Cooper Hewitt “By the People…” Exhibit Review – Timely, with Brilliant Technology

Cooper Hewitt BY THE PEOPLE
Installation view of "By the People: Designing a Better America." Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution

Inequality, racial injustice, human rights, world hunger, climate collapse: the time for action is Now!

Cooper Hewitt, a gem of a design museum and part of the Smithsonian, is taking on the mission of engaging visitors in tackling these global issues. Their exhibit, “By the People: Designing a Better America,” is on display until February 26, 2017.

It couldn’t come at a more opportune time.

Cooper Hewitt BY THE PEOPLE
Open House Matthew Mazzotta York, AL 2011-13 Photo: Shana Berger/Coleman Center for the Arts

Cooper-Hewitt’s Brilliant Technology

In the past, I’ve often been frustrated trying to describe an exhibit days later because my memory has lagged. Cooper-Hewitt has found a brilliant way to help those of us who easily suffer from museum overload.

Harnessing the latest interactive museum technology, visitors are able to respond to the most memorable exhibits and take them home to re-visit later.   This is how it works— Cooper Hewitt provides every visitor with an interactive pen that you use to tap on the exhibits you especially want to re-visit and remember later. I was able to tap on the object label next to each of the exhibits I wanted to study and the next day, from my home computer, I retrieved my favorite information about my favorite exhibits – pictures and text – by using entering the personal code from my admission ticket on the Cooper Hewitt webpage.

Cooper Hewitt BY THE PEOPLE
Cross-Border Community Station Estudio Teddy Cruz + Forman & UCSD Cross-Border Initiative 2015-present Photo: Estudio Teddy Cruz + Forman (Rene Jaime Torrero)
Cooper Hewitt BY THE PEOPLE
Installation view of "By the People: Designing a Better America." Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution
Cooper Hewitt BY THE PEOPLE
LaSalle Cultural Corridor Tulane University and Louisiana State University with Tulane City Center, Mardi Gras Indian Council, New Orleans Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs, LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture, and Harmony Neighborhood Development Central City, New Orleans, Louisiana 2014-present Photo: Courtesy New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Council

How exciting to have my memory jogged!


I was able to tap on the five exhibits that particularly interested me.

Cooper Hewitt BY THE PEOPLE
Installation view of "By the People: Designing a Better America." Photo: Matt Flynn © Smithsonian Institution

Justice, Housing Shortages, Food and Water Quality and More…

For example, I especially liked the exhibit about incarcerated men designing a space for justice instead of a space for punishment and human warehousing., so I was able to tap on the object label next to the Designing Justice+Designing Spaces and store all of the information about the exhibit to revisit from my home computer.

Besides Designing Justice, I was intrigued by Human Borders Water Stations and Warning Posters, simple technology that offers water stations to migrants who risk death from dehydration by walking through the Arizona desert.

In my NYC residence, I’m poignantly aware of the dire need for affordable housing. Urban Housing Design Principles married beautiful design elements with lower costs, created for people who live in urban environments.

Cooper Hewitt BY THE PEOPLE
Humane Borders Water Stations Humane Borders Arizona-Mexico border 2000–present Photo: © 2001 George Kimmerling

Farm Hack Tools struck me as both whimsical and audacious. Utilizing an open-source approach to design, participants are encouraged to replicate, borrow, modify, and extend designs that enhance healthy food production for communities.

Finally, Mapping the Measure of America honed in on inequality and well-being with multiple measures.

Intended to stimulate dialogue, this exhibit certainly got me thinking and talking about the imminent threat to the Affordable Care Act, free public school education, global warming and affordable housing.

Best yet—with the Cooper-Hewitt technology I can share with you the highlights of my visit. Read the details of these exhibits here.



Now through February 26, 2017


Cooper-Hewitt Museum
2 East 91st Street
New York, NY


Additional Photo Credits--

Top Slider:

Fresh Moves Mobile Markets
Fresh Moves 2.0: Hammersley Architecture, Growing Power and Tyrue Jones
Fresh Moves 1.0: Architecture for Humanity Chicago, Latent Design and EPIC
Chicago, Illinois 2009–present
Photo: © Smithsonian Institution

Farm Hack Tools
Greenhorns, GreenStart, National Young Farmers Coalition and 400,000 users
California, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Canada, United Kingdom
Photo: By Farm Hack licensed under CC BY 4.0



$7 – Students

$10 – Seniors

$16 – Adults


Buy tickets online

Christine Schmidt

About the Author: Christine Schmidt LCSW, is a NYC-based psychotherapist, former NYC school social worker and HS principal, and a frequent lecturer on anti-racism, also devoting much pen time to exposing systemic bias in mental health services and education. Find more of Christine Schmidt’s articles about racism on her blog.


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