Developed with the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, New York City
Exploring the Cooper Hewitt collection with timelines and tags post on Cooper Hewitt Labs blog
Timeline design for visualising cultural heritage data. PhD Thesis. Chapter 5.
Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, looks after a collection of over 200,000 objects of historic and contemporary design: from bird cages and a 'two-horned' cap, to 3D printed glass and folding bicycles. Their digitised collection stretches through time and across geography. What are the various themes and common threads running through the collection? Can we visualise them?
While the museum has traditional categories in their data, like 'designer' or 'material', in this project I explored repurposing tags applied to items, for example: ‘birds’, ‘black and white’, ‘symmetry’, ‘overlapping’, ‘coffee and tea drinking’, and ‘communication’. These tags represent themes extending across the different museum departments, stretching over different cultures, materials, times.
I used a custom collage-like layout to arrange the collection data, showcasing the visuals. Organising the data in timelines makes it possible to trace how a concept or idea has been visually expressed across time. Bringing objects from very different places together in these visualisations encourages serendipity and unexpected juxtapositions.