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Found 24 Collections


Explore: Mask Design

In this collection, explore the history, evolution, and meaning of masks through multiple perspectives. Harvard Project Zero Thinking Routines are included at the end to help guide discussion and reflection of design choices, local and global impact, and ways that masks protect and conceal the wearer. 

Suggested instructions for use: This collection was designed to be modular and a survey of the masks available at the Smithsonian. Each section begins with an essential question, followed by several masks that help explore the key concept. Teachers may facilitate Project Zero Thinking Routines before and/or after students look closely at each section. Students may want to jot down notes in response to the essential question in preparation for a group discussion.

Additional questions to guide investigation:

  • How does belief shape our response to worldly concerns?
  • How does the body's needs and shape dictate the designs we create?
  • How does new knowledge change our decisions? What "old" knowledge gets carried forward and why?
  • Where are we vulnerable in our bodies?

This collection was created in collaboration by:

To read more about the research process the team used in creating this collection, please visit the supplementary Smithsonian Learning Lab blog post.

Keywords: cfch, chsdm, nmah, saam, sclda, ppe, face covering, protection, design, making, community, fashion, production, identity, inquiry, art, culture, medicine, science

Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access

Eva Zeisel: A Lifetime of Design

Eva Zeisel (1906–2011) was born in Budapest and only immigrated to America in 1938 after having been imprisoned by the NKVD in Russia for an alleged plot on Stalin's life. She lived in America for the rest of her life though she continued to work internationally and worked until she passed away in 2011 at 105. Zeisel created designs for American, German, Italian and Japanese companies and her list of clients includes Sears, Roebuck as well as more recent clients such as Crate and Barrel. Zeisel was the recipient of many honors and awards, including an exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in l947 and a Lifetime Achievement award from the Cooper Hewitt in 2005. This collection includes sketches for designs as well as finished ceramic pieces. Note that her most colorful and loudly patterned pieces are designs for German companies.

Includes a video that is roughly 58 minutes long, introductions last about 4:40 then talk begins.


Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Trude Guermonprez: Breaking Boundaries with Design

Trude Guermonprez (1910-1979) was a highly regarded textile designer born in Germany. Guermonperz immigrated to America and began teaching weaving at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina until the weaving program there ended. Trude Guermonperz then went on to teach at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute), and finally at California College of Arts and Crafts (now known as the California College of Art & Design) where she became chair of the department. Through her teaching Guermonperz had an enormous impact on American weavers, many cite her as an influence and inspiration. Trude Guermonprez's work includes designs that were completed for clients and industry as well as broad collection of highly experimental pieces. This collection includes examples of functional designs for clients, experimental designs and samples, as well as a selection of her beautifully rendered sketches for designs.

This collection focuses on the objects within the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum collection from Trude Guermonprez, yet also includes photographs of the designer from the Archives of American Art.


Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Willi Smith

Willi Smith (1958-1987)

Willi Smith was an African American fashion designer whose street wear line known as WilliWear was and experiment of democracy in fashion. WilliWear designs were known to be bold, blurring the lines between high and low culture, and his work often involved collaborations with other artists and designers. The openly gay designer's career was cut short when he died in 1987 from complications from HIV/AIDS.

This collection is a representation of the 2020 exhibition Willi Smith: Street Couture at the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, which features over 200 pieces from Smith’s work and career and his numerous collaborations with artists, dancers, choreographers, graphic designers, architects, and more. The works on view include video, sketches, patterns, photographs, and garments.

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Herbert Bayer

Herbert Bayer (American, born Austria, active Germany and USA, 1900–1985) was a student and teacher at the Bauhaus. This famous German art and design school, which operated from 1919 to 1933, sought to integrate art, design, and daily life. At the Bauhaus, Bayer experimented with geometry, photomontage, and functional typography to help forge a new approach to graphic design. He applied Bauhaus theories of art and design to commercial practice and promoted the Bauhaus legacy to the public during a prolific career spanning over six decades and two continents.

As a student during the early years of the Bauhaus, Bayer utilized hand-drawn letters and basic geometry to create posters, postcards, and murals. In 1925, he became a "young master" at the Bauhaus and established a modernized print shop in the school's new building in Dessau. Here, he deployed photography and machine-based printing to promote the school and its products, such as furniture, housewares, and wallpaper.

