Better By Design

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum reopens its doors.

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

When New York’s Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum reopens on December 12, after a three-year renovation, it will have 60 percent more exhibition space in the Carnegie Mansion, and also will have expanded into the virtual realm. The new Immersion Room allows visitors to project selections from the museum’s enormous cache of wallpaper designs onto the walls, or to draw their own. A digital “pen,” given with each ticket, affords access to all 210,000 objects in the permanent collection, including one of the latest acquisitions, Gaetano Pesce’s Via Portico d’Ottavia Vase, 1988–1991. The wandlike apparatus can be used to save images of the works on view to a personal profile for at-home browsing or to connect to interactive tables installed throughout the galleries. The device has impressive recognition capability: “You can draw a zigzag, and all the zigzag lines reflected in our collection will come up,” says museum director Caroline Baumann. “It’s a wonderful way to pull back the curtain.”