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Cooper-Hewitt Receives $10 Million Gift from the Morton and Barbara Mandel Family Foundation

Supports New Visitor Experience, Access to the Collection and Third-Floor Gallery


The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum has received a $10 million gift from the Morton and Barbara Mandel Family Foundation on behalf of longtime trustee and board chair Barbara Mandel and her husband Morton. The gift is the largest in the history of the museum and will support the new Cooper-Hewitt, which opens in fall 2014 with 60 percent more gallery space after a major renovation of the historic Carnegie Mansion and grounds.

In recognition of this gift, the new third-floor gallery, which provides an additional 6,000 square feet of exhibition space, will be named the Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery in their honor. The Mandel gift will also support the museum’s new visitor experience, physically and virtually, through new interactive experiences and increased digital access to the museum’s collection of 217,000 objects.

Barbara Mandel joined Cooper-Hewitt’s board in 1997 and has been a member of the museum’s executive committee since 1998. She has played an active role at Cooper-Hewitt, supporting numerous exhibitions, education programming, digital initiatives and the renovation. Most recently, she served on the executive search committee, which resulted in the appointment of Caroline Baumann as the museum’s fifth director.

 “Barbara Mandel is a cornerstone of the museum’s board of trustees and her leadership has been a guiding force for the museum’s transformation,” said Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough. “Barbara and Mort’s generosity is truly enabling Cooper-Hewitt to deliver its mission and turn museum goers into designers.”

“Believing in design’s power to change, Barbara and Mort are visionaries who have supported our mission for almost two decades,” said Caroline Baumann, director of Cooper-Hewitt. “Their commitment has never been stronger as we start a thrilling new chapter. This extraordinary gift is a game changer for Cooper-Hewitt as we prepare for our grand opening, and it will improve every aspect of the museum from the visitor experience to accessing the collection. We are so grateful for Barbara and Mort’s support, which will have an incredible impact, broadening our audience by truly making design accessible to everyone.”

“Design empowers us on so many levels, and Mort and I are thrilled to support Cooper-Hewitt as it begins a new era,” said Barbara Mandel. “Having been on the board for 17 years, it is truly gratifying to see this organization expand physically and digitally. In preparation for the opening, we’ve made a quantum leap in terms of digital access to our extraordinary collection, which will be the backbone of our new visitor experience.”

The Renovation

Cooper-Hewitt’s renovation is part of an $89 million capital campaign launched in 2006, which includes $79 million for renovation and reopening exhibitions and technology, and a $10 million endowment. The expansion includes enlarged and enhanced facilities for exhibitions, collections display, education programming and the National Design Library, and an increased endowment.

The museum is working with a team of designers to realize the new Cooper-Hewitt. Design stories will come alive in exciting new galleries that are being reimagined by Diller Scofidio + Renfro—winner of the 2005 National Design Award for architecture. Local Projects, participatory media designer and 2013 National Design Award winner for interaction design, is developing engaging ways for visitors to become designers before, during and after their visit. Cooper-Hewitt’s ambition to increase accessibility extends to the Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden, which is being designed by Walter Hood, the 2009 National Design Award winner for landscape architecture. A new graphic identity for the museum is being designed by Pentagram. Thinc Design is realizing the new Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery on the third floor.

The overall expansion is a collaboration between design architect Gluckman Mayner Architects and executive architect Beyer Blinder Belle. The program of historic preservation, working within preservation parameters established by Beyer Blinder Belle and the Smithsonian, will aim for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.

During the mansion renovation, Cooper-Hewitt’s usual schedule of exhibitions, education programs and events are being staged at various off-site locations, including the Cooper-Hewitt Design Center in Harlem, which has serviced more than 20,000 people since its opening in May 2012. In 2013, the “Design in the Classroom” program, which teaches 21st-century skills by using design as a tool across the curriculum, was launched nationally in New Orleans, New York City, San Antonio and Washington, D.C., and will expand to Cleveland and Minneapolis in summer 2014. Cooper-Hewitt exhibitions are traveling the nation and the globe, and are currently on view in Beijing and Winston-Salem, N.C.

About Barbara A. Mandel

Born in Cleveland, Barbara Mandel’s major activities in that city include serving as president of the Cleveland Section of the National Council of Jewish Women; chair of Leadership Development, Project Renewal, and co-chair of the Campaign for the Jewish Community Federation.

Major North American activities include serving as the national president of the National Council of Jewish Women; national vice president, National Women’s Division of the United Jewish Appeal; national president of the American Friends of Hebrew University; trustee and Executive Committee member and co-chair of Brandeis University’s capital campaign; board member of the West Palm Beach Library Foundation; and trustee and vice chair of the Mandel Foundation.

Overseas, her philanthropic activities include serving as deputy chair of the Executive Committee and Board of Governors, and chair of the International Campaign at Hebrew University.

Barbara Mandel was awarded an honorary degree from Hebrew University. Additional awards include the Hannah G. Soloman Award from the National Council of Jewish Women; election to the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame; and Life Trustee of the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland. She attended Radcliffe College of Harvard University and Flora Stone Mather College of Case Western Reserve University from which she received a bachelor’s degree.

About the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

As the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design, Cooper-Hewitt educates, inspires and empowers people through design. The museum is undergoing a transformative renovation resulting in 60 percent more gallery space and will open in fall 2014 with an entirely new visitor experience. During the renovation, Cooper-Hewitt’s events and education programs are popping up locally at the Cooper-Hewitt Design Center in Harlem, nationally with the Design in the Classroom program in New Orleans, New York City, San Antonio, Washington, D.C., Cleveland and Minneapolis and globally with exhibitions in Asia.


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