Smithsonian’s Design Museum Lets You Search Its 200,000+ Collection by Crayon Color

frank lloyd wright tableware cooper hewitt museum

Place setting, designed 1922, produced 1966. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.

As the only American museum dedicated to historical and contemporary design, New York City's Cooper Hewitt Museum is taking an innovative approach to digitizing their collection. The eclectic collection, which is part of the Smithsonian, contains everything from drawings and etchings to shopping bags and greeting cards. Now, it has more than 200,000 objects available to the public online.

Of course, it's possible to search the archive by type, date, and country, but our favorite feature is one befitting of a design museum—the ability to search by color. That's right, when you decide to search by color, you are asked to choose one of 117 CSS4 colors that have been paired with objects in the collection. With the press of a button you're then given a list of every object corresponding with that color and each individual entry includes a palette that shows which colors are present in the piece. For added fun, they also allow searching by Crayola colors, so if you want to see what matches your Electric Lime crayon, now you can.

Apart from object scans, the museum also has a vast video resource that will delight any design lover. You can watch a talk on 1920s fashion, learn how Brompton manufactures bicycles, or see the opening credits from favorite TV series like True Detective. What's more, if you want a bit of design every day, you can sign up to receive the museum's Object of the Day direct to your inbox and get interesting tidbits about the collection's quirky items.

The digitization of the Cooper Hewitt collection, which took just 18 months with an average of 600 objects a day going online, is part of the Smithsonian's ongoing process to “create a digital Smithsonian.”

The Cooper Hewitt Museum lets you search its online collection of more than 200,000 objects by Crayola or CSS color.

Smithsonian design museum digital archive

Smithsonian design museum digital archive

Smithsonian design museum digital archive

Cooper Hewitt Museum Design Online Collection

As the Smithsonian's design museum, the institution's eclectic collection contains everything from posters and drawings to shopping bags and greeting cards.

Cooper Hewitt Museum Design Online Collection keith haring poster

Exhibition poster, 1983. Designed by Keith Haring for Fun Gallery.

Cooper Hewitt Museum Design Online Collection

Bird Cage from China, 1735–96 and 1880–1910.

Cooper Hewitt Museum Design Online Collection

Perpetual calendar, 1594. Designed by Ortensio Toro.

Cooper Hewitt Museum Design Online Collection

Greeting card (England or the United States), 1870–80.

Talking Heads Album Cover Cooper Hewitt Museum Design Online Collection

Record cover, Talking Heads: Little Creatures, 1985. Designed by Tibor Kalman.

Cooper Hewitt Museum Design Online Collection

Shopping bag, Saks Fifth Avenue, December 1978.

IBM poster Cooper Hewitt Museum Design Online Collection

Poster, Happy Birthday for I.B.M. Corporation, 1980s.

Cooper Hewitt Museum Design Online Collection

Design for Visionette Portable Television, 1947. Designed by Richard Arbib.

Cooper Hewitt: Website | FacebookInstagram

All images via the Cooper Hewitt Museum.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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