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Emily Orr joins Cooper Hewitt as Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Design
Orr’s area of specialty is American design from 1850 to the present.


NEW YORK, NY.- Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum announced the appointment of Emily Orr as assistant curator of modern and contemporary design, effective Jan. 26. In this newly created role, supported by Cooper Hewitt trustee Elizabeth Ainslie and her husband Lee Ainslie, Orr will be responsible for building and researching the museum’s modern and contemporary American design collection and engaging museum audiences through exhibitions, public programs and print and online platforms.

“As the nation’s design museum, we are pleased to bring onto the team a dynamic curator who will conduct new research in the field of 20th- and 21st-century American design, expand our object holdings with an emphasis on contemporary American design, and share findings with the public in innovative new ways,” said director Caroline Baumann. “Emily’s extensive scholarship and background in American design makes her an essential asset to the museum’s curatorial team at this critical time, and I’m grateful to the Ainslies for supporting this important initiative as we lay the groundwork for the exciting future of Cooper Hewitt.”

Orr’s area of specialty is American design from 1850 to the present. She holds a master’s degree in visual culture, costume studies from New York University and a bachelor’s degree in art history and English from Colgate University. She is currently a doctoral candidate in the history of design at the Royal College of Art/Victoria & Albert Museum. Her dissertation explores how visual merchandising advanced as a design profession in department stores at the turn of the 20th century.

A frequent author and lecturer, her professional experience includes serving as the Marcia Brady Tucker senior fellow in the American Decorative Arts department at Yale University Art Gallery, research collaborator for the 100 Hours Project at University College London and photographic rights assistant for History of Design, published by the Bard Graduate Center/Yale University Press, among other positions.

Upon her appointment, Orr commented, “I am thrilled to be joining Cooper Hewitt at this particularly exciting time of reinvention and renewal. I look forward to working with the outstanding collections to create a new dialogue about design with the museum’s visitors.”





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