I am a graphic designer and my husband is a director of a museum with curatorial experience. We visited the Cooper-Hewitt the day after Thanksgiving 2009 -- we had never been to this museum before and were looking forward to it with great anticipation. I was hoping to see some cutting edge design (any medium) for inspiration in my work. We have visited many museums here in the U.S. and in Europe, but never have I been so disappointed with a museum experience. First, we ended up walking around the block because it was not clear where the entrance to the museum was. No signage on 5th Avenue, and the one door we did see appeared unfriendly (bars on the door) and had no signage indicating "Museum Entrance." Luckily, we saw people leaving out of that door and figured it out. (Dear Cooper-Hewitt folks: wayfinding for your 1st time visitors sets the tone for their whole visit. Don't make people guess where to enter!) The first (and only) exhibit on the ground floor of the museum was the National Design Triennial. A few interesting items, including the historic industrial designs of the last century. But the exhibit design itself was poor and distracting. Items in one room were displayed on cheap metal shelving positioned too close with little room for aisles, making it difficult to move past other visitors. Even the label design was unattractive and confusing. And the iPod Touch with headphones was pointless and confusing. We returned ours after 10 minutes to the friendly young woman behind the desk who didn't care enough to ask why. In our experience, headphones cut us off from what we enjoy most about museums: quietly discussing the exhibit and the interpretation. And frankly what we were seeing and hearing on the Touch was uninteresting. Using technology because its cool is not a good enough reason to use it, and if you DO use it, it should be simple to use and be RELEVANT to the experience. We grabbed a beverage in the cafe before going to the second floor, and hoped for better things. Again disappointment. Okay I understand the whole "green" trend and how important it is, but the second floor exhibit was pretentious, bordering on ridiculous. Perhaps the exhibit sponsor (Nature Conservancy) had something to do with the self-important tone that permeated that exhibit?? Disappointing. We left dumbfounded how such a magnificient building could be ignored (no interpretation about its history, decoration, etc.), and why anyone would waste their time looking at what was there. We probably won't be back, and highly recommend you don't waste your time and money.
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