After leaving the Bauhaus in 1928, Bayer worked in Berlin and in 1938 he left Germany for New York City. He eventually moved to Aspen, Colorado, a town he helped transform into a thriving cultural center. In the United States, Bayer created information graphics, books, advertisements, exhibitions, architecture, and magazine layouts for diverse clients, and he pioneered the field of corporate design.

This exhibition marks the centenary of the founding of the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany, in 1919.

Many of the objects displayed in this exhibition, including all the works from the Bauhaus period, have been generously loaned by Merrill C. Berman. In 2015, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum acquired over 500 pieces documenting Bayer's later career, made possible through a gift from the Taub Foundation. They are presented here to the public for the first time.

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

2019 National High School Design Competition


Cooper Hewitt is delighted to announce the theme of the 2019 National High School Design Competition: The Nature of Design: What would you design (or redesign) that is a nature-based solution to a global problem?


Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum launched the National High School Design Competition in collaboration with Target in 2016. Every year, students around the country are challenged to design a solution to a unique scenario, inspired by Cooper Hewitt’s rich collection and stimulating exhibitions.

Visit Cooper Hewitt website to learn more  

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Ideas to Solutions with Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

How do you help students test their ideas in your classroom? A critical step in the design process, prototyping and testing ideas helps problem-solvers learn from failures, experiment with materials, and visualize their solutions. Educators will dive into a case study from Michael Graves Architecture and Design and explore various techniques to experiment with ideas in the classroom with resources from professional designers and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.



Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum


 This Learning Lab explores the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum's design thinking process. Design Thinking is a methodology used to solve complex problems and fosters creative confidence. It allows the problem-solver to pursue multiple ideas, research solutions, make connections, empathize with the end-user, test ideas and improve concepts.


Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Dorothy Wright Liebes: Unorthodox Textiles

Dorothy Wright Liebes (1893-1972) was a textile designer who is known for having developed a distinctive look, including vibrant colors and patterns that became synonymous with the Modernist movement in California in the 1940s and 1950s. Widely traveled, Liebes often drew inspiration from the places she visited around the world for her unique textile designs. Her designs often include bold colors associated with California Modernism. Liebes experimented with materials, aside from traditional materials such as silk and cotton, she was also know to incorporate cellophane and plastics as well as metals and metallic yarns into her designs. Fiercely determined and career driven, when her husband Leon Liebes suggested she quit working she divorced him, choosing herself and her career over the marriage. Her designs were so successful and sought after that they inspired many imitations.

Contributions of Liebes can be found in the Archives of American Art, the National Portrait Gallery as well as the Copper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, this collection included examples across the Smithsonian but primarily focuses on content from the Cooper Hewitt.


Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Contemporary Muslim Fashions

This collection explores the significance of the Contemporary Muslim Fashions exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum. Contemporary Muslim Fashions includes an ongoing trend in modest fashion that extends beyond strictly Muslim audiences. The collection also examines examples of fashion from various regions, including streatwear and couture fashion, as well as current trends in overcoming the obstacle of athletic wear for modest and Muslim women. Finally the collection includes news articles that discuss the exhibition as well as the impact of contemporary Muslim fashion on the global community.

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

The Art and Science of Color

Name a topic that links science, history, art, and culture. How about color?

Let’s follow the theme of color through the vast collections of the Smithsonian Libraries, and make a few unexpected connections and discoveries.

Most of us take color for granted. We simply see it the moment that light beams from or reflects off an object, enters our eyes, and is processed by our brains. But do we stop to think what color actually is?

Journeying through the collections of the Smithsonian Libraries — from chemistry to catalogs, from colorblind tests to couture — we might see color in a new light.

This Learning Lab is based on the online exhibition, Color in a New Light, curated by Jennifer Cohlman Bracchi, Head Librarian, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. The exhibition can be found here:

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Music and the Other Arts: Renaissance and Baroque as Examples

The National Association for Music Education Composition/Theory Connect #11 standard asks: Demonstrate an understanding of relationships
between music and the
other arts. One entree into the subject is to consider the correspondences of artistic movements in very different art forms.
For example: Just as we identify sixteen-century Italian art and architecture as Renaissance and seventeenth-century art and architecture as
Baroque, so we identify the music of those centuries as Renaissance and Baroque. Presented here are ideas on looking at the Renaissance com-
poser Palestrina and the Baroque composer Monteverdi  in light of the Renaissance and Baroque designs below. See READ MORE or click the text
box to the right of the rightmost picture.


