Current Exhibitions

Wood-paneled, interior exhibition space with multiple examples of personal, protective equipment, including face masks, face-shields and hospital scrubs, displayed on grey standing mannequins, grey mannequin heads and in colorful posters and blown-up photographs.

on view through FEBRUARY 20, 2023

A collage of four images, from left to right: the illuminated exterior of a cholera treatment center; a figure putting on a multi-colored mask with a clear section over the lips; a hand holds a lozenge-shaped green plastic device; a person wearing blue and white scrubs against a pink background.

What is design’s role in times of crisis? Communities and individuals come together to aid each other, push for change, and create new spaces, objects, and services. Epidemics—both in the past and in the present—have triggered the discovery of new ways to treat and prevent disease while exposing systemic gaps and failures.

This exhibition features the work of designers, artists, doctors, engineers, and neighbors who asked, “How can I help?” In response to crisis, they created medical devices, PPE, mutual aid, infographics, posters, and architecture. Their creative actions have included open-source collaboration, rapid-response prototyping, hacking, and activism. The exhibition is curated and designed by MASS Design Group with Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Architectural case studies and historical narratives appear alongside creative responses to the current pandemic.

Learn more about Design and Healing.

ON VIEW through august 28, 2022

Dark blue and white textile with a highly intricate repeating pattern of minuscule dots, leaves, fantastical creatures, and other designs.

Nigerian British designer Duro Olowu serves as guest curator of the 20th installment in Cooper Hewitt’s Selects exhibition series, which invites designers, writers, and cultural figures to explore and interpret objects in the museum’s permanent collection. Olowu’s exhibition highlights the theme of pattern and repetition throughout the collection, demonstrating how designers, artists, and makers have relied on pattern to express ideas, preserve heritage, capture attention, and construct objects and environments.

Learn more about Duro Olowu Selects.


nature by Design: botanical expressions
On View through September 25, 2022

In the galleries of Cooper Hewitt is displayed a large, old fashioned book with its pages open. Behind the book is a case with a set of 12 porcelain plates with botanical models painted on them. Behind the case, printed in jumbo scale on the wall, is a botanical illustration of a flowering plant with pink flowers. Two butterflies with black and yellow wings flutter around the flower.

Interpretations of botanical forms wind their way through the decorative arts of the late 18th through the early 20th centuries. Botanical Expressions focuses on key figures—Christopher Dresser, Emile Gallé, William Morris, and Louis Comfort Tiffany—whose knowledge of the natural sciences and personal practices of gardening enriched their creative output as designers. A timeline of objects reflects botanicals in form and pattern, highlighting shifting styles across geography and media in textiles, ceramics, glass, wallcoverings, and more. Significant loans from Smithsonian Libraries include illustrated guidebooks that designers used for natural research and drawing instruction.

Learn more about Nature by Design: Botanical Expressions. 


Two visitors admire botanical models on view at Cooper Hewitt

Botanical Lessons explores nature in the Smithsonian collections through thirteen botanical models on loan from the National Museum of American History, and a selection of illustrated books and periodicals from Smithsonian Libraries, all of which served as teaching aids in a nineteenth-century period marked by a growing interest in science and education.

Learn more about Nature by Design: Botanical Lessons.


On View through september 25, 2022

Rectangular silver box with scrolling organic designs surrounding scenic panels

Drawing from the permanent collection, this exhibition explores the unprecedented circulation of labor, skills, aesthetics, and luxury goods across international borders in the 18th century. It traces the movement of people, ideas, and objects across borders, challenging notions of foreign and domestic, community member and outcast, and national style.

Learn more about Foreign Exchange.

Immersion Room

Cooper Hewitt’s extraordinary collection of wallcoverings is featured in the Immersion Room. Visitors are invited to select digital images of wallpapers or sketch their own design and then project them onto the walls at full scale to see their impact.

Learn more about the Immersion Room.


Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum
on View Through October 10, 2022

Black and white photograph of a group of students in a room studying different styles of textiles.

When Sarah and Eleanor Hewitt, Cooper Hewitt’s founders, formally opened the Museum for the Arts of Decoration at Cooper Union in 1897, they laid the groundwork for an active space for design education in the United States. This exhibition—through archival photography and documents, personal drawings and correspondence, news clippings and ephemera—chronicles the colorful lives and contributions of the dynamic sisters.

Learn more about Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum.

Sophia Crownfield: Drawn from Nature
On View Through July 31, 2022

Watercolor study of yellow squash or pumpkin blossoms, with green vines, on white paper

From the 1890s to the 1920s, Sophia Crownfield (American, 1862–1929) designed prints for some of the most prominent silk and wallpaper manufacturers in the United States. Her drawings of flowers range from delicate graphite sketches to vivid color studies, revealing her obvious ease with different types of specimens. Through progressive stages of rework, she developed designs for patterns and polished drawings for specific end uses. Examples of Cheney Brothers’ printed silks, shown alongside richly detailed drawings, reveal how Crownfield’s process transformed floral stems into the fashionable patterns of the period.

Learn more about Sophia Crownfield: Drawn from Nature.

Exhibition supporters

Design and Healing: Creative Responses to Epidemics is made possible with major support from Crystal and Chris Sacca. Generous support is also provided by Lisa Roberts and David Seltzer and the Lily Auchincloss Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Cooper Hewitt Master’s Program Fund.

Duro Olowu Selects: Works from the Permanent Collection is made possible by the Marks Family Foundation Endowment Fund. Additional support is provided by the Cooper Hewitt Master’s Program Fund.

The Nature by Design series is made possible by major support from Amita and Purnendu Chatterjee. Additional support is provided by the Cooper Hewitt Master’s Program Fund.

Foreign Exchange: 18th-Century Design on the Move is made possible with generous support from the Esme Usdan Exhibition Endowment Fund. Additional support is provided by the Cooper Hewitt Master’s Program Fund.

Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum is made possible with generous support from The Masinter Family Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Cooper Hewitt Master’s Program Fund.

Sophia Crownfield: Drawn from Nature received support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.
Logo includes
The Immersion Room is made possible by major support from Amita and Purnendu Chatterjee.

Digital Experience supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Featured Image: Installation photo of "Design and Healing: Creative Responses to Epidemics" at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution