Cooper Hewitt’s Massive Archive Is Online (and Searchable by Color)

updated Apr 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Cooper Hewitt)

Whether you’re a fact-checker hoping to test the accuracy of your knowledge of design history or excite yourself by poring over a plethora of Pantones past and present, you can get your design fix by perusing the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum from the comfort of your couch. No worries about long lines or being crowded out of your favorite exhibit: The majority of the Upper East Side museum’s archive is now available online.

In 2011, the museum underwent an extensive redesign and eventually reopened its doors in 2014, however its efforts to remain on the innovative end of the spectrum continue. At the end of October, Cooper Hewitt made 90 percent of its collection – which includes over 200,000 pieces – available for public viewing, describing it as “kind of a living document.”

(Image credit: Cooper Hewitt)

The curated exhibitions in the online archives include “thirty centuries of historic and contemporary design” for the casual browser who may find aesthetic appeal in viewing a large snail shell or a dragon and four bearded men, or the design student whose interest is peaked by a perpetual calendar or a vintage brush and watercolor painting of a mysterious TV. For a more generalized tour, visitors can search through various fields, such as a specific time period or countries, color, size or type of object.

“As America’s design museum, Cooper Hewitt is committed to making its collections, knowledge and resources as accessible and useful as possible,” director Caroline Baumann said of the digitization project. “A transformative gift from the Morton and Barbara Mandel Family Foundation made possible the digitization of our entire collection, and I am very proud that Cooper Hewitt accomplished this goal in just 18 months—an unprecedented achievement in the museum world. People of all ages, from anywhere in the world, can now mine the riches of the collection in ingenious and imaginative ways.”