The term Renaissance, meaning “rebirth,” refers to the rediscovery of artistic and architectural principles of ancient Greece and Rome, which began in Italy in the 1400s. Baroque comes from the Portuguese word barocco, meaning “irregular pearl.” The very name Baroque suggests everything that Renaissance is not.  

In architecture, common adjectives to describe Renaissance are: symmetrical, geometrical, proportional, restrained. For Baroque: sweeping, dramatic, ornate, contrastive, and, yes, irregular. The two architectural plans here, both from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, might give an indication of the differences.  

At left is a theater building in the manner of Antonio Palladio (1508–80), who gave his name to a specific Renaissance style: Palladian. On a Palladian facade such as this, the main entrance is at the exact center, topped by a pediment. The pediment rises to a point, but does not rise steeply. The round arch of this central entrance is flanked by two identical entrances. The three entrances are flanked by three round-arched windows on either side. As we move up, the steps are gradual: rectangular and then smaller square windows on the upper floor, then a low balustrade above. The two sides of the facade are identical.

At right is a plan for an unnamed Italian Baroque church. Students looking for differences in symmetry might see one right away: on the left of the upper section is a decorative urn; on the right is a much more prominent sculpture of a saint. The upper section itself tells us much: nothing in the Palladian building rises steeply like this.

A musical analogy might be found in the Renaissance church music of Giovanni P. da Palestrina (1525–94) and the Baroque church music of Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643). Aaron Copland wrote of Palestrina: “Part of the unworldly quality of many of Palestrina’s melodies is due to the fact that they move conjunctly, that is, stepwise from note to note, with a minimum number of skips. This restraining discipline, which makes so many of Palestrina’s melodies seem smooth and imperturbable, has the added advantage of making them easy to sing.”  

Monteverdi wrote something quite different about his own work: “I was aware that it is contraries that greatly move our mind. When I have not been able to find variety in the affections I have at least sought to bring variety into my music.”  


Available in public-domain recordings are an Agnus Dei by Palestrina and a Deus ad adiutorium by Monteverdi. The Palestrina is represented only by the melody; the Monteverdi in voices. As you listen to both, try to concentrate only on the melody of the Monteverdi. Ask students:  

Which piece has the broadest range in pitch?  

Which piece do you think would be more difficult to sing?  

Show students the two pictures, the Renaissance and Baroque buildings, without identifying their time periods. Ask:  

Which building reminds you most of the Palestrina? Which of the Monteverdi? Can you explain the analogies?  

Scroll down the main screen to find samples of sheet music for Palestrina and for Monteverdi. The Palestrina contains only one skip of a third. The rest of the notes move, as Copland says, conjunctly—one step at a time. Ask students to concentrate on the mere shapes that the notes form as they make their progression along the staffs.    

Which looks most like the Baroque church? Which looks like the Renaissance building?  

Palestrina composed for the ancient, relatively austere St. John Lateran Church in Rome. Monteverdi composed for the sumptuously Byzantine St. Mark’s Church in Venice. Were they influenced by their architectural surroundings?  

It is one of the sweet mysteries of art: Impressionist music somehow sounds like Impressionist painting. Did Impressionist painters and musicians learn from each other? Or Modernist composers and Modernist architects? Or was there just something in the air?

The question is without clear answer, but clearly there is an analogous relationship between architecture and music. As musicologist Joseph Machlis put it: “It has been said that architecture is frozen music. By the same token, music is floating architecture. Form is the structural principle in music.”

Scroll farther down the main screen to see a graphic representation of this.

Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access

Picturing Musical Forms: AB and ABA

The National Association for Music Education General Music standard asks grades 6-8 to show familiarity with AB (binary) and ABA
(ternary) forms in composition. An example of a composition in AB form is the saraband. Commonly given examples of ABA are the
minuet and a certain kind of rondo. Below are three Smithsonian objects that might help students imagine those forms. The first
first is a print titled Sarabande. The second is a 1920s Viennese textile design called Menuett (Minuet).  The third is a painting titled
Rondo. Show the works toillustrate a discussion of the musical forms. Or, after a discussion, work together to deduce which of the pictures
is the "saraband," which the "minuet," and which the "rondo." For a few thoughts, see READ MORE or click the text box ↙or the pictures.


The artwork titled Sarabande is by Caroline Stone (b. 1936). The Smithsonian American Art Museum describes it as an abstract allegory of musicpresumably an allegory of the saraband (or sarabande). Do students see in this work a relationship between an A and a B?  What is the relationship between the violet squares and the tan squares?  Or the two squares that cross as they recede?

In the AB musical form, wrote Aaron Copland, "there is a general correspondence between the first and second parts. The A and B seem to balance one another; B is often little more than a rearranged version of A."

An examples of a saraband in public domain is one in Johann-Sebastian Bach' s Cello Suite No. 1, performed by Pablo Casals. Do students hear a mere restating of the A in the B, or do they hear a development of A in the B? Do they see mere repetition of the squares in the artwork, or do they find some kind of development?


The minuet began as a dance—the most familiar courtly dance of the eighteenth century. The dancing couples moved along a predetermined route making alternating patterns, first the form of an S, then in the form of a Z. The Minuet fabric here is described by the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, as a pattern of "alternating fleurettes and curly cues and dots."

In each case, the minuet of the design and the minuet in music, the A and the B are two different things. S then Z then S again. Fleurette then curly cue then fleurette again.  ABA.

Minuets in the same Bach cello suite, performed by John Michel, are also in public domain. Do students hear mere repetition? Or, again, do they hear developments in the ABA pattern?

This might lead to questions of the different ways that pattern is used in music and in design. The fabric design was perhaps for a wallpaper. Is it the function of wallpaper to challenge us with interesting new developments in the pattern? Do we follow wallpaper, as if it were a story?

By the same token: How long can we stay interested in music with a wallpaper-like pattern?


The painting Rondo (Blue and Yellow) is a 1965 acrylic on canvas by Carmen Herrera, in the Hirshhorn Museum. The first clue that this is the rondo may be the round framing: rondo is Italian for "roundabout," and the musical term rondo refers to a circular returningwhat goes around comes around. In its simplest form, a rondo is an ABA. Composer have however built upon the form to take us farther steps away from A before we return to A. Some rondos, for example, are in the form ABACAA.

In the painting, it seems, A and B are represented by the colors yellow and blue. Students might consider: Is the painting's rondo an ABA?

A commonly given example of a rondo in music s the final movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8, the Pathetique, Students might listen to decide if Beethoven's rondo is an ABA. If they hear something more complex:

How might the painter have made the rondo more like Beethoven's?

Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access

Technological Evolution

Our rapidly developing world has lead to unprecedented evolutions in technology. Technology tells a continuous narrative of innovation, disruption, collaboration, risk and resilience. Through this collection students explore the essential questions: What makes something innovative? How do you define innovation?

To help unpack these questions have students explore each object by answering:

  • Who is this object made for?
  • How is it used?
  • What did this object allow people to do?
  • What connections do you notice between the objects?
  • Was this technology innovative for its time? Why/Why not?  

This collection was inspired by the Bob Greenberg Selects exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum:

Jasmine Kassulke

Esperanza Spalding: Examining Portraiture

This teacher's guide provides portraits and analysis questions to enrich students' examination of Esperanza Spalding, a Grammy-winning jazz bassist and singer. Includes the video "Defining Portraiture: How are portraits both fact and fiction?" and the National Portrait Gallery's "Reading" Portraiture Guide for Educators, both of which provide suggestions and questions for analyzing portraiture. Also includes a video of artist Bo Gehring speaking about his portrait of Spalding and a Smithsonian Magazine article about her curation of an exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.


  • What do these portraits have in common? How are they different?
  • How are these portraits both fact and fiction?
  • How do these portraits reflect how she wanted to be seen, or how others wanted her to be seen? Consider for what purpose these portraits were created.
  • Having read listened to her music, does the portrait capture your image of Esperanza Spalding? Why, or why not?
  • If you were creating your own portrait of Esperanza Spalding, what characteristics would you emphasize, and why?

Keywords: musician, oregon, American, #BecauseOfHerStory, #SmithsonianMusic

Tess Porter

The Engineering Design Process

This collection of teaching resources includes lesson plans and multimedia resources about the engineering design process. There are several lesson plans on architecture and engineering concepts of design, such as simple shelters, balance, and materials. The videos and illustrations explain what engineers do and the fundamental engineering design process.

