Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/exhibitions/51668987/

Tools: Extending Our Reach

We all use tools—from the moment we wake up until we go to bed. Designed to overcome the limitations and fulfill the desires of the human body, tools are extensions of ourselves and surrogates where humans fall short. Although often equated with technology and engineering, some tools are seemingly simple, poetic gestures; others save time and alleviate the burdens of daily life; still others are game changers that allow us to achieve amazing feats. Offering moments of surprise and connections between seemingly diverse cultures, time periods, and places, the works shown here provide an opportunity to consider tools as quintessential examples of design, and reveal the fundamental role they play in shaping our lives. Ranging from a 1.85 million-year old stone core chopper to real-time data of the Sun’s surface, the tools in this exhibition span much of human experience and tell a unique story of design. This exhibition is a cross-disciplinary collaboration between Cooper Hewitt and eleven Smithsonian Institution museums and research centers, which generously lent most of the objects, as well as expertise. Their loans are augmented with several contemporary tools that illustrate new areas of research. Tools: Extending Our Reach is made possible by major support from GE. Generous support is also provided by Newell Rubbermaid, Dorit and Avi Reichental, and Esme Usdan. Additional funding is provided by the August Heckscher Exhibition Fund, Facebook, the Ehrenkranz Fund, and Smithsonian Institution funds from the Grand Challenges Consortia.


Make

Tinkering, sketching, modeling, prototyping, and playing are all vital to the design process. These processes are tools themselves, expressing the creativity that comes with making things. For designers, sketching and prototyping help them think through ideas and aid in developing projects; for inventors, they stake a claim to a concept that may result in a patent. New technologies, such as 3D printing, are changing what is possible, transforming the way products are conceived and fabricated. It is an ideal process for creating unique or limited production objects such as prototypes and prosthetic devices or for empowering the average person to design and customize items at home. And as the physical and virtual become increasingly seamless, touch-free gestural control systems will soon allow users to push and pull shapes to create, explore and build, redefining how we "make" in the future. Models, Patents, Prototypes: Nineteenth-century patent models served a variety of purposes, from demonstrating design and function, to inspiring inventors, to understanding what was possible. Similarly with these examples of 21st-century technology that make portraits, print tools, or translate hand gestures into form and mass—they are statements about and visual wonders of our digital age. Sketches: Sketching is an effective tool to help people imagine, define, refine, and realize ideas. Inventors and designers sketch to explore concepts and document their creative methods, leading some to patents and manufactured products. On backs of envelopes, scraps of paper, or in notebooks just for this purpose, these sketches are as diverse as the creative minds that made them.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457173/

  • metal
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Cat. T11410.031
  • personal
  • domestic
  • figurative
  • tool
  • typography
  • mechanical
  • gears
  • spinning
  • rotation
  • patent model
  • knitting
  • patent

Nineteenth-century patent models served a variety of purposes, from demonstrating design and function, to inspiring inventors, to understanding what was possible. Similarly with these examples of twenty-first-century technology that make portraits, print tools, or translate hand gestures into form and mass—they are statements about and visual wonders of our digital age.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457175/

  • metal, wood
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Cat. T06055
  • personal
  • domestic
  • scrolls
  • decorative
  • tool
  • vegetal
  • contour
  • mechanical
  • sewing
  • spinning
  • rotation
  • patent model
  • patent

Nineteenth-century patent models served a variety of purposes, from demonstrating design and function, to inspiring inventors, to understanding what was possible. Similarly with these examples of twenty-first-century technology that make portraits, print tools, or translate hand gestures into form and mass—they are statements about and visual wonders of our digital age.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460303/

  • brass, ferrous alloy, paper
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, On deposit from Wyckoff, Seamans and Benedict, Cat. 181005
  • rounded
  • communication
  • recording
  • tool
  • globular
  • alphabet
  • typography
  • typing
  • mechanical
  • keyboard
  • patent model
  • mechanization

This "writing ball" was one of the first commercially successful typewriters. The layout of its keyboard was based on the frequency of letters used, coupled with the position of the fastest-typing fingers. Enabling users to write faster than one could by hand, the typewriter became especially popular in business offices during the late nineteenth century, with the increasing demands for paperwork.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460311/

  • bamboo, glass, wood, brass, plaster, platinum, cork
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Cat. 310579.01
  • lighting
  • domestic
  • electricity
  • rounded
  • public
  • offices
  • tool
  • innovative
  • transparent

Nineteenth-century patent models served a variety of purposes, from demonstrating design and function, to inspiring inventors, to understanding what was possible. Similarly with these examples of twenty-first-century technology that make portraits, print tools, or translate hand gestures into form and mass—they are statements about and visual wonders of our digital age.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460339/

  • steel, brass
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Cat. 210834.01
  • personal
  • metallic
  • asymmetry
  • measuring
  • utility
  • tool
  • triangles
  • geometric
  • work
  • rectilinear
  • angular
  • patent model
  • patent
  • carpentry

Nineteenth-century patent models served a variety of purposes, from demonstrating design and function, to inspiring inventors, to understanding what was possible. Similarly with these examples of twenty-first-century technology that make portraits, print tools, or translate hand gestures into form and mass—they are statements about and visual wonders of our digital age.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460727/

  • vellum over paper boards, paper
  • Courtesy of Smithsonian Libraries, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Library
  • architecture
  • communication
  • water
  • fountains
  • tool
  • technology
  • writing
  • books
  • innovative
  • encyclopedic
  • knowledge
  • solar

This publication chronicles inventions by the architect and engineer Salomon de Caus, including tools for powering machines, musical instruments, and fountains. Illustrated here is a tool for augmenting the power of a fountain: water is heated by the sun (AB); it rises into a pipe (CD), which carries it through the wall and into the adjoining chamber.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520931/

  • Designed by Hiroshi Ishii
  • electromechanical assembly, aluminum frame, microsoft kinect sensor, apple mac mini, display
  • Courtesy of Tangible Media Group and MIT Media Lab. This installation was generously supported by Steelcase.
  • communication
  • digital
  • tool
  • technology
  • innovative
  • making
  • prototypes
  • lens
  • touch

Touch-free manipulation of objects in real time, but from thousands of miles away, is a topic of cutting-edge research. inFORM does just that: physical “pixels”—elongated pegs on a table surface—move in real time, activated by data from a remote motion-sensing device. This ability to still interact physically creates a strong sense of presence and could transform communication and collaboration in the future.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51497597/

  • aluminum, steel, plastic
  • Courtesy of Made In Space, Inc. and NASA
  • metallic
  • digital
  • tool
  • portable
  • mechanical
  • electronics
  • space
  • 3D printing

Space missions depend on equipment sent from Earth, but if astronauts can make parts as needed, the supply chain from Earth to space could be largely bypassed. A 3D printer like this, designed for use in microgravity, was sent to the International Space Station (ISS), where it is making the very first objects manufactured off planet Earth. A copy of this plaque is installed inside the Made In Space 3D printer on the ISS. The logo shows a digital stream of information being broadcast from California to the ISS, demonstrating how digital signals will translate into functional tools off Earth.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682295/

  • pencil on paper
  • Brannock Device Company Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 1998.3007
  • diagrams
  • sketch
  • measuring
  • tool
  • numbers
  • typography
  • innovative
  • shoes
  • footwear
  • patent

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682299/

  • pencil on paper
  • Brannock Device Company Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 1998.3007
  • diagrams
  • sketch
  • measuring
  • tool
  • numbers
  • innovative
  • shoes
  • footwear
  • patent
  • handwriting

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682307/

  • pencil on paper
  • Brannock Device Company Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 1998.3007
  • diagrams
  • seating
  • sketch
  • measuring
  • tool
  • innovative
  • shoes
  • footwear
  • patent

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682391/

  • pencil on cardboard
  • Joseph B. Friedman Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 2001.3031
  • personal
  • sketch
  • tool
  • sharp
  • innovative
  • handle
  • patent
  • handwriting
  • hygiene
  • shaving

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682399/

  • ink on paper
  • Joseph B. Friedman Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 2001.3031
  • personal
  • diagrams
  • sketch
  • tool
  • sharp
  • innovative
  • handle
  • patent
  • handwriting
  • hygiene
  • shaving

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682405/

  • ink on paper
  • Joseph B. Friedman Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 2001.3031
  • personal
  • diagrams
  • sketch
  • tool
  • typography
  • sharp
  • innovative
  • handle
  • patent
  • handwriting
  • hygiene
  • shaving

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682409/

  • ink on paper
  • Joseph B. Friedman Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 2001.3031
  • diagrams
  • sketch
  • tool
  • eating
  • food
  • innovative
  • handle
  • patent
  • handwriting

