About the Collections

Interior elevationThe Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, the successor to the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration, was founded in 1897 by Sarah and Eleanor Hewitt, granddaughters of the industrialist and inventor Peter Cooper. The Hewitt sisters intended the Museum and its Library to serve as a teaching resource for design students attending The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, the tuition-free institution founded by their grandfather in 1857. The Museum collections and Library remained at the Cooper Union in lower Manhattan until 1967 when they were transferred to the care of the Smithsonian Institution. In 1976, the Museum and Library moved uptown to the landmark Andrew Carnegie Mansion on New York City's historic Museum Mile. The Library continues to explore through its collections, exhibitions, and public programs how design affects every aspect of daily life.

 

General Collections

Page from Jones' the Grammar of OrnamentThe Library’s collection today, consisting of 80,000 volumes, contains books, serials, trade catalogs, microforms, thesis, picture files and archives in areas of design and decorative arts. The Library focuses on resources that illustrate historic and contemporary pattern worldwide and how objects are designed, manufactured, marketed, and used. Subject strengths include:

  • Architecture
  • Ceramics and porcelain
  • Furniture
  • Glass
  • Graphics – posters, packaging, signage, advertisements
  • Industrial designInteriors
  • Landscape Design
  • Lighting
  • Metalwork and jewelry
  • Ornamental designs
  • Textiles
  • Wallpaper
Special Collections

The Fred and Rae S. Friedman Rare Book Room Room
The Bradley Room houses more than 7,000 rare volumes featuring early sample and trade catalogs, illustrated natural histories and travel guides, first editions of design inventories and manuals, as well as major 18th and 19th century works on gardens, furniture, architecture, fountains, textiles, and pattern. Included also in the Friedman Room are rare collections of home management and etiquette manuals, 19th century European and American children’s books, turn-of-the-century French fashion illustrated books and periodicals, and fine bindings.


1939 World's FairWorld's Fair Collection
. Over 2,000 volumes extending from the 1844 Beaux-Arts et Industrie Exposition in Paris to the present; rich in material from the London 1851 Crystal Palace Exposition and the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition.

 

Pop-Up Book Collection. Approximately 1,700 titles include instructional and entertainment books with foldout, pop-up and revolving construction for both children and adults.

Kubler Collection. Contains 60,000 images collected from 19th century European and American books and periodicals.Pop up book


Archives

The Library maintains the archive collections of Thérèse Bonney and the E.F. Caldwell Lighting Company..

Thérèse Bonney Collection of 4,300 rare and unique black and white photographs of architecture and design in Paris, 1925-39. These photographs document:

  • Window display and design marketing
  • Industrial design -lighting & furniture 
  • Architecture and interior design
  • Other applied arts- porcelain, textiles, costumes, and wallpaper 

Caldwell sconceThe E.F. Caldwell Lighting Co. contains 13,000 drawings and more than 50,000 photographs contained in the Edward F. Caldwell Lighting Collection clearly document taste and style in the United States in the affluent 1890s.  The company created lighting and decorative ironwork for many private homes and prominent buildings in New York City, including Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and the Waldorf-Astoria. With his friend Stanford White, who helped him establish his successful career, Caldwell catered to the most privileged people, creating lighting for the Andrew Carnegie mansion (now the home of the National Design Museum) and the 1902 Taft White House.  For more information on the Caldwell collection, and to search and browse the digitized images from the collection, please go to the Digital Caldwell Lighting Website.