Member Spotlight: Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Library

The Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Library is a multi-faceted library. With over 80,000 volumes within its walls, including a collection of over 7,000 rare books, it is a special library open to the public by appointment. It is also an academic library that supports the research of students pursuing a Masters degree in the History of Decorative Arts and Design program at Parsons The New School for Design. Finally, as a museum library, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum library supports the museum’s four curatorial departments in their work with textiles, wallcoverings, product design & decorative arts, and drawings, prints, & graphic design

As one of the 20 library branches of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Library specializes in resources on architecture, pottery, furniture, glass, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, landscape design, lighting, metalwork and jewelry, ornamental designs, textiles, and wallpaper. Helmed by Library Director (and Head/Director of Art Libraries, Smithsonian Institution) Stephen H. Van Dyk, the library is also staffed by librarians Jennifer Cohlman, and Elizabeth Broman.  

One of the Library’s many highlights is its special collection of pop-up books, examples of paper engineering and design that span over 500 years. Part of this collection is currently on display as a part of “Paper Engineering: Fold, Pull, Pop & Turn,” an exhibit at the National Museum of American History in Washington D.C., open through Summer 2011.

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Library was the recipient of two recent Digital METRO New York digitization grants. The library’s recent “Design Digitized” project digitized 19 volumes of rare books from the library’s collection to make them accessible on the Internet Archive. In 2008, the library digitized resources from the E.F. Caldwell and Co. Collection consisting of 25,000 photographs and 10,000 drawings of lighting fixtures and other fine metal objects that they produced from the late 19th to the mid-20th centuries.

The library also boasts a collection of trade catalogs - over 4,500 items published as selling tools by manufacturing companies of furniture, textiles, and more - as well as a collection of illustrated children’s books that includes hundreds of rare and foreign titles.

The Cooper-Hewitt, National Museum Library is currently involved inthe FedScan project - a combined effort between the Library of Congress and the Internet Archive to digitize Federal library collections. CHM has contributed over 400 titles to the project, including one of Smithsonian’s most downloaded documents for the last several weeks, a “Handbook of marks on pottery & porcelain” from 1909. The project also includes Cooper Union Museum publications, which are also available online at the Internet Archive.

Soon, the library will be relocating from Carnegie mansion to adjoining townhouses. In its place, the entire third floor of the mansion will become exhibition gallery space. The new library facilities will include two reading rooms, compact shelving, and a rare book room.

To learn more about the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Library, visit
Special thanks to Stephen Van Dyk (Director) and Jennifer Cohlman (Librarian) for their  contributions to this feature.
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