Samuel Maddox, MDes ULE 2019
Organization: Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, NY
Sponsor: Harvard Club of New York Fellowship
“From the moment I arrived at the Cooper Hewitt some weeks ago now, I felt completely at home. Despite my jetlag from arriving only the night before from a monthlong fellowship in Italy, the sensation of my own wonder surprised me. I strolled across each avenue of the Upper West Side, mesmerized by the frenetic grandeur of my new neighborhood. I was met by the guards at the at the employee’s entrance half an hour before the doors opened. I exchanged “good mornings” with a handful of other badge-less interns and new employees while we all awaited our escorts. Intensive security has since become my new normal, but it did make for an impressive welcome that morning.
Once picked up by my supervisor, I was whisked away on a tour through the museum’s labyrinth-like back of house that operates out of a converted set of townhomes known as Miller-Fox. Once I ostensibly had the lay of the land, I was shown the spectacular Andrew Carnegie Mansion, presently home to the museum’s galleries but once the quiet, uptown estate of the famed philanthropist and steel magnate. Having gathered more warm welcomes (and new names) than I could possibly recall, I settled into my new office in the curatorial department. After a quick and kindly check in to ensure I wasn’t overwhelmed, my supervisor insisted I take off to the galleries to explore the collections and the current exhibition curated by my department, Socially Responsible Design, called Access+Ability.
Access+Ability is show dedicated to the emergence of design with, by, and for those living with a range of sensory, cognitive, and physical, abilities. The designed objects on display range from the high tech, like cameras that allow you to type by merely moving your eyes, to the low with more thoughtfully designed and personally expressive prostheses. After nearly two hours perusing the gallery, testing the designs, feeling the objects, and reading nearly every label I could spot, my heart was completely full. Not only was I truly elated by this thoughtful and thought-provoking show, but in that moment, I knew that I was exactly where I wanted to be this summer: at the Cooper Hewitt, in New York, helping to formulate another fabulous exhibition under the banner of Socially Responsible Design.”