Revamped Cooper Hewitt Museum Debuts

After three years, the museum will have a more modernized layout.

It’s been a long three years that the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum (formerly the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum) has been closed for renovations, but the institution’s reopening festivities, scheduled for Friday, December 12, mark another, much older milestone: on that day in 1902, Andrew Carnegie first moved into the Upper East Side mansion the museum calls home.

The only museum in the United States completely dedicated to historic and contemporary design, the restored Cooper Hewitt debuts with an impressive slate of ten exhibitions and installations—the museum has increased exhibition space by 60 percent, allowing the institution to display an unprecedented number of its 210,000-object collection, which spans no less than 30 centuries.

The entire second floor will exclusively feature highlights from the permanent collection, while the third story, which Carnegie used as a gymnasium, and which has more recently housed the Cooper Hewitt’s library, will be opened to the public for the first time in the institution’s history.

After the renovations, for which no less than 13 design firms were employed, the museum touts a more open floor-plan and a modernized layout that will ease installation and allow the Cooper Hewitt to stay open year-round (previously, it closed in between exhibitions).

Interactivity will be a mandate of the new Cooper Hewitt (see “Cooper Hewitt Museum Bets on Interactivity“). The institution expects its much-hyped Pen, which will allow museum-goers to bookmark their favorite objects and review them both during their visit and upon their return home, to launch early next year. The Pen is the brain child of Local Projects with Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and was designed by GE, Sistel Networks, and Undercurrent. In addition, Bloomberg Connects, the digital engagement program of Bloomberg Philanthropies, has developed a series of touch-screen tables where visitors can explore the collection digitally, and create their own designs.

“The new Cooper Hewitt is a must-see and must-do destination to experience historical and contemporary design in a way like never before,” said Cooper-Hewitt director Caroline Baumann. She believes the museum has the power to “shape how people think about the power of design and ultimately, its capability to solve real world problems.”

Inaugural exhibitions include a look at the renovation process; a first-time exploration of the collection of the institution’s founders, Sarah and Eleanor Hewitt; a guest-curated show that artist Maira Kalman will organize, and a history of tools and design.

Beginning December 12, the museum will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with extended, pay-what-you-wish hours from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays. General admission will cost $18, with senior and student tickets going for $12. Children under 18 will be able to enter for free. Visitors will also be welcome to stop by the museum in the early morning, when the cafe, gardens, and gift shop will be open and free to the public from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

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