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682441/

  • pencil on paper
  • Joseph B. Friedman Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 2001.3031
  • personal
  • diagrams
  • collapsible
  • drinking
  • sketch
  • tool
  • flexible
  • tubular
  • bent
  • product development
  • patent
  • handwriting

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682445/

  • ink on paper
  • Joseph B. Friedman Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 2001.3031
  • personal
  • diagrams
  • collapsible
  • drinking
  • sketch
  • tool
  • tubular
  • bent
  • innovative
  • patent

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682449/

  • ink on paper
  • Joseph B. Friedman Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 2001.3031
  • circles
  • sketch
  • tool
  • curving line
  • eating
  • food
  • cut-out
  • innovative
  • packaging
  • product development
  • prototypes
  • patent
  • handwriting
  • spoons

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682467/

  • pencil on paper
  • Joseph B. Friedman Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 2001.3031
  • diagrams
  • lighting
  • sketch
  • tool
  • writing
  • tubular
  • innovative
  • patent
  • handwriting

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682471/

  • pencil on paper
  • Joseph B. Friedman Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 2001.3031
  • personal
  • diagrams
  • sketch
  • tool
  • beauty
  • hair
  • innovative
  • patent
  • handwriting
  • hygiene

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682477/

  • pencil on paper
  • Joseph B. Friedman Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 2001.3031
  • personal
  • diagrams
  • sketch
  • tool
  • innovative
  • patent
  • handwriting
  • hygiene

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682481/

  • pencil on paper
  • Joseph B. Friedman Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 2001.3031
  • personal
  • diagrams
  • collapsible
  • sketch
  • protection
  • tool
  • rain
  • innovative
  • patent
  • handwriting

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682485/

  • ink on paper
  • Joseph B. Friedman Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 2001.3031
  • diagrams
  • sketch
  • tool
  • writing
  • organization
  • innovative
  • patent
  • handwriting

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682493/

  • ink on paper
  • Joseph B. Friedman Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 2001.3031
  • personal
  • diagrams
  • sketch
  • tool
  • writing
  • correspondence
  • innovative
  • patent
  • handwriting

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682547/

  • ink on paper
  • Telescoping Shopping Cart Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 2000.3030
  • diagrams
  • sketch
  • tool
  • typography
  • mobility
  • stacking
  • innovative
  • shopping
  • patent
  • handwriting
  • shoppers

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682549/

  • ink on paper
  • Earl S. Tupper Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 1992.3213
  • instruction
  • personal
  • sketch
  • tool
  • writing
  • correspondence
  • innovative
  • patent
  • handwriting

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682555/

  • ink on paper
  • Earl S. Tupper Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 1992.3213
  • personal
  • diagrams
  • sketch
  • tool
  • innovative
  • patent
  • handwriting
  • hygiene
  • forks

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682557/

  • ink on paper
  • Earl S. Tupper Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 1992.3213
  • container
  • diagrams
  • sketch
  • measuring
  • tool
  • health-care
  • innovative
  • medical
  • patent
  • handwriting

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682559/

  • ink on paper
  • Earl S. Tupper Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 1992.3213
  • diagrams
  • sketch
  • tool
  • health-care
  • innovative
  • medical
  • vision
  • lens
  • patent
  • handwriting

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682565/

  • ink and pencil on paper
  • Earl S. Tupper Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 1992.3213
  • diagrams
  • transport
  • sketch
  • tool
  • mobility
  • innovative
  • patent
  • handwriting
  • vehicles

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682567/

  • ink on paper
  • Earl S. Tupper Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 1992.3213
  • personal
  • diagrams
  • women's clothing
  • women
  • sketch
  • tool
  • beauty
  • innovative
  • patent
  • handwriting

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682569/

  • ink on paper
  • Earl S. Tupper Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 1992.3213
  • circles
  • diagrams
  • sketch
  • brightly colored
  • tool
  • beauty
  • hair
  • innovative
  • patent
  • handwriting
  • hygiene
  • grooming
  • mirrors

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682571/

  • ink on paper
  • Earl S. Tupper Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 1992.3213
  • circles
  • diagrams
  • sketch
  • brightly colored
  • tool
  • beauty
  • hair
  • innovative
  • patent
  • handwriting
  • hygiene
  • grooming
  • mirrors

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682573/

  • ink on paper
  • Earl S. Tupper Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 1992.3213
  • diagrams
  • sketch
  • brightly colored
  • tool
  • beauty
  • innovative
  • patent
  • handwriting
  • hygiene
  • grooming
  • mirrors

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682583/

  • brass, steel
  • metallic
  • tool
  • commercial
  • rope
  • mechanical
  • gears
  • rotation
  • industrial
  • patent model
  • patent
  • mechanization

Nineteenth-century patent models served a variety of purposes, from demonstrating design and function, to inspiring inventors, to understanding what was possible. Similarly with these examples of twenty-first-century technology that make portraits, print tools, or translate hand gestures into form and mass—they are statements about and visual wonders of our digital age.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682585/

  • brass, iron
  • metallic
  • protection
  • tool
  • rectangular
  • commercial
  • mechanical
  • security
  • gears
  • rotation
  • patent model
  • patent
  • mechanization

Nineteenth-century patent models served a variety of purposes, from demonstrating design and function, to inspiring inventors, to understanding what was possible. Similarly with these examples of twenty-first-century technology that make portraits, print tools, or translate hand gestures into form and mass—they are statements about and visual wonders of our digital age.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682595/

  • wood
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Cat. T11393.005
  • domestic
  • rounded
  • women
  • curved
  • tool
  • wood
  • smooth
  • patent model
  • patent
  • laundry

Nineteenth-century patent models served a variety of purposes, from demonstrating design and function, to inspiring inventors, to understanding what was possible. Similarly with these examples of twenty-first-century technology that make portraits, print tools, or translate hand gestures into form and mass—they are statements about and visual wonders of our digital age.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682597/

  • wood
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Cat. T11393.037
  • domestic
  • women
  • tool
  • curving line
  • wood
  • flat
  • smooth
  • patent model
  • patent
  • laundry
  • forks

Nineteenth-century patent models served a variety of purposes, from demonstrating design and function, to inspiring inventors, to understanding what was possible. Similarly with these examples of twenty-first-century technology that make portraits, print tools, or translate hand gestures into form and mass—they are statements about and visual wonders of our digital age.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682601/

  • wood
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Cat. T11393.012
  • domestic
  • symmetry
  • women
  • tool
  • flat
  • patent model
  • patent
  • intersecting

Nineteenth-century patent models served a variety of purposes, from demonstrating design and function, to inspiring inventors, to understanding what was possible. Similarly with these examples of twenty-first-century technology that make portraits, print tools, or translate hand gestures into form and mass—they are statements about and visual wonders of our digital age.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682603/

  • wood, metal
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Cat. T11393.039
  • domestic
  • symmetry
  • women
  • tool
  • flat
  • angular
  • triangular
  • patent model
  • patent
  • spring

Nineteenth-century patent models served a variety of purposes, from demonstrating design and function, to inspiring inventors, to understanding what was possible. Similarly with these examples of twenty-first-century technology that make portraits, print tools, or translate hand gestures into form and mass—they are statements about and visual wonders of our digital age.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682605/

  • wood, metal
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Cat. T11393.035
  • domestic
  • asymmetry
  • women
  • tool
  • curving line
  • flat
  • patent model
  • patent
  • spring

Nineteenth-century patent models served a variety of purposes, from demonstrating design and function, to inspiring inventors, to understanding what was possible. Similarly with these examples of twenty-first-century technology that make portraits, print tools, or translate hand gestures into form and mass—they are statements about and visual wonders of our digital age.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682607/

  • wood
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Cat. T11393.011
  • domestic
  • symmetry
  • women
  • tool
  • curving line
  • flat
  • patent model
  • patent

Nineteenth-century patent models served a variety of purposes, from demonstrating design and function, to inspiring inventors, to understanding what was possible. Similarly with these examples of twenty-first-century technology that make portraits, print tools, or translate hand gestures into form and mass—they are statements about and visual wonders of our digital age.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682609/

  • wood, metal
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Cat. T11393.025
  • domestic
  • symmetry
  • women
  • tool
  • curving line
  • flat
  • patent model
  • patent

Nineteenth-century patent models served a variety of purposes, from demonstrating design and function, to inspiring inventors, to understanding what was possible. Similarly with these examples of twenty-first-century technology that make portraits, print tools, or translate hand gestures into form and mass—they are statements about and visual wonders of our digital age.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682611/

  • wood, metal
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Cat. T11393.040
  • domestic
  • rounded
  • women
  • tool
  • curving line
  • patent model
  • patent
  • spring

Nineteenth-century patent models served a variety of purposes, from demonstrating design and function, to inspiring inventors, to understanding what was possible. Similarly with these examples of twenty-first-century technology that make portraits, print tools, or translate hand gestures into form and mass—they are statements about and visual wonders of our digital age.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68250943/

  • aluminum, plastic, assorted electrical components, javascript, html, css and python source files
  • Gift of Google Inc.

