Sarah & Eleanor Hewitt: Designing a Modern Museum chronicles the colorful lives and contributions of the dynamic sisters and explores how they created The Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration. Through archival photography and documents, personal drawings and correspondence, news clippings and ephemera, the exhibition introduces the sisters as educators, collectors, and philanthropists.

In the early 1890s, Sarah and Eleanor began designing a museum for the arts of decoration within The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, the public school founded by their grandfather, Peter Cooper, in 1859. Modeled on the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, the sisters followed advice from the directors of the Paris museum on how to organize, collect, and exhibit objects for their museum and library.

This exhibition marks the 125th anniversary of the opening of the museum galleries at Cooper Union in 1897, and celebrates the Smithsonian Institution’s 175th year.

Featured Image: Students studying textiles from J. P. Morgan gift in the Cooper Union Museum galleries, 1925; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum