Installation view of beauty cooper hewitt design triennial photo by matt flynn
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Installation view of beauty at cooper hewitt design triennial photo by matt flynn
Carnegie mansion by cooper hewitt making design exhibition
This undated photo provided by the cooper hewitt smithsonian design museum shows an installation view of the jazz age american style in the 1920s
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Curator Of Contemporary Design Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design.

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QUALIFICATION REQUIREMENTS: • A Master’s degree (or higher) in art history or design with an expertise in contemporary design that includes an in-depth understanding of the design process and design history. • A recognized expert in the field through work as a curator and/or scholar in the field. Proven record of initiating, curating and delivering exhibitions of excellence within a strong, original, insightful and responsive curatorial vision. • Excellent research, writing, oral communication and time management skills are essential. Must be able to write fluently and persuasively in a range of styles and formats. • A positive, proactive and collegial work ethic is essential. • Demonstrates strong interpersonal and diplomatic skills to initiate collaborations among Smithsonian units. • Knowledge of museum management principles and the ability to participate in a wide variety of committees and exhibition meetings for planning and developing purposes. • Compelling public speaker and experience in conducting a wide range of public programs for adults, students and youths, and scholars in the field. • Ability to fundraise for acquisitions and exhibitions and to work with the Development Department to strategize fundraising support for programs and activities, assisting with fundraising as appropriate. • Ability/experience serving as a supervisor and demonstrated leadership skills.

How has the renovation either opened new doors or posed new challenges for you? I’m very excited to be working on a series of exhibitions about the design process which will appear on the first floor of the museum. We are focusing on creating new visitor experiences and engaging people actively in the design process. This is an amazing time to be at Cooper-Hewitt!

What was the most memorable moment for you at Cooper-Hewitt? The first show I organized at Cooper-Hewitt was called “Mechanical Brides: Women and Machines from Home to Office,” back in 1993. Coming from a job in a small college gallery, I had never created a full-on museum exhibition before. Despite the rocky road to getting the show open, however, the project was a big success with the public, and I had great fun learning to work with the museum’s diverse staff to produce an exhibition at that scale.

HOW TO APPLY: Please submit cover letter and resume (addressing qualification requirements) to [email protected]

Collections Management: In collaboration with the curatorial departments, the incumbent helps develop a multidisciplinary strategic plan for building the contemporary design collection, while directing the museum’s burgeoning collection of digital media and digital end-products that capture the design process. Collections management includes collection maintenance: planning and directing proper storage, identifying conservation needs, cataloguing, supervising photography of collection objects, and providing didactics to various museum departments. Incumbent seeks objects for acquisition and supervises all paperwork and computer entries of prospective objects.

OVERVIEW: The goal of this position is to strengthen scholarly and curatorial research capabilities that advance the Smithsonian’s mission in the 21st century with the aim of increasing and diffusing knowledge, infusing new energy into innovative and creative initiatives, leveraging collections, resources, and partnerships. As the nation’s design museum and the Smithsonian’s leading voice for design innovation, Cooper Hewitt goes beyond the traditional “decorative arts” collecting areas and embraces design as a multi-dimensional, fundamental platform for catalyzing research and worthwhile practices in a broad range of fields such as architecture, industrial and graphic design, social impact design, environmental design, and digital technologies. The Curator of Contemporary Design will be encouraged to work closely with a diverse group of cultural producers and practitioners on cross-disciplinary studies ranging from social issues to global concerns, with a clear focus on actively engaging communities both inside and outside the museum with exhibitions. It is essential that the incumbent be equally comfortable organizing major exhibitions like the museum’s popular National Design Triennial, and addressing timely and provocative topics such as contemporary manufacturing techniques, mobility, gaming technologies, healthcare, technology, systems designs, as well as making acquisitions for Cooper Hewitt’s contemporary design collections.

DesignBoost NYC was a two-day design conference held at Cooper-Hewitt in June 2011. Thirteen speakers specializing in everything from biomechanics to filmmaking addressed the conference’s theme, “Design Beyond Design” in this series of short talks.

Finally, if you could redesign anything, what would it be? This is terribly mundane, but I’m always in search of the perfect purse for my stuff. I need a bag that’s fairly small, but still has room for the seemingly unlimited equipment that the modern woman’s wants to carry around. A bag is a functional object but it’s also very personal and expressive of who we are. When I buy a purse, it’s a relationship that lasts for a few years. I associate whole stretches of my life with the bag I was carrying around at the time, and none of them have been perfect. Some day, I’d like to design exactly what I need.

How would you describe design? What is good design? Bad design? The value of design depends on its context. Some design needs to function flawlessly in order to be “good.” Think about a computer interface or a traffic sign, whose beauty appears at the moment you make use of it. Other design tells a story (film titles or an ad campaign), engaging users on an emotional level by drawing them into an experience and keeping them there for a while. Other design explores an idea or provokes a conversation—some of the most famous chairs of the 20th century weren’t comfortable to sit on, but they expanded our understanding of space, form, and materials. We can’t reduce “good design” to cost or functionality or a narrow set of aesthetic criteria.

What is the most challenging part of your job? A curator is part of a big team, including exhibition managers, registrars, designers, editors, development professionals, press liaisons, educators, and more. Often, people need information from me in order to do their jobs, so that’s a lot of pressure. If I fall behind on a project, then the rest of the team does, too. An exhibition has a lot of  moving parts! Objects have to be shipped, displayed, protected, and documented, and the curator has to help keep track of that process.

As documents of domestic life, the watercolors featured in House Proud celebrate nineteenth-century interiors and the designers that conceived of them. Cooper-Hewitt invites contemporary designers Hermes Mallea, Carey Maloney, Mitchell Owen, and Thomas Jayne to join exhibition curator Gail Davidson for a roundtable discussion on residential interior design, historic restorations, design promotion, and the role.


Shoshana Berger and Grace Hawthorne, authors of Readymade: How to Make (Almost) Everything: A Do-It-Yourself Primer and Ellen Lupton, author of D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself lead a day-long celebration of “DIY” design, showing participants how to translate everyday materials into exciting new objects.

Looking forward, what are you most excited about once the museum reopens? It will be thrilling to see our galleries full of people again. Our beautiful mansion will be accessible to the public in ways that have never been possible before.

Bring Graphic Design to the Classroom: Workshop with Ellen Lupton

Curator Ellen Lupton uses concrete examples to discuss how designed objects and environments affect human behavior. Through objects from the past and present, she demonstrates how good design can solve everyday problems.

Research and Professional Development: The incumbent conducts original, independent scholarly research on contemporary design, defining topics of genuine significance and determining feasibility of the topic for publications and exhibitions depending on the appropriate scope of the topic. Research results in publications and articles either in conjunction with an exhibition or separately, which are considered a major contribution to scholarship in the field. The incumbent handles scholarly documentation (bibliography, notes, etc.) with little editing. To keep abreast of current research and design exhibitions, maintains contact with scholars and curators in the field. Reviews research proposals, manuscripts, and publications as requested by colleagues and outside institutions, fields questions, reviews objects as necessary, and consults on long-term directions and goals of CHSDM research programs.

Can you explain a little bit about the type of work you do here at Cooper-Hewitt? As Senior Curator of Contemporary Design, I organize exhibitions and contribute to the museum’s publications and public programs. Sometimes I come up with ideas for new exhibitions, and sometimes I’m asked to work with a team of other curators on a collaborative endeavor. Curating is exciting, creative work. It involves constant research—staying aware of what’s going on in the world of design—as well as the ability to stop and synthesize the flood of information into coherent stories about the process and practice of design.

Join Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum for a presentation and discussion on teaching graphic design with Ellen Lupton, Curator of Contemporary Design, graphic designer, educator, and author of several books on design including D.

I.Y.: Design it Yourself, and D.I.Y. Kids. The presentation will offer strategies for explaining and teaching graphic design principles and ways to move…

During its first wave of influence, the sinuous and sensuous curves of rococo rapidly spread across France, Holland, and Germany,developing a unique personality in each location. Cooper-Hewitt invites curators Henry Hawley, Reinier Baarsen, and Wolfram Koeppe to a panel discussion that examines the diaspora of rococo during the eighteenth century, and the regional differences in.


What do you enjoy most about your work? I love the creative aspect of organizing exhibitions. I like telling a story with objects. I love seeing how objects communicate with each other in space. I love writing, and every exhibition requires a lot of writing, from wall labels to catalog essays to press materials and public lectures. The most satisfying moment is when you get to see the public walk through an exhibition. Then it’s real.

Calvin S. Hathaway: War Hero and Cooper Union Museum Director

Supervisory Responsibilities: Supervisory/Managerial includes but is not limited to: assigning work, setting priorities, and reviewing and evaluating work and performance of subordinates; approving leave; coaching and developing employees; recommending corrective or disciplinary actions; assisting in budget planning and projecting short-term needs; managing projects within assigned resources; resolving routine problems that typically impact the objectives of the organizational unit.

In addition to being a thinker and an operative in the field, the ideal candidate will bring a high degree of curiosity to the position and an eagerness to initiate collaborations among Smithsonian units, manufacturers and designers. The curator will also cultivate partnerships with faculty and researchers at leading universities, such as NYU, MIT, Harvard, Stanford, as well as foster a network of designers, manufacturers, and artists. With the museum’s mission to educate, inspire, and empower people through design foremost in mind, the candidate will further the public’s engagement and awareness of the critical importance of design, bolstering Cooper Hewitt as the leading world authority in contemporary design.

EXCEPTIONAL BENEFITS: TIAA-CREF (Defined Contributions – 12 percent) Free Life Insurance Voluntary Accidental Death & Dismemberment Insurance Long Term Disability Health Insurance (Blue Cross Blue Shield) Dental (Delta Dental) Vision (Vision Services) Flexible Spending Accounts Free Transit/Commuter Benefits (up to $3,060commuter costs paid per year) Annual Leave (13 days) increasing after 3 years (20 days) Sick Leave (13 days) Federal Holidays (10 days) Family Friendly Leave Family Friendly Workplace Telework Policy Historic Carnegie mansion and landmark offices Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden 92Y Fitness Center Free Entrance to Museums and Galleries Design Library Employee Assistance Program Smithsonian Network Tarallucci e Vino (Museum Cafe) Discount Museum Shop Discount General Employee Discounts

Cooper-Hewitt: Crossing Boundaries – The Transmission of Rococo

Can you explain a little bit about the type of work you do here at Cooper-Hewitt? As Senior Curator of Contemporary Design, I organize exhibitions and contribute to the museum’s publications and public programs.

Sometimes I come up with ideas for new exhibitions, and sometimes I’m asked to work with a team of other curators…

Can you explain a little bit about the type of work you do here at Cooper-Hewitt? I am the Assistant Curator in charge of the Wallcoverings Department, a collection of over 10,000 pieces dating from the late 17th century to the present.

I am responsible for the preservation of these pieces, ongoing research, and making…

MAJOR DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES Exhibitions: The curator’s primary responsibility is to conceive, research and implement exhibitions that leverage CHSDM’s expansive definition of design. The candidate brings an in-depth awareness and knowledge of current areas of research across a broad spectrum of topics in design, technology, the arts and sciences that facilitates interdisciplinary thinking and stimulates Cooper Hewitt’s team and audiences with new developments and new ways of working with, exhibiting, and experiencing design. The curator should have a track record of developing and producing contemporary design exhibitions and public programs that showcase new frontiers in design research that will have a major impact on design and our future as a nation and as a global community of users. Responsibilities include articulating the exhibition concept, writing catalogues and wall text, selecting the works and overseeing the installation. The candidate must utilize a collaborative and integrated approach to exhibitions and program planning that significantly enhance the quality of visitor experience, attracts positive press and earns respect from the general public and community of designers.

What is your favorite Cooper-Hewitt exhibition to date? Why? It’s hard for me to pick a favorite. I loved our show on “Felt,” because it took a narrow focus on a fascinating material in order to tell a global, trans-historical story about design. I also loved shows that illuminate a particular artist, such as Sonia Delaunay, Henry Dreyfuss, or Ingo Mauer.

In last month’s Cooper Hewitt Short Story, the exuberant personality of Robert Winthrop Chanler unfolded in a large gift of illustrated books to Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Library. May’s Short Story celebrates the curatorial vision that brought a professional edge to the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration, that of Calvin Hathaway.


Public Outreach: A recognized voice in contemporary design, the incumbent lectures and participates in symposia, conferences, panel discussions or other programs related to contemporary design. Works closely with Education, Cross-Platform Publishing and Digital and Emerging Media staff to develop meaningful opportunities for visitor engagement with objects. Responsibilities include: responding or supervising response to public inquiries related to the collection and other pertinent topics; supervising departmental visitors and making collection objects available for study as appropriate, presenting gallery talks and lectures related to the museum’s collections and exhibitions. Time permitting, serves as a lecturer on contemporary design at the MA Program in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies (Parsons New School). Provides and coordinates information about department’s collection for Actively contributes to the museum’s expanding web presence and social media.

What is the future of design? Design is broadening and expanding. I’m fascinated with the new field of “service design,” which involves analyzing the user’s interactions with a product or institution to create memorable and humane experiences. Design isn’t just about producing artifacts anymore. It’s about the whole process of production and the life of objects and places—the ecological life, the social life, the personal life.

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