Using automatons to draw is not new, but the capability of this software-driven robot to draw millions of images is. Currently, it is programmed for portraits, but it can be reprogrammed to draw other subjects or reconfigured with attachments other than a robot arm. Sand sketches can be easily erased, eliminating the need for paper. The source code for Sketchbot, including for building your own version with Lego bricks, is available online free of charge at www.cooperhewitt.org.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68268743/

  • thermoplastic
  • Courtesy of Made In Space, Inc. and NASA
  • digital
  • utility
  • tool
  • geometric
  • portable
  • smooth
  • space
  • 3D printing

Space missions depend on equipment sent from Earth, but if astronauts can make parts as needed, the supply chain from Earth to space could be largely bypassed. A 3D printer like this, designed for use in microgravity, was sent to the International Space Station (ISS), where it is making the very first objects manufactured off planet Earth. A copy of this plaque is installed inside the Made In Space 3D printer on the ISS. The logo shows a digital stream of information being broadcast from California to the ISS, demonstrating how digital signals will translate into functional tools off Earth.


Communicate

We are social creatures. Our natural need to connect with one another, to record and pass on knowledge, has informed the design of many tools of communication. The Internet is today's most powerful example, altering our sense of geography and distance and forming new kinds of communities through social networking, with a constant flow of knowledge, data, and images at our fingertips. Its roots are in the myriad symbols and codes humans have created to remember, convey, and exchange information—from writing, pictures, knots, lines, and dots, to electrical impulses. A knotted time ball or Intelligent Mail Barcode, for example, is a compilation of many details, from a life story to a house address, amplifying ideas and data forr people to understand, transmit, recall—or sometimes conceal. Record: Codes and symbols are shorthand for simple and complex information that may be understood by one person or multitudes. Patterns formed by knots, lines, colors, and 1s and 0s distill data, transmitting it through touch, sight, or hearing. Memory aid, accounting register, or calorie counter, these objects act as physical and virtual messengers of information. Disseminate: These devices generate and enhance communication, resulting in expanded networks. As bridges between people, images and symbols inform in ways that other modes of communication cannot. A booklet of eye tests aids communication between doctor and patient and also captures assumptions about people and their cultural competencies, from card playing to singing. Objects of adornment are communication tools. Prestige objects are often designed to dazzle and to signify hierarchy, project power to others—think business suits—and at times indicate relationships to the divine, like the Raven, the mythical creator depicted on the rattle.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18667965/

  • Designed by Henry Dreyfuss
  • Manufactured by Polaroid Corporation
  • polysulfone plastic with a layer of copper-nickel-chromium alloy, applied leather
  • circles
  • personal
  • communication
  • collapsible
  • recording
  • metal
  • tool
  • folded
  • contrast
  • portable
  • mechanical
  • photography
  • cameras
  • observation
  • handheld

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457161/

  • paper, cardboard, laminated canvas
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 1986.0705.03
  • communication
  • graphic design
  • figurative
  • measuring
  • tool
  • typography
  • symbols
  • health-care
  • medical
  • observation
  • vision

These devices generate and enhance communication, resulting in expanded networks. As bridges between people, images and symbols inform in ways that other modes of communication cannot. A booklet of eye tests aids communication between doctor and patient and also captures assumptions about people and their cultural competencies, from card playing to singing.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457203/

  • seal: worked slate; casts: plaster
  • Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, A207910
  • antiquity
  • communication
  • identity
  • cylinder
  • figurative
  • recording
  • archaeology
  • tool
  • writing
  • carved
  • symbols
  • signature

Codes and symbols are shorthand for simple and complex information that may be understood by one person or multitudes. Patterns formed by knots, lines, colors, and 1s and 0s distill data, transmitting it through touch, sight, or hearing. Memory aid, accounting register, or calorie counter, these objects act as physical and virtual messengers of information.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457205/

  • clay/mud
  • Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, A315235
  • antiquity
  • communication
  • recording
  • archaeology
  • tool
  • writing
  • typography
  • line
  • symbols

Codes and symbols are shorthand for simple and complex information that may be understood by one person or multitudes. Patterns formed by knots, lines, colors, and 1s and 0s distill data, transmitting it through touch, sight, or hearing. Memory aid, accounting register, or calorie counter, these objects act as physical and virtual messengers of information.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457211/

  • colored pencil, graphite, and watercolor on paper
  • National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution NAA MS 2372 (Inv. 08631100)
  • figures
  • profile
  • communication
  • repetition
  • recording
  • heads
  • tool
  • numbers
  • writing
  • symbols
  • ancestry

This pictorial roster by the Oglala Lakota chief Big Road is a list of his followers. A small image beside each man suggests his name, for example, Bear Looking Back (top row, second from left). The head of each family band holds a pipe and pipe bag, while leaders in battle brandish war clubs.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457239/

  • carved wood, red ocher
  • Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E3790
  • decoration
  • figures
  • communication
  • water
  • animals
  • hunting
  • transport
  • tool
  • carved
  • symbols
  • boats
  • navigation
  • nautical

This elaborately carved canoe prow signifies power. Most likely from an important war or fishing canoe, its symbolism, charged with meaning, was meant to impress onlookers and embolden users. The aggressive figure at the front was believed to forcefully part the seas, the domain of the god Tangaroa.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457265/

  • carved and painted wood
  • Collected by Rev. Sheldon Jackson, 1877–94, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E316756
  • communication
  • birds
  • figurative
  • dance
  • sculptural
  • protection
  • tool
  • carved
  • ceremony
  • ritual
  • symbols
  • spiritual protection
  • handle

Among peoples of the Northwest Coast, clan leaders, dancers, and shamans connected daily life with the spirit realm. As intermediaries, they were traditionally relied upon to ward off evil and harness the spirits’ healing powers. Raven rattles were important tools that facilitated these negotiations. When shaken, their sound helped summon the supernatural world.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457297/

  • Manufactured by Loral Data Systems
  • epoxy-glass circuit cards, integrated-circuit chips, integrated connectors, stainless-steel housing
  • Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Gift of Loral Data Systems, A19950036000
  • communication
  • recording
  • brightly colored
  • protection
  • tool
  • rectilinear
  • mechanical
  • handle
  • aviation

Flight data recorders often provide the key to understanding the cause of aircraft accidents. This now-obsolete example could survive impacts of 100 G-force, temperatures of 1,000 °C, and immersion in seawater for up to thirty days. Originally painted black to radiate excess heat, the boxes today are orange, making them easier to find.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457323/

  • knotted cordage of apocynum canabinum (indian hemp)
  • National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 10/297
  • timekeeping
  • recording
  • time
  • tool
  • intertwined
  • knots
  • texture
  • rope
  • diaries

When ready for marriage, a young woman started her time ball, a fiber diary that employed knots to record events. Glass beads, shells, and cloth fragments marked special occasions. As a woman aged, her time ball accumulated the history of her family and extended community. It was so essential to her identity that she was buried with it.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457357/

  • paper
  • The Ernst Herzfeld Papers, Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, FSA A.6 06.C061
  • architecture
  • communication
  • recording
  • archaeology
  • tool
  • wall
  • writing
  • typography
  • raised

Paper squeezes are molded negative impressions of carved surfaces. Introduced in the 18th century as a new form of scientific documentation, they functioned as three-dimensional records of inscriptions and reliefs on ancient monuments. Western archeologists and other scholars used them to decipher and reconstruct the texts.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460701/

  • plastic, metal and leather
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 306619.11
  • communication
  • tool
  • typing
  • keyboard
  • Braille
  • blind
  • code
  • cases
  • touch

Designed for deaf-blind users, the Tellatouch Braillewriter closes the distance between people who rely upon sight, sound, and touch to connect. Each key on what resembles a conventional keyboard lifts a Braille letter one at a time on the opposite side of the console, where a person reads the six-point cells that compose the tactile letters.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460719/

  • leather-bound paper boards, paper
  • Courtesy of Smithsonian Libraries, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Library
  • communication
  • tool
  • technology
  • writing
  • books
  • innovative
  • encyclopedic
  • knowledge
  • research
  • manufacturing
  • Enlightenment

Diderot’s intent with the Encyclopédie was to gather all human knowledge into a single work. A primary focus was to document and illustrate the mechanical arts, materials, and processes. Because the illustrations drew directly from the workshops, it was, and remains, a unique compendium of the tools available in mid-18th-century Europe.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460811/

  • Designed by Vincent Baranger
  • Manufactured by LaCie
  • aluminum, integrated circuit
  • Gift of LaCie
  • personal
  • metallic
  • home
  • communication
  • digital
  • storage
  • recording
  • offices
  • tool
  • organization
  • flat
  • security
  • computing
  • keys

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460815/

  • Designed by 5.5 Designers
  • aluminum, integrated circuit
  • Gift of LaCie

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460821/

  • Designed by 5.5 Designers
  • aluminum, integrated circuit
  • Gift of LaCie

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520539/

  • ink on muslin
  • Gift of Lt. H.T. Reed, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, 08633800
  • figures
  • men
  • communication
  • timekeeping
  • recording
  • time
  • measuring
  • numbers
  • writing
  • symbols
  • knowledge
  • handwriting
  • calendars
  • information graphics

Winter counts are personal memory aids painted by men who were assigned the responsibility of keeping track of a sequence of years. Each picture served as a reminder for a particular year. This count reads in serpentine fashion from top to bottom. Number 48 represents a dramatic meteor shower in the winter of 1833/34.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520551/

  • knotted and twisted cotton fibers
  • Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, A365240
  • communication
  • recording
  • archaeology
  • measuring
  • tool
  • knots
  • rope
  • knowledge
  • code

Quipu were integral to the expansion and administration of the Inca empire. Varying in length, number of strings, and color, with knots representing decimal points, they recorded census information linked to the collection of taxes from local communities. They were also used as memory aids by official historians and genealogists.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520963/

  • Designed by Yves Béhar
  • Manufactured by Jawbone
  • hypoallergenic tpu rubber, nickel-plated tr-90 nylon, electronic components
  • Courtesy of Yves Béhar and fuseproject
  • circles
  • personal
  • personal adornment
  • digital
  • recording
  • protection
  • tool
  • flexible
  • health-care
  • mobility
  • computing
  • medical
  • calculation
  • observation

Codes and symbols are shorthand for simple and complex information that may be understood by one person or multitudes. Patterns formed by knots, lines, colors, and 1s and 0s distill data, transmitting it through touch, sight, or hearing. Memory aid, accounting register, or calorie counter, these objects act as physical and virtual messengers of information.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51866727/

  • Manufactured by Portola Institute, Inc.
  • paper
  • Courtesy of Kentucky Historical Society, (Pamphlet Fall 1968; 051 W628)

Predating the computer and the World Wide Web, this user-generated database of tools from varied sources and cultures celebrated small-scale technologies as a way for individuals to improve their lives. When it was launched in 1968, Brand’s goal was to encourage readers towards greater self-sufficiency and a shared sense of community.


Survive

Humans are hardwired to survive. The first human tools were used to hunt, butcher, forage, and defend. Protection continues to preoccupy us today, whether finding ways to survive in extreme or inhospitable environments, like outer space, or enduring potentially dangerous situations, like raids and riots. Our quest to detect diseases before they become life-threatening gave rise to the invention of the "lab-on-a-chip"—a phenomenon unimaginable even a generation ago. These devices identify key health information and instantly transmit the results, allowing for real-time diagnoses. While not all survival design is a matter of life or death, these tools demonstrate how the will to survive continues to inspire us to seek ever-smarter solutions. Protect: Designing for inhospitable, even extreme conditions often includes using materials from nature, such as sea-mammal intestine, and inventing new ones, such as Kevlar®. These “second skins” rely on the maker’s skills and understanding of performance needs, which can mean the difference between life and death for the wearer. Finding cures for illnesses, protecting against negative forces, and increasing quality of life with prosthetics and pain-prevention all result from our desire to live longer and healthier. Managing pain in the operating room was complicated and mostly ineffective until ether was introduced in 1846. Within a year of its introduction, anesthesia was employed in every surgery where it was available.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457195/

  • polyurethane, dacron®, polycarbonate, silastic®, velcro®, titanium, pyrolytic carbon, polyurethane
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 1987.0474.01
  • rounded
  • science
  • protection
  • tool
  • hearts
  • tubular
  • health-care
  • innovative
  • survival
  • prosthetic
  • medical
  • mechanization

Finding cures for illnesses, protecting against negative forces, and increasing quality of life with prosthetics and pain-prevention all result from our desire to live longer and healthier. Managing pain in the operating room was complicated and mostly ineffective until ether was introduced in 1846. Within a year of its introduction, anesthesia was employed in every surgery where it was available.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457197/

  • ceramic, slip cast (glazed interior, unglazed exterior)
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Cat. M-06669
  • container
  • asymmetry
  • science
  • protection
  • tool
  • health-care
  • flat
  • stacking
  • innovative
  • survival
  • medical
  • hollow

Once the antibiotic properties of penicillin were confirmed, the problem was how to produce enough to test on humans. In 1940, Dr. Norman Heatley designed a stackable vessel, inspired by hospital bedpans, which collected samples for culturing. Wartime constraints excluded glass, the ideal material, but a ceramic model proved equally efficient and inexpensive.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457329/

  • beluga whale gut, sinew, grass twine
  • National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 22/7435
  • personal
  • organic
  • hunting
  • nature
  • protection
  • tool
  • ceremony
  • texture
  • innovative
  • opaque

Made from the intestine of a beluga whale, this parka is a high-performance garment—waterproof, windproof, and resistant to decay. Alaska Native women sewed these translucent and life-protecting parkas, and, in this example, created a watertight seam using sinew and twine in a running stitch.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457333/

  • carved mammoth-fossil ivory
  • National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 5/4349
  • personal
  • rounded
  • ovoid
  • protection
  • tool
  • winter
  • cut-out
  • smooth
  • innovative
  • vision
  • eyewear

Exquisitely carved, these ivory goggles protected the wearer from snow blindness caused by intense sunlight reflecting off snow. The narrow slits allowed the wearer to see without squinting and even enhanced one’s vision—like a pinhole camera.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457383/

  • wood, copper alloy, encrustation
  • National Museum of African Art, Gift of Lawrence Gussman in memory of Dr. Albert Schweitzer, 98-15-11
  • animals
  • figurative
  • mask
  • protection
  • tool
  • carved
  • ceremony
  • cut-out
  • spiritual protection
  • handle
  • shaman

Designated men of Koma society in northwest Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea are trained to combat negative forces that cause discord. This maskette incorporates the symbolism and materials that empowered the society’s larger masks, but it was used by an individual, serving both to protect him and, like a passport, prove his Koma membership should he travel.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460307/

  • glass, horn, metal, textile wrapping, wooden base (not original to the object)
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Cat. M-09244
  • rounded
  • science
  • protection
  • tool
  • tubular
  • health-care
  • transparent
  • survival
  • medical
  • surgical

Finding cures for illnesses, protecting against negative forces, and increasing quality of life with prosthetics and pain-prevention all result from our desire to live longer and healthier. Managing pain in the operating room was complicated and mostly ineffective until ether was introduced in 1846. Within a year of its introduction, anesthesia was employed in every surgery where it was available.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460355/

  • Manufactured by B.F. Goodrich Co.
  • nylon, rubber/neoprene, brass, aluminum, neoprene-coated nylon, steel, pvc, cotton-canvas, leather
  • Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Transferred from NASA, 1980-0041-000
  • protection
  • tool
  • flexible
  • work
  • reflective
  • mobility
  • space
  • astronauts

The Mark V was more than a survival tool for an astronaut in space, it was a developmental tool designed to research how to facilitate human movement inside a spacesuit. While the oversize shoulder made it easy for the wearer to move an arm, it ultimately proved too large to allow three astronauts to sit side by side in the spacecraft.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460683/

  • metal
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Cat. 1985.3109.100.1–3
  • metallic
  • science
  • protection
  • tool
  • health-care
  • survival
  • medical
  • pointed
  • forks

Administering the smallpox vaccine required only a shallow injection into the skin, which contains cells from the immune system. After centuries of attempts to perfect a delivery system, the two-pronged needle was introduced in 1968. An adaptation of a sewing-machine needle, it provided accurate dosage, puncture efficiency, and ease of use.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520973/

  • Designed by Dr. Logan Liu
  • Manufactured by MoboSense
  • smartphone plug-in electrochemical sensor, microfluidic chip, microelectronic integrated circuits
  • Courtesy of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

With a smartphone and a MoboSens anyone can detect contaminated water or analyze blood, urine, or saliva for illnesses. An online map allows the results to be shared and monitored in real time. MoboSens is an affordable tool that is part of the digital revolution in environmental awareness and health care.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51497555/

  • Designed by Yves Béhar
  • Manufactured by fuseproject
  • computer-machined abs plastic, leather, aluminum, paint
  • Courtesy of Gates Foundation and WIRED magazine
  • circular
  • personal
  • personal adornment
  • brightly colored
  • protection
  • tool
  • health-care
  • innovative
  • medical
  • observation

The Kernel of Life is a wearable amulet that transforms biological material into digital data. An interior pad analyzes blood (red), saliva (blue), urine (yellow), and breath (green) and transmits the results to a mobile application, allowing patients to both self-monitor and be monitored remotely and continuously.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51497643/

  • Manufactured by International Armor Corporation
  • kevlar®
  • Museum purchase
  • war
  • ovoid
  • mask
  • protection
  • tool
  • cut-out
  • smooth
  • innovative
  • survival
  • defense

This terrifying bullet-resistant mask, made of Kevlar®, is part of the armor worn by law-enforcement officers during raids or when apprehending snipers. The design is a visual expression of its purpose: with all identifying features totally effaced, its sinister appearance ups the ante of confrontation and intimidation.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51497647/

  • Manufactured by GE Healthcare
  • internal: ultrasound transmitters and receivers, signal processor, computer-on-chip, external: magnesium and plastic covers
  • Courtesy of GE Healthcare
  • communication
  • collapsible
  • digital
  • touchscreen
  • recording
  • protection
  • tool
  • rectangular
  • health-care
  • mobility
  • portable
  • innovative
  • computing
  • survival
  • medical
  • observation

This pocket-sized ultrasound device automatically goes into scanning mode when opened. As the clinician glides the probe over the patient’s skin, sound waves are converted into real-time images of organs or blood flow and displayed on the Vscan’s screen. This ability for clinicians to obtain and analyze information instantaneously can help them impact patient lives.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68245665/

  • Designed by Van Phillips
  • Manufactured by Össur
  • molded plain-woven carbon fiber, unidirectional carbon-fiber epoxy resin
  • Gift of Össur North America
  • personal
  • animals
  • walking
  • feet
  • curved
  • metal
  • tool
  • curving line
  • flexible
  • health-care
  • mobility
  • lightweight
  • smooth
  • innovative
  • survival
  • prosthetic
  • medical
  • athletes
  • body
  • running
  • amputees
  • cheetah

This object is currently on display in room 105 in Carnegie Mansion.


Observe

Tools of observation allow us to see what was previously invisible and to hear sounds where once there was silence. They enhance our five senses and address our insatiable curiosity to learn more about ourselves and the worlds around and within us. Experimentation with magnification, shape, and position of lenses has resulted in a variety of scopes—opthalmoscopes, microscopes, telescopes—showing us micro- and macro-universes in real time without leaving our chair. Other forms of virtual observation, such as flying robots and drones, incorporate sensors that respond directly to their surroundings, further extending our reach into the new and unknown. Physical: We augment our senses with tools to see farther into the micro and macro worlds and to enhance our reception of conditions around us. Different scopes utilize the same tool—a lens—for magnification. The discreet Zon hearing aid amplifies sound for the hearing impaired, while a white cane and its tip enable the user to “see” with sound and touch. Virtual: Traveling to environments impossible for us to physically enter requires surrogates such as satellites, aerial surveillance, and even ingestible cameras. Electronics, miniaturized technology, and specialized manufacturing processes have helped designers and engineers to make tools that can now reach remote locations and deliver results in real time and with previously unimaginable clarity.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18731075/

  • Designed by Stuart Karten Design
  • injection-molded nylon, chromed metal, high-gloss metallic paint
  • Gift of Starkey Laboratories, Inc.
  • personal
  • metallic
  • personal adornment
  • curved
  • tool
  • technology
  • health-care
  • prosthetic
  • medical
  • hearing aids
  • sound
  • listening
  • observation
  • chrome
  • deaf
  • hearing loss
  • hard of hearing

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457113/

  • brass, glass
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 1990.0183.01
  • metallic
  • cylinder
  • science
  • tool
  • tubular
  • health-care
  • exploration
  • innovative
  • medical
  • observation
  • examination
  • vision
  • lens

We augment our senses with tools to see farther into the micro and macro worlds and to enhance our reception of conditions around us. Different scopes utilize the same tool—a lens—for magnification. The discreet Zon hearing aid amplifies sound for the hearing impaired, while a white cane and its tip enable the user to “see” with sound and touch.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457121/

  • ophthalmoscope: velvet, metal, wood, optical glass; case: leather, velvet
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 314016
  • circles
  • perspective
  • science
  • tool
  • health-care
  • exploration
  • innovative
  • medical
  • observation
  • examination
  • vision
  • lens
  • velvet

This simple tool for looking at the fundus—the back of the eye—made possible the first view of living tissue in action. By adjusting the position, curvature, and power of the lenses, the user could sharpen the images. This model directed a beam of light to the fundus, and its removable lenses could be flipped out of the way.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457123/

  • brass
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, M-09840
  • perspective
  • metallic
  • science
  • tool
  • flat
  • portable
  • exploration
  • innovative
  • observation
  • examination
  • vision
  • lens

The earliest simple microscope—a replica is shown here—could magnify 250 times or more with a single lens. One of Leeuwenhoek’s special skills was grinding lenses to produce superior magnification: he was one of the first to observe and describe single-cell organisms.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457127/

  • rubber, elastic cord, aluminum, iron, reflective tape
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 306619.10
  • collapsible
  • cylinder
  • tool
  • tubular
  • folded
  • health-care
  • portable
  • navigation
  • medical
  • observation
  • blind
  • vision
  • visually impaired
  • aluminum

Observational tool, navigation device, and symbol, a white cane transmits information. The initial exchange takes place at the tip, where the cane meets the ground, and feedback from the tip alerts the user of terrain conditions. A folding cane can be easily stowed and is often more manageable in an urban context than the rigid version.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457131/

  • rubber, metal
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 2001.0324.01-03

Observational tool, navigation device, and symbol, a white cane transmits information. The initial exchange takes place at the tip, where the cane meets the ground, and feedback from the tip alerts the user of terrain conditions. A folding cane can be easily stowed and is often more manageable in an urban context than the rigid version.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457285/

  • Courtesy © Eames Office, LLC

This iconic film illustrates scale of observation and thought. Beginning at a lakeside picnic in Chicago, the viewer travels to the universe and back, then into the microstructure of the human body. Charles and Ray Eames made this adaptation of Kees Boeke’s 1957 book, Cosmic View, to celebrate the power of scale in shaping our understanding of the world.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460357/

  • Manufactured by Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
  • metal shell
  • Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Transferred from the US Army Ordnance Museum, A19890568000
  • communication
  • electronic
  • cylinder
  • recording
  • tool
  • mechanical
  • exploration
  • space
  • astronomy
  • observation

Explorer 1 was the first successful US Earth-orbiting satellite. Mounted on top of a rocket, the satellite incorporated a rocket booster on the back. Its aerodynamic form, including the conical nose, minimized drag through the atmosphere. It contained detectors for cosmic rays and micrometeorites; electronics; batteries; and communication equipment. Four radio antennas are detached for display purposes.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460365/

  • Designed by Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Manufactured by NASA
  • epoxy-bonded fiberglass, aluminum, other light metals, plastics
  • Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Transferred from NASA, A19751411000
  • dome
  • communication
  • electronic
  • recording
  • tool
  • mechanical
  • exploration
  • space
  • astronomy
  • observation

Ariel 2, the first radio-astronomy satellite, listened for radio waves from the galaxy and Earth’s natural events. Other onboard experiments included measuring ozone and oxygen levels in the ionosphere, 73 km (46 mi.) to 1,006 km (621 mi.) away. Powered by solar cells feeding nickel-cadmium batteries, this compact satellite was designed to function for one year.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460703/

  • brass, iron, glass
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 2006.0182.02-03
  • perspective
  • metallic
  • cylinder
  • science
  • tool
  • tubular
  • exploration
  • innovative
  • space
  • astronomy
  • observation
  • examination
  • vision
  • lens

In the nineteenth century, scientists thought Earth’s distance from the Sun could be ascertained by measuring the transit of the planet Venus across the Sun, an event that occurs once every 120 years. The United States sent eight international expeditions equipped with specially designed telescopes (this one went to Australia). Although not completely successful, the expeditions asserted that American science had come of age.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460755/

  • Designed by Dr. Mark Weber
  • Courtesy of Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA)
  • instruction
  • scale
  • tool
  • sun
  • stars
  • sunburst
  • space
  • astronomy
  • knowledge
  • observation
  • solar
  • solar system

In 2010, NASA launched four solar telescopes into orbit on board the Solar Dynamics Observatory. The AIA is the first instrument that allows us to see the entire Sun at twice the resolution of standard high-definition television. Eight high-definition images of the Sun are taken every twelve seconds. This data is then sent to Earth as numbers. Colors are assigned to render the different solar activity visible and to make the images visually compelling. As a tool for scientists and the general public to study in real time (with an eight-minute transmission delay) how the Sun affects life on Earth, the Solar Wall also communicates the majesty of our nearest star.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520949/

