How I Work: Cooper Hewitt Director Caroline Baumann

In the five years since becoming director, Caroline Baumann has turned Cooper Hewitt’s visitor demographic upside down, re-establishing it as New York’s go-to authority for design. She discusses how she reinvented the museum, and why approachability is the future for design

Since it reopened in December 2014, New York’s Cooper Hewitt design museum has undergone a reinvention – welcoming an entirely new demographic, and seeing visitors numbers soar. That’s thanks in part to an architectural overhaul by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, but largely due to the leadership of Caroline Baumann – who’s been director at the museum since 2013, having worked there in various roles for nearly 20 years.

The transformation doesn’t stop with the building however. Baumann has pioneered an entirely new attitude for Cooper Hewitt – one that’s more open, welcoming, and inclusive. As the museum unveils its medal-winning installation for the London Design Biennale, exploring the cultural effects of facial recognition technology, we catch up with her to find out why Cooper Hewitt’s security guards are so important to its strategy, why design needs to embrace true diversity, and how she’s turned museum strategy upside down.