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Records of the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration

Records of the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration

Includes records from ca.1892-1970, chiefly 1962-1968.

Call Number:
   C  5DF  C778M  Shelf P


Records transferred to Cooper Archives in 2008 from file cabinet in the basement of the Cooper Union Foundation Building, per Lawrence Cacciatore, Office of the President, Cooper Union.

Historical Note:    

The Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration was founded in 1895 by sisters Sarah Cooper Hewitt, Eleanor Garnier Hewitt, and Amy Hewitt Green, daughters of Abram S. Hewitt and grand-daughters of Peter Cooper, founder of The Cooper Union.  Following its official opening, in 1897, on the fourth floor of Cooper Union’s historic Foundation Building, the Museum’s collections were enhanced  by the collecting acumen of Sarah and Eleanor Hewitt, and by gifts from J.P. Morgan, George A. Hearn, and other donors.  The Museum was intended to provide a reference collection of worldwide material culture for the use of Cooper Union students, artisans, and the general public. 

By the 1960s the Museum contained more than 90,000 items, including textiles, wallpaper, drawings, prints, furniture, ceramics, woodwork, metalwork, and costume accessories.  In 1963, to the distress of many citizens of the city, the administration of Cooper Union closed the Museum for an evaluation of its relationship to the college’s educational program.  A Committee to Save Cooper Union Museum sprang up, but by 1968 the college administration had signed an agreement to transfer the Museum collections to the Smithsonian Institution.  The transfer was completed over the next three years, and the Cooper Union Museum collections became the nucleus of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. 

Contents and Arrangement:

This collection of Museum records covers largely the years 1962 to 1968, encompassing the period when the future of the Museum at Cooper Union was in question. Included are evaluations of the Museum and its collections, lists of gifts received, financial data, correspondence with donors, and correspondence with other institutions regarding disposition of the Museum collections.  Also included are press releases, attendance statistics, general correspondence, and information on exhibitions and the loan of objects.  The folders are maintained in the original sequence in which they were filed.

 Extent of Collection:   2 boxes; 1.75 linear feet

Finding Aid prepared by Mitsuko Brooks and Carol Salomon, December, 2010.


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