  • Manufactured by Given Imaging Ltd.
  • led light source, lens, battery, antenna, transmitter, imager
  • Courtesy of Given Imaging, a Covidien Company
  • personal
  • rounded
  • ovoid
  • digital
  • recording
  • protection
  • tool
  • health-care
  • transparent
  • medical
  • cameras
  • observation
  • lens

Imagined by the inventor in the 1990s as a tiny vessel with a camera traveling through the intestines, the PillCam® now replaces more invasive surgical procedures. The patient swallows the single-use “pill” and light-emitting diodes illuminate the intestinal walls, transmitting images to a wireless data recorder. The data are downloaded to a computer and analyzed by a physician.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51497591/

  • Designed by Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering
  • flight muscles: piezoelectric ceramic, carbon fiber, and alumina ceramic; wings: polyester film membrane stretched over a carbon-fiber composite frame; wing transmission: polyimide-film flexural hinges with carbon-fiber rigid links; body: carbon-fiber an
  • Gift of Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • wings
  • metal
  • biomorphic
  • insects
  • exploration
  • innovative
  • electronics
  • bees
  • observation
  • sustainability
  • environment
  • drones
  • robotic
  • small

The world’s first insect-scale flying robot has a wingspan of 3 cm (1  in.) and is the approximate weight of a honeybee, its source of inspiration. Harvard researchers were responding to the alarming collapse of bee colonies worldwide and wanted to replicate their swarming behavior. Other applications include search-and-rescue missions, environmental sensors, and covert surveillance.

This object is currently on display in room 105 in Carnegie Mansion.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51497645/

  • Designed by Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering
  • flight muscles: piezoelectric ceramic, carbon fiber, and alumina ceramic; wings: polyester film membrane stretched over a carbon-fiber composite frame; wing transmission: polyimide-film flexural hinges with carbon-fiber rigid links; body: carbon-fiber and
  • Gift of Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • wings
  • flat
  • biomorphic
  • insects
  • exploration
  • electronics
  • bees
  • observation
  • sustainability
  • environment
  • drones
  • robotic

The world’s first insect-scale flying robot has a wingspan of 3 cm (1 in.) and is the approximate weight of a honeybee, its source of inspiration. Harvard researchers were responding to the alarming collapse of bee colonies worldwide and wanted to replicate their swarming behavior. Other applications include search-and-rescue missions, environmental sensors, and covert surveillance.


Measure

How much? How far? How long? These questions have driven scientific inquiry and the desire for greater accuracy through the creation and use of measuring tools. Navigation, time, and quantifying tools chart our path, mark our time, and regulate our lives. We create maps and charts to visualize data obtained from these instruments. As the volume of information to analyze increases exponentially, designers, like mapmakers, are working to distill it into accessible formats such as enlarged microchip diagrams that reveal many layers and circuits or a "live" map of celestial bodies that poetically visualizes one's music collection. Navigate: Maps help us visualize information: data, circuits on microchips or ocean currents. To determine their location, navigators historically relied on angle-finding tools like the sextant and astrolabe. They gave real-time calculations just like today’s GPS or its next generation, the T-IMU. Quantify: An abacus, a calculator, and a slide rule answer the question HOW MUCH? by means of very different techniques. The construction of some of our greatest modern buildings was calculated using slide rules. For surveying complex sites and surfaces, 3D laser scanners achieve such high precision that the interior of an entire building can be represented in minute detail. Time: By the 19th century, affordable timepieces became available to a growing American middle class because they could be factory made. More than tools to keep time, pocket watches served as status symbols and fashion accessories, and achieved unexpected success during the Civil War, when they became a fad among Union soldiers.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18429505/

  • gilt and engraved brass, cut and blued steel, glass
  • Gift of the Estate of James Hazen Hyde
  • circles
  • figures
  • personal
  • metallic
  • travel
  • timekeeping
  • scrolls
  • measuring
  • tool
  • compact
  • portable
  • navigation
  • dials
  • rotation
  • observation

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18639109/

  • Manufactured by Army Air Forces
  • acetate rayon
  • war
  • political
  • recording
  • measuring
  • tool
  • flexible
  • portable
  • map
  • survival
  • navigation
  • knowledge

During World War II, such maps were issued to Army Air Forces and navy air crewmen, should they be lost at sea or escaping from enemy territory. They were an escaper’s most important tool. Easy to conceal, these rayon examples, unlike paper versions, were waterproof and silent when folded and unfolded.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457159/

  • sextant: brass, silver, glass; case: mahogany, brass, felt
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 1980.0318.03
  • metallic
  • measuring
  • tool
  • sun
  • curving line
  • portable
  • exploration
  • triangular
  • navigation
  • observation
  • nautical
  • planar
  • solar

Maps help us visualize information: data, circuits on microchips or ocean currents. To determine their location, navigators historically relied on angle-finding tools like the sextant and astrolabe. They gave real-time calculations just like today’s GPS or its next generation, the T-IMU.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460321/

  • wood case with painted dial on glass door, lead weights, paper
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 317044
  • circles
  • domestic
  • timekeeping
  • time
  • measuring
  • tool
  • numbers
  • rectangular
  • gears

In early nineteenth-century America, clock-making changed from a craft to a factory process, in which machines mass-produced uniform, interchangeable parts. The desire was to make low-cost domestic clocks as economically as possible. This device’s case is an austere wooden box, whose glass door, with its reverse-painted numbers, serves as a dial.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460347/

  • bronze
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 323719

The great European voyages of exploration and trade that began in the fifteenth century depended on a new kind of celestial-navigation tool, the mariner’s astrolabe. Together with astronomical tables, astrolabes helped mariners calculate a ship’s latitude on the open seas, based on the angle measured between the Sun or a specific star and the horizon or zenith.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460637/

  • 18k gold case, brass movement, white enamel dial
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 334625
  • circles
  • personal
  • timekeeping
  • decorative
  • time
  • measuring
  • tool
  • numbers
  • portable
  • dials

By the nineteenth century, affordable timepieces became available to a growing American middle class because they could be factory made. More than tools to keep time, pocket watches served as status symbols and fashion accessories, and achieved unexpected success during the Civil War, when they became a fad among Union soldiers.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460655/

  • rag-filled bakelite, metal
  • streamlined
  • communication
  • military
  • ovoid
  • curved
  • measuring
  • tool
  • smooth
  • innovative
  • navigation
  • observation
  • aviation

Radio loop antennas were navigation devices mounted on most World War II aircraft. To reduce aerodynamic drag (wind resistance), the antennas were encased in streamlined forms made of Bakelite, the first entirely synthetic plastic. Bakelite is lightweight; heat-, cold-, and water-resistant; and transparent to radio waves, making it the ideal material for the purpose.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460685/

  • steel, walnut
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 217544 (600 tuning forks); 248007 (61 tuning forks)
  • music
  • recording
  • measuring
  • tool
  • grid
  • innovative
  • sound
  • forks

The Grand Tonometer, perfected in the 1860s, turned the humble tuning fork into the most precise scientific instrument of the nineteenth century. The pitches of this original set of 670 separate forks extended over four octaves and afforded a perfect means for tuning any musical instrument.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460687/

  • wood, bamboo
  • circles
  • recording
  • beads
  • measuring
  • tool
  • rectangular
  • mathematical
  • rectilinear
  • calculation
  • accountants

An abacus, a calculator, and a slide rule answer the question HOW MUCH? by means of very different techniques. The construction of some of our greatest modern buildings was calculated using slide rules. For surveying complex sites and surfaces, 3D laser scanners achieve such high precision that the interior of an entire building can be represented in minute detail.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460689/

  • sheet steel
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 1977.0460.01
  • instruction
  • circles
  • metallic
  • square
  • measuring
  • tool
  • numbers
  • mathematical
  • angular
  • calculation
  • rotation

An abacus, a calculator, and a slide rule answer the question HOW MUCH? by means of very different techniques. The construction of some of our greatest modern buildings was calculated using slide rules. For surveying complex sites and surfaces, 3D laser scanners achieve such high precision that the interior of an entire building can be represented in minute detail.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460691/

  • plywood, plexiglass
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 2010.3095.071
  • instruction
  • scale
  • measuring
  • tool
  • numbers
  • mathematical
  • rectilinear
  • calculation
  • hanging

An abacus, a calculator, and a slide rule answer the question HOW MUCH? by means of very different techniques. The construction of some of our greatest modern buildings was calculated using slide rules. For surveying complex sites and surfaces, 3D laser scanners achieve such high precision that the interior of an entire building can be represented in minute detail.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460731/

