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Revisiting the New Cooper Hewitt Experience

A quick look back at an influential installation.
Authored by
Jim Spadaccini
Founder & Creative Director

I recently found myself with a bit of extra time in New York City, and I decided to revisit the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper Hewitt Design Museum. It’s been nearly three years since we developed and installed the multitouch tables and touch displays for the New Cooper Hewitt Experience. When that installation opened, the large 4K UHD 84” multitouch tables we designed were first-of their-kind—but in the intervening years, we’ve installed dozens of these tables in a range of public spaces, including exhibits at two other Smithsonian museums. (Since those installations, we’ve also completely redesigned this massive touch table; the Colossus 86” multitouch table includes powerful new features and is large and flexible enough for up to eight simultaneous users.)

It’s always both rewarding and eye-opening to revisit a past project. At the Cooper Hewitt, it was great to see everything running smoothly and to watch visitors interact with the content and each other. And in talking with frontline staff, the touch tables have indeed helped create more social interaction and engagement, just as we suggested at the time.

Some of the installation’s experiences hadn’t changed, such as the ever-popular immersion room. Also, the tables are still a key way to access the core digital collection as well as items central to new exhibitions, such as the Joris Larrman Lab: Design in the Digital Age exhibit.

But in other instances, such as the Process Lab, the Presenter touch wall displays appear to have been updated with completely new software.

The Cooper Hewitt installation has been very influential in the museum world. At the time, the large touch tables and the interactive pen were experimental and provided an innovative and active way for visitors to learn about design. The project was also very challenging from a technical and design standpoint. For this project, we collaborated not just with the team from Cooper Hewitt (led by Seb Chan), but also with Diller Sconfidio + Renfro, Local Projects, Make Simply, and others.

Along with our original portfolio post, New Cooper Hewitt Experience, you can learn more about the project on the SEGD website: Redesigning the Museum Experience at Cooper Hewitt. For an in depth article, please read Seb Chan’s Strategies against architecture: interactive media and transformative technology at Cooper Hewitt from the Museum’s and the Web 2015 proceedings.