Re-opened after a 3 year renovation, the new Cooper Hewitt was recently described by The Atlantic as “the museum of the future”,. The new museum features a thoughtful suite of integrated interactive experiences aimed at transforming and expanding the museum’s visitor base as well as expanding its interpretive, curatorial and exhibition capacities. Seen as a whole, the interactive experiences in the 16,000 sq ft renovation, give visitors the ability to ‘save’ objects, ‘create’ their own designs, and explore design through a wealth of different but coherent interfaces throughout the museum.
Designed and built as ‘digital infrastructure’ these experiences have been built to persist and evolve as exhibitions change around them. Deployed over all four floors of Cooper Hewitt, the technological interventions work together to provide a new interpretative framework for the museum, allowing it to emphasise the process of design, reveal the breadth of the collection, and importantly orient visitors to the new way of ‘being’ inside the museum itself.Built on an in-house web API, the core interactive, web-connected, experiences include -a) the collection browser with making tools – deployed to three different sizes of multi-touch table (32/55/84″), this provides access to all objects on display and those in storage with an interface designed to invite exploration by up to six simultaneous users. Users can also switch to a 3D modelling mode allowing them to design 3D objects including a chair, vase, lamp or skyscraper. A related experience also allows visitors to explore the collection through the lens of its donors.b) the Immersion room – a room-sized projection space allowing visitors to explore the museum’s unique collection of wall coverings and project them from floor-to-ceiling. This enables a never-before-possible sense of how a room would have felt when surrounded by these works. The Immersion room activates a previously difficult-to-exhibit collection, a feat made possible by recent digitization. Visitors can also make their own wall coverings in the Immersion room by drawing their own designs, which are repeated and projected in real-time.
c) other new interactive experiences include a historical house virtual tour; a gestural navigator aimed at bringing users into an awareness of their bodies for the Beautiful Users exhibition; and a design-it-better digital suggestion box deployed in the new Process Lab.
These experiences are brought together by The Pen – a device given to visitors that allows them to save and collect anything they see (via NFC-enabled wall labels) and make on the interactive tables. Connected via our API to visitors’ tickets, The Pen creates a persistent diary of each visit and the collection becomes an open resource for future exploration and inspiration.
The success of these, together, is represented by the visible transformation of audiences attracted to Cooper Hewitt – more diverse, younger, and arguably more excited and engaged by the ‘process of design’ (rather than the rarity of objects on show).