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Cooper Hewitt’s Pen

cooper-hewitt-penAn electronic pen is perhaps the signature of Cooper-Hewitt’s $91 million National Design Museum renovation, reports Robin Pogrebin in The New York Times (6/17/14). This is appropriate, as Cooper-Hewitt is known for highlighting “the importance of design in everything from architecture to umbrellas.” The pen enables visitors to “collect information from works on view by tapping wall labels. The information can later be downloaded for additional study, and the system will remember patrons the next time they visit.”

“It’s an entire record of what you did at Cooper-Hewitt that day,” says museum director Caroline Baumann. “Our ambition is to make people repeat users: You’re creating and collecting throughout your experience at Cooper-Hewitt.” The museum, meanwhile, sees the pen “as a useful tool to gauge — and respond to — the viewing habits of visitors.” “What are you looking at; what are you not looking at?” says Caroline. “It helps us better tweak the visitor experience. It’s a global first,” she adds. “We don’t know if it’s going to work.”

Cooper-Hewitt has lagged behind other destinations on New York’s “Museum Mile,” in part because of its relatively remote location. Before it closed for renovations a year ago, it attracted some 225,000 visitors, compared to the Frick Collection, which gets almost twice that many. The renovated museum will feature a “newly landscaped garden,” open to the public before museum hours for coffee and pastries. It will also have “the immersion room” where visitors can choose from the museum’s collection of wall coverings, or design their own.