Journal of History of Design and Curatorial Studies
Parsons School of Design
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

History of Design and Curatorial Studies
Parsons School of Design
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Issue 5 2021 


History of Design and Curatorial Studies MA Program
and Objective, the Journal 

Offered jointly by Parsons School of Design and Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, this MA program brings an object-focused, practice-based approach to the study of curatorial practice, design and decorative arts dating from the Renaissance through industrialization to the present. Housed for more than 30 years at Cooper Hewitt—the only museum in the United States devoted exclusively to historical and contemporary design—the program offers students the opportunity to work directly with the museum’s collections, curators, conservators, and educators. Program graduates go on to careers as historians, curators, and scholars in museums, universities, historic houses, auction houses, and galleries. Objective, the journal published by the program, presents topical essays, short papers, reviews, and interviews written by current students and alumni of the program and is published either in print or digitally every two years.



Charlotte von Hardenburgh
Managing Editor

Olivia Grochmal & Charlotte von Hardenburgh
Co-Editors in Chief

Dr. Marilyn Cohen
Faculty Advisor

Abby Sumner
Chief Copy Editor

Samantha Hall, Rachel Hunnicutt, Sophie Maize, Elizabeth Sanders
Copy Editors

Amanda Forment, Andrea Lacalamita, Keaton Laub, Sophie Maize, Elizabeth Sanders, Abby Sumner, Thomas Szolwinski
Editorial Board

Arpie Gennetian
Chief Designer

Ivana Maldonado
Assistant Designer

Afiya Owens-Khalfani and Zhijun Song
Website Development Team



Letter from the Editors

This fifth issue of Objective, which is the first digital publication of the journal, is a response to the highly-charged and influential year of 2020. The fight for racial justice and the effects of the global pandemic have affected our daily lives and inspired vital change within our communities. We approached this issue with an eye to the impact on design, and vice versa. A guiding question for this year’s publication comes from founding curator of the Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, Maura Reilly, asking: “How can we get people in the art world to think about gender, race, and sexuality, to understand that these are persistent concerns that require action?” We think of this issue of Objective as a means to emphasize what our lives and those of others, inside and outside of academia, have become during this pandemic and to consider its lasting effects on our world. 

The issue is structured by conversations about change. Contributors have interviewed curators, museum directors, and artists, several from Cooper Hewitt, who have spent the past year focusing on initiatives developed in response to diversity, collecting practices, and design and epidemics–this last being the subject of an up-and-coming exhibition at Cooper Hewitt. 

For the first time, Objective features a “Design & Activism” section which highlights design as a tool for political and social change. Authors have submitted short pieces devoted to analog and digital design that define this tumultuous time and have been personally meaningful to them.  The Hewitt sisters themselves, as founders of Cooper Hewitt in 1897, were “activists for design,” while perhaps design activism had a different meaning then from what it does now. The range of materials and processes covered in this issue reflects the gamut of design and new ways of thinking about where we find design and what design can signify. Whether it be a cloth banner or tee shirt, a lace collar, Palestinian embroidery, an N95 mask or a porcelain piece, design informs and is integral to how we understand difference.

Expanding upon the journal’s past commitment to contemporary and historical design—its possibilities and sensibilities—this fifth issue of Objective considers the role of design as part of  domestic and international struggles for a more equitable world. We hope that the articles in Objective spark debate and conversation, ushering in productive and collaborative problem-solving for widespread healing.

Thank you,

Olivia Grochmal and Charlotte von Hardenburgh
Co-Editors in Chief, Objective




We at Objective recognize that we operate on the unceded land of the Lenni Lenape, Canarsie, Shinecock, and Musee peoples. Please join us in acknowledging the Lenape communities, their elders both past and present, as well as future generations who have ties to this land. We would also like to acknowledge that schools and institutions are often founded upon exclusions and erasures of many Indigenous peoples, including those on whose land our institutions are located. This acknowledgement demonstrates a commitment to beginning the process of working to dismantle the ongoing legacies of settler colonialism including those related to the study of design.

Many people helped to make this issue of Objective a success. We would like to thank Dr. Sarah A. Lichtman, the Director of the History of Design and Curatorial Studies MA program, and John Davis, former interim Director of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. We are also grateful to Matilda McQuaid, Acting Director of Curatorial at Cooper Hewitt, and to all the curators at Cooper Hewitt, particularly those interviewed for this issue including: Ellen Lupton (Senior Curator of Contemporary Design), Julie Pastor (Curatorial Assistant), Alexandra Cunningham Cameron (Curator of Contemporary Design and Hintz Secretarial Scholar), Andrea Lipps (Associate Curator of Contemporary Design), Christina L. De León (Associate Curator of Latino Design), and Molly E. Engelman (Exhibition Coordinator). Additionally, we want to thank Ashley Tickle (Director of Communications & Marketing at Cooper Hewitt) and Laurie Bohlk (Associate Director of Communications & Marketing at Cooper Hewitt) for their careful attention to the content and design of this first online issue of Objective and Phoebe Moore (Program Assistant at Cooper Hewitt) for her assistance.

We are indebted to Dr. Shannon Egan (Director of Schmucker Art Gallery at Gettysburg College), Dr. Peter Carmichael (Director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College), and Victoria Munro (Executive Director of Alice Austen House) who enabled us to expand Objective’s curatorial conversations beyond Cooper Hewitt and to Silas Vassar, III, founder of The New Black Archive, for sharing his powerful words and work with our publication.

A special thank you to Danielle Bowers and Phafa Roy of Parsons The New School who administer the MA program in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies and have given substantial support to our project whenever needed.  

Without Afiya Owens-Khalfani and her assistant Zhijun Song of Parsons we would not be online. They worked closely with us to create this digital Objective and to introduce it into the Parsons website, helping to make a reality of what we at first only imagined.

Infinite gratitude goes to our amazing designer Arpie Gennetian and her able assistant Ivana Maldonado for all their work in launching Objective into the cyber-world with the sophisticated look that recalls our past print issues and simultaneously announces its own digital presence. Their design vision, creativity, and commitment were truly invaluable. We also thank our editorial and copyediting teams for their intelligent contributions to shaping this monumental fifth edition of Objective. Additional gratitude to our dedicated faculty advisor Dr. Marilyn Cohen for her tireless support and help as we navigated the development of the fifth issue of Objective from a hard-copy journal into its first online edition.

Finally, of course, we are incredibly appreciative of our outstanding contributors—our classmates and alumni—for sharing their exciting and diverse scholarly pursuits during a year which called for ever more sensitivity to the designed world in all its dimensions.

Image Credits

Drawing, Design for Kidney-Shaped Writing Table with Open Compartments, 1900–05; Designed by A.N. Davenport Co. ; pen and black ink on thin cream tracing paper; 16.5 x 16.5 cm (6 1/2 x 6 1/2 in. ); Gift of The Lake St. Louis Historical Society; 2000-69-244. Courtesy of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

Objective footer illustration, 2021. Design by Ivana Maldonado.