Intern Diary: Hanna Cunningham with Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

by Hanna Cunningham, JMC '17

Hanna Cunningham, Intern Diary, SMPA
August 24, 2016

As I searched for an internship for this past summer, I knew I wanted to work in a museum communications department. GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs is within walking distance of many of the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., but I had another museum in mind. I found myself looking to Cooper Hewitt, a Smithsonian museum located along Museum Mile in New York and an institution that stood out to me for its incredible design exhibitions that challenge audiences and raise important questions. Cooper Hewitt’s Peter A. Krueger program offered me the opportunity to work with their communications and marketing department and visit other arts organizations in the city throughout my time in New York.

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum is dedicated to featuring historic and contemporary design and educating visitors about design through their exhibitions and public programming. Located in Andrew Carnegie’s Mansion, the space creates a one-of-a-kind exhibition experience, one that sets it apart from other museums steps away. The museum features innovative technology that encourages visitors to engage with what they are seeing as they travel through the exhibitions. The historic location and the design focus are always kept in mind when communicating the museum and marketing exhibitions and events.

As the communications and marketing intern at Cooper Hewitt, I helped to raise awareness of exhibitions, events and education initiatives through social media, press releases and audience research. Cooper Hewitt’s Design Triennial, “Beauty,” was one of the exhibitions that I helped to feature by writing engaging Twitter posts and working on other projects. As an institution with a very unique collection, I frequently explored the objects online, looking for items to feature in compelling and clever social media posts.

With the reopening of Cooper Hewitt’s Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden came the opportunity for me to support our summer series, Cocktails at Cooper Hewitt. Cocktails at Cooper Hewitt featured performances that helped to expand the audience’s perception of design and discover a variety of artists (in addition to sipping on tasty drinks). I researched media outlets and performance groups for cross promotion, crafted social media posts to highlight our exciting performers and took photos at the events. It was very rewarding for me to help to promote the series and see everyone enjoying the events each week.

One project that was a highlight for me was helping to promote Cooper Hewitt’s installation at the London Design Biennale, taking place this September. The museum will be bringing some of its standout technology to the event, including the Pen, a tool that allows visitors to collect and save items, and the Immersion Room, which will project full size digital wallpapers. I worked on the press release for the event and a social media takeover on the London Design Biennale accounts. I was able to work with different formats and communicate particularly engaging content and an exciting opportunity for Cooper Hewitt.

For me, getting the opportunity to learn from the communications and marketing team at Cooper Hewitt, one of my favorite museums, far surpassed what I had hoped for. Throughout the summer I became a more talented tweeter and a more confident communicator. Cooper Hewitt’s internship program helped me to build my communication skills, collaboration skills and become a more creative thinker.