautiful poster, some which will have been crowd-sourced from global Black design communities as a demonstration of communal methods of collecting. Tunstall will conclude the talk with a call to action for communities to help the museum acquire objects such as these and their multilayered stories, as well as appoint Black curatorial staff as the museum’s reparations for the harms done to Black communities through Colonization, slavery, and racism.

Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall is a design anthropologist, public intellectual, and design advocate who works at the intersections of critical theory, culture, and design. As Dean of Design at Ontario College of Art and Design University, she is the first black and black female dean of a faculty of design. She leads the Cultures-Based Innovation Initiative focused on using old ways of knowing to drive innovation processes that directly benefit communities. With a global career, Tunstall served as Associate Professor of Design Anthropology and Associate Dean at Swinburne University in Australia, and wrote the biweekly column Un-Design for The Conversation Australia. In the U.S., she taught at the University of Illinois, organized the U.S. National Design Policy Initiative and served as a director of Design for Democracy. Industry positions included UX strategists for Sapient Corporation and Arc Worldwide. Tunstall holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Stanford University and a BA in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College.


This free program will feature a lecture followed by an audience Q&A hosted through Zoom, with the option to dial in as well. Details will be emailed to you upon registration. This program includes closed captioning. For general questions or if we can provide additional accessibility services or accommodations to support your participation in this program, please email us at CHEducation@si.edu or let us know when registering.


Image: Print, Black Revolution, 1969; Designed by Lev Mills ; USA; lithograph on off-white wove paper; 73.7 x 58.8 cm (29 in. x 23 1/8 in.); Gift of the Museum of Graphic Art, New York; 1973-39-399.

Dori Tunstall, Ishmil Waterman, 2020.


Special Thanks

The Enid and Lester Morse Historic Design Lecture Series is made possible by the generous support of Mr. and Mrs. Lester S. Morse, Jr.