This lesson includes:

  • A video by Crash Course Kids titled "What's an Engineer? Crash Course Kids #12.1" (4:30)
  • A video by Crash Course Kids titled "The Engineering Process: Crash Course Kids #12.2" (5:17)
  • Two models of the Engineering Design Process by Preschool Steam
  • Engineering/architecture activities from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum for Pre-Kindergarten-1st Grade
Christina Shepard

Native American Ledger Art: Informational Video and Classroom Activity

In this collection, Educator Ramsey Weeks (Assiniboine, Lenape, and Hidatsa), from the National Museum of the American Indian, talks about Native American Ledger Art, and shares ideas for family and classroom "winter count" activities. The activities are suitable for English, art, history, and social studies classrooms.

The collection also includes information and resources about Winter Counts from the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Anthropological Archives, the Smithsonian Institution Archives, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Libraries, and the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access. 

Philippa Rappoport

How Posters Work

This collection is inspired by Cooper Hewitt's 2015 book and exhibition How Posters Work, written by Ellen Lupton, presenting works from the museum's astonishing collection of over 4,000 historic and contemporary posters.

In this student activity, you'll learn the basics of poster and advertisement design: how to tell a story, excite the eye, and use visual language to create emotional, effective design. At the conclusion of the lesson, you'll create a film poster of your own. This collection is perfect for graphic designers, illustrators, and enthusiasts alike. All you need is a passion for design, a curious eye, and love for a visual story.

Watch Ellen share her own poster design process in a hands-on design lesson here, or explore the original Cooper Hewitt exhibition

Marsha Hawkins

How Posters Work

This collection is inspired by Cooper Hewitt's 2015 book and exhibition How Posters Work, written by Ellen Lupton, presenting works from the museum's astonishing collection of over 4,000 historic and contemporary posters.

In this student activity, you'll learn the basics of poster and advertisement design: how to tell a story, excite the eye, and use visual language to create emotional, effective design. At the conclusion of the lesson, you'll create a film poster of your own. This collection is perfect for graphic designers, illustrators, and enthusiasts alike. All you need is a passion for design, a curious eye, and love for a visual story.

Watch Ellen share her own poster design process in a hands-on design lesson here, or explore the original Cooper Hewitt exhibition

Cody Coltharp

My Favorite Things

In 2014-2015, artist and illustrator Maira Kalman created a personal collection that was displayed at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Her collection drew from across the Smithsonian museums and reflected a life story. Her inspiration and thinking is shared in the video resource that begins this collection, and some of the objects that she included (or similar ones) are shared.

Can you create your own collection of "favorite things"? What story would it tell? What people, places, and objects would it connect to? What emotions would it evoke?

tags: design, art, activity, personal, inspiration, creativity, biography

Kate Harris

What Makes You Say That?: Interpretation with Justification Routine with a Poster

This collection uses the Harvard Project Zero Visible Thinking routine, highlighting interpretation with justification. The strategy is paired with a poster from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Once you have examined the poster and answered the questions, view the original resource and the related blog post to check and see how your interpretation compares with the expert. How does viewing the poster with the museum label change your interpretation?

Suggestions for teachers regarding visual clues for this image are in the "Notes to Other Users" section.
Ashley Naranjo

Clothing Across Cultures

This teaching collection was made to accompany the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum lesson plan "Saris, Kimonos, Togas & Smocks: Exploring Clothing Across Cultures." In addition to saris, kimonos, togas, and smocks, huipils and kanga are used as examples of culturally-specific clothing.

The lesson asks students to complete think about the cultural importance of clothing, and then to research a specific type of clothing and build a presentation around that research. Students might use this collection as a source for images for their presentation, to inspire research topics, or as a common basis for discussion with their peers.
Kate Harris

Summer picnic

Summer picnic invitations from furniture maker Herman Miller from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum collection
Smithsonian Institution

The Crusades of the Middle Ages

This collection includes resources for teachers looking for materials related to the Crusades. Students can gain insight into the weapons and nature of fighting in the Crusades by investigating the images included as well as the video on bows, while the essays and map will provide ample background information. Finally, a lesson plan from the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum explains how to design a marshmallow catapult or trebuchet!
Kate Harris