  • leather-bound paper boards, paper, string
  • Courtesy of Smithsonian Libraries, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Library
  • communication
  • dragons
  • decorative
  • measuring
  • tool
  • writing
  • books
  • astronomy
  • encyclopedic
  • calculation
  • knowledge
  • solar
  • planets
  • solar system

Detailed astrological and astronomical data and charts fill this lavish publication, which also includes twenty-one disks, or volvelles. The volvelle on the left, adorned with a many-headed dragon, can be rotated to predict solar eclipses, while the one on the right makes it possible to forecast eclipses of the Moon.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520475/

  • carved wooden sticks, cowrie shells, twine lashing
  • Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E432083
  • personal
  • pattern
  • recording
  • squares
  • measuring
  • tool
  • triangles
  • interlaced
  • geometric
  • map
  • navigation
  • knowledge

Knowledge gained over generations by acute observation and experiencing the ocean’s behavior is visualized in these stick charts. Memorized by the navigator before a voyage, these charts mapped ocean swells and currents, as well as relative distances between islands. The combination of straight, curved, and intersecting lines resembles the visual language of grid maps.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520935/

  • Manufactured by Leica Geosystems Inc.
  • compact, pulsed, dual-axis-compensated, very high-speed laser scanner, with survey-grade accuracy, range, and field-of-view; integrated camera and laser plummet
  • Courtesy of Leica Geosystems
  • digital
  • electronic
  • measuring
  • tool
  • laser
  • computing
  • calculation
  • observation
  • lens

A tool for high-definition surveying, this laser scanner measures to 0.635 cm (¼ in.) surfaces out to a distance of some 305 m (1,000 ft.). It then combines the millions of scanned data into a continuous 3D panoramic image, from which an instant measurement can be obtained by clicking on any two pixels in the 360-degree image.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520941/

  • Designed by UC Irvine MicroSystems Laboratory
  • Courtesy of MicroSystems Laboratory of the University of California, Irvine. The research is sponsored by the MicroSystems Technology Office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
  • timekeeping
  • digital
  • recording
  • time
  • measuring
  • tool
  • folded
  • flat
  • computing
  • navigation
  • calculation

This high-resolution map shows six overlaid masks, or layers, the number needed to build a T-IMU chip. (See a chip in the case behind you.) The three circular structures are gyroscopes (for roll, pitch, and yaw), and the three square structures on faces of the pyramid are accelerometers (to measure displacement along the x, y, and z axes). The smaller rectangular structure is a resonator (keeps track of time).

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520977/

  • Designed by Dieter Rams
  • Manufactured by Braun AG
  • abs polymer casing
  • Courtesy of Cara McCarty
  • instruction
  • rounded
  • recording
  • measuring
  • tool
  • numbers
  • rectangular
  • typography
  • flat
  • mathematical
  • calculation

An abacus, a calculator, and a slide rule answer the question HOW MUCH? by means of very different techniques. The construction of some of our greatest modern buildings was calculated using slide rules. For surveying complex sites and surfaces, 3D laser scanners achieve such high precision that the interior of an entire building can be represented in minute detail.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520989/

  • Designed by Bloom Studio
  • c++ and objective-c source files
  • Gift of Ben Cerveny, Tom Carden, Jesper Andersen, and Robert Hodgin
  • personal
  • music
  • digital
  • measuring
  • tool
  • stars
  • innovative
  • space
  • moon
  • astronomy
  • sound
  • listening
  • data visualization
  • planets
  • solar system

Planetary is an interactive, fun, and elegant way to visualize data. Originally developed for the iPad, this software code enables the user to quantify and represent a music collection as a series of moving celestial bodies. Songs are moons, albums are planets, artists are suns. The source code for the app and its previous public versions are available online free of charge at https://github.com/cooperhewitt/planetary, along with programming notes and design sketches.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68268151/

  • Courtesy of MicroSystems Laboratory of the University of California, Irvine. The research is sponsored by the MicroSystems Technology Office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

This microscale navigation system advances the technology of high precision positioning and navigation for aircraft and missiles. When folded, its pyramid shape provides structural integrity and holds microscopic sensors: each face has a gyroscope or accelerometer sensor to detect motion, while a resonator tracks time.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68268155/

  • Courtesy of MicroSystems Laboratory of the University of California, Irvine. The research is sponsored by the MicroSystems Technology Office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

This microscale navigation system advances the technology of high precision positioning and navigation for aircraft and missiles. When folded, its pyramid shape provides structural integrity and holds microscopic sensors: each face has a gyroscope or accelerometer sensor to detect motion, while a resonator tracks time.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68268163/

  • Courtesy of MicroSystems Laboratory of the University of California, Irvine. The research is sponsored by the MicroSystems Technology Office of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

This microscale navigation system advances the technology of high precision positioning and navigation for aircraft and missiles. When folded, its pyramid shape provides structural integrity and holds microscopic sensors: each face has a gyroscope or accelerometer sensor to detect motion, while a resonator tracks time.


Work

Pounding herbs, grasping out-of-reach objects, and performing surgery all require tools that fit into our hands. How we hold them and use them often determines the form and material that the designer chooses. Braided fiber and silicone rubber, for example, provide secure and even pleasing surfaces for gripping, yet each are chosen carefully for the intended task. Some hand tools have been created for a single use, while others are multipurpose from the beginning. The classic teardrop shaped handaxe, which persisted for more than 1.5 million years, is an elegant example. Today's digital counterpart, the iPhone, with its multitude of applications, continues to expand its capabilities without physically changing size. Hand tools: Hand tools extend our physical capability to reach, throw, and catch, as well as to perform actions that are difficult if not impossible with bare hands and fingers. Specialized tasks—tonsil removal, halibut fishing—require unique shapes, distinct materials, and the maker’s personal touch to create an appropriate tool for the task. How a tool fits the hand affects the quality and quantity of work. Spacesuit gloves protect, while allowing astronauts to perform manual activity in a vacuum: steel tips help prevent finger numbness—providing sensory feedback through the nail beds. The glove’s sharkskin improves grip sensation like the elastomer on Studio AmiDov’s flint tools or the silicon sleeve on the computer mouse. A sharpened blade or honed point helps to make farming more efficient, perform surgery with extra precision, or enable hunting with greater success. Carved (bird dart), forged (throwing knives), or fractured (obsidian scalpel) to be razor-sharp, these tools also show how good design is found in the shape and at the edge. Multipurpose tools: There is a long tradition of technical economy, of individual tools performing multiple tasks—the ancient handaxe is an elegant example. It shares design features with the Victorinox@work and iPhone: portability, tactility, and good fit for the hand, yet each of their many functions reflects the particular needs and technology of its era.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18733051/

  • Designed by Apple Industrial Design Team
  • Manufactured by Apple Inc.
  • molded abs plastic and polycarbonate resin, polished stainless steel, oleophobic coated glass, aluminum
  • Gift of Roland L. Trope
  • personal
  • rounded
  • communication
  • music
  • digital
  • touchscreen
  • offices
  • tool
  • minimalism
  • telephones
  • organization
  • flat
  • sleek
  • innovative
  • keyboard
  • computing
  • map
  • cameras
  • talking
  • knowledge
  • software
  • toolbox

The multitasking tool of the digital age, the iPhone has a light, well-balanced rectangular form that fits neatly in the hand. No tool has fulfilled as many functions or been accessible to such a range of users. Operated by simple finger gestures—swipe, pinch, drag—the iPhone transforms itself, without changing shape, into hundreds of different tools: a camera, flashlight, GPS device,.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457233/

  • plaited rattan, sago-palm ribs, cane
  • Transferred from the US Department of Agriculture and Dr. E. W. Brandes, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E344858
  • fish
  • domestic
  • food preparation
  • water
  • hunting
  • women
  • baskets
  • woven
  • fishing
  • tool
  • work
  • cone

Hand tools extend our physical capability to reach, throw, and catch, as well as to perform actions that are difficult if not impossible with bare hands and fingers. Specialized tasks—tonsil removal, halibut fishing—require unique shapes, distinct materials, and the maker’s personal touch to create an appropriate tool for the task.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457235/

  • carved turtle shell, mother-of-pearl, glass beads, fiber cord
  • Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E399972
  • men
  • fish
  • food preparation
  • water
  • hunting
  • fishing
  • tool
  • work
  • sharp
  • pointed

Hand tools extend our physical capability to reach, throw, and catch, as well as to perform actions that are difficult if not impossible with bare hands and fingers. Specialized tasks—tonsil removal, halibut fishing—require unique shapes, distinct materials, and the maker’s personal touch to create an appropriate tool for the task.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457253/

  • chert from north central ohio
  • Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, A581650
  • food preparation
  • hunting
  • archaeology
  • tool
  • work
  • multipurpose
  • fluted
  • ritual
  • sharp
  • pointed

A sharpened blade or honed point helps to make farming more efficient, perform surgery with extra precision, or enable hunting with greater success. Carved (bird dart), forged (throwing knives), or fractured (obsidian scalpel) to be razor-sharp, these tools also show how good design is found in the shape and at the edge.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457257/

  • chert (from edwards chert formation located north of austin, texas)
  • Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, A581651
  • food preparation
  • hunting
  • archaeology
  • tool
  • work
  • multipurpose
  • fluted
  • ritual
  • sharp
  • pointed

A sharpened blade or honed point helps to make farming more efficient, perform surgery with extra precision, or enable hunting with greater success. Carved (bird dart), forged (throwing knives), or fractured (obsidian scalpel) to be razor-sharp, these tools also show how good design is found in the shape and at the edge.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457281/

  • Manufactured by United Aircraft, Hamilton Standard Division
  • steel, anodized aluminum, brass, nylon, ht-1 nomex®, velcro®, rubber / neoprene with flocked fiber coating, sharkskin, pvc
  • Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Transferred from NASA, 1973.0860.003
  • protection
  • tool
  • flexible
  • work
  • mobility
  • hands
  • space
  • astronauts
  • grips

How a tool fits the hand affects the quality and quantity of work. Spacesuit gloves protect, while allowing astronauts to perform manual activity in a vacuum: steel tips help prevent finger numbness—providing sensory feedback through the nail beds. The glove’s sharkskin improves grip sensation like the elastomer on Studio AmiDov’s flint tools or the silicon sleeve on the computer mouse.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460353/

  • Manufactured by Ullman Devices Corporation
  • plated steel
  • Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Transferred from NASA, Marshall Space Flight Center, A19761760074
  • tool
  • flexible
  • work
  • mobility
  • mechanical
  • space
  • astronauts

A reach tool for astronauts to pick up something beyond arm’s length or in too narrow a space, the low-tech mechanical finger is found in auto-supply or hardware stores. Pushing the plunger extends prongs that close around an object, which can be pulled or lifted. It was part of the tool kit for Skylab, the US space station occupied in 1973–74.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460705/

  • brass, steel, ivory
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 1978.0874.02
  • metallic
  • gold
  • science
  • tool
  • health-care
  • mechanical
  • sharp
  • cutting
  • survival
  • medical
  • surgical
  • pointed

Hand tools extend our physical capability to reach, throw, and catch, as well as to perform actions that are difficult if not impossible with bare hands and fingers. Specialized tasks—tonsil removal, halibut fishing—require unique shapes, distinct materials, and the maker’s personal touch to create an appropriate tool for the task.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460707/

  • stainess steel, black oxide coating
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, M-09850.01
  • metallic
  • science
  • health-care
  • sharp
  • handle
  • medical
  • observation
  • examination
  • forks

Hand tools extend our physical capability to reach, throw, and catch, as well as to perform actions that are difficult if not impossible with bare hands and fingers. Specialized tasks—tonsil removal, halibut fishing—require unique shapes, distinct materials, and the maker’s personal touch to create an appropriate tool for the task.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460709/

  • stainless steel
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, M-09857
  • metallic
  • science
  • tool
  • health-care
  • angular
  • sharp
  • cutting
  • medical
  • surgical
  • pointed

Hand tools extend our physical capability to reach, throw, and catch, as well as to perform actions that are difficult if not impossible with bare hands and fingers. Specialized tasks—tonsil removal, halibut fishing—require unique shapes, distinct materials, and the maker’s personal touch to create an appropriate tool for the task.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460745/

  • found tools and wire
  • Collection of Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman, New York, Courtesy of the FLAG Art Foundation
  • artists
  • personal
  • art
  • exhibition
  • ovoid
  • sculpture
  • tool
  • recycling
  • observation
  • hanging
  • axis
  • rust

This frozen explosion of hand tools displays the very ones a visitor might expect in an exhibition about tools. In their hovering and dreamlike state, the saws, planes, and axes are completely removed from their normal contexts, suggesting alternative ways to consider them. The artist invites us to experience the optimal viewing point at the center, where a world of tools and possibilities are at our fingertips.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520465/

  • carved cedar, carved ivory, sinew lashing
  • Collection of Lucien M. Turner, 1876, Saint Michael, Alaska, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E29847
  • food preparation
  • hunting
  • birds
  • curved
  • tool
  • work
  • sharp
  • pointed

A sharpened blade or honed point helps to make farming more efficient, perform surgery with extra precision, or enable hunting with greater success. Carved (bird dart), forged (throwing knives), or fractured (obsidian scalpel) to be razor-sharp, these tools also show how good design is found in the shape and at the edge.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520481/

  • cast iron
  • Collected by Commodore Matthew C. Perry in 1853-54, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E378
  • curves
  • tool
  • work
  • flat
  • farming
  • agriculture
  • plain

Traditional Japanese hand tools are believed to embody a spiritual presence, instilled by an artisan’s wisdom and mastery of tool making. These skillfully forged instruments reflect a unique aesthetic value, which has been selectively passed down to apprentices through many generations. With a dwindling number of artisans, master craftsmen are now sharing their secrets to ensure their expertise will survive.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520485/

  • iron
  • Collected by Commodore Matthew C. Perry in 1853-54, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E380
  • curved
  • tool
  • work
  • fluted
  • farming
  • agriculture
  • pointed

Traditional Japanese hand tools are believed to embody a spiritual presence, instilled by an artisan’s wisdom and mastery of tool making. These skillfully forged instruments reflect a unique aesthetic value, which has been selectively passed down to apprentices through many generations. With a dwindling number of artisans, master craftsmen are now sharing their secrets to ensure their expertise will survive.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520491/

  • iron
  • Collected by Commodore Matthew C. Perry in 1853-54, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E385
  • curves
  • semi-circle
  • tool
  • work
  • sharp
  • farming
  • agriculture
  • pointed

Traditional Japanese hand tools are believed to embody a spiritual presence, instilled by an artisan’s wisdom and mastery of tool making. These skillfully forged instruments reflect a unique aesthetic value, which has been selectively passed down to apprentices through many generations. With a dwindling number of artisans, master craftsmen are now sharing their secrets to ensure their expertise will survive.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520495/

  • cast iron
  • Collected by Commodore Matthew C. Perry in 1853-54, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E376
  • rounded
  • tool
  • rectangular
  • work
  • sharp
  • farming
  • agriculture

Traditional Japanese hand tools are believed to embody a spiritual presence, instilled by an artisan’s wisdom and mastery of tool making. These skillfully forged instruments reflect a unique aesthetic value, which has been selectively passed down to apprentices through many generations. With a dwindling number of artisans, master craftsmen are now sharing their secrets to ensure their expertise will survive.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520499/

  • iron, handle covered in braided fiber
  • Herbert Ward Collection, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E322652-6
  • metallic
  • war
  • organic
  • hunting
  • protection
  • tool
  • vegetal
  • work
  • sharp
  • pointed
  • defense
  • currency

These multibladed knives, made by professional blacksmiths, served for warfare and hunting, and as axes and currency. To be aerodynamic, a knife required a particular height–width ratio and standardized weight, and the handle was covered with braided fiber to maintain the tool’s balance. Knives were thrown either underhand horizontally from the hip or vertically over the shoulder.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520503/

  • iron, handle covered in bark cloth and tied with braided fiber
  • Herbert Ward Collection, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E322652-11
  • metallic
  • war
  • organic
  • hunting
  • protection
  • tool
  • vegetal
  • work
  • sharp
  • pointed
  • defense
  • currency

These multibladed knives, made by professional blacksmiths, served for warfare and hunting, and as axes and currency. To be aerodynamic, a knife required a particular height–width ratio and standardized weight, and the handle was covered with braided fiber to maintain the tool’s balance. Knives were thrown either underhand horizontally from the hip or vertically over the shoulder.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520511/

  • cowrie shell, worked stone, carved wood, cord, lashing
  • Collected by Dr. Nathaniel B. Emerson, exhibited at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle, Washington, in 1909, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E257827
  • fish
  • food preparation
  • rounded
  • water
  • hunting
  • fishing
  • tool
  • work
  • food
  • rope
  • sharp
  • pointed
  • octopus

Hand tools extend our physical capability to reach, throw, and catch, as well as to perform actions that are difficult if not impossible with bare hands and fingers. Specialized tasks—tonsil removal, halibut fishing—require unique shapes, distinct materials, and the maker’s personal touch to create an appropriate tool for the task.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520517/

  • whale tooth, cord
  • Collected by Dr. Nathaniel B. Emerson, exhibited at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle, Washington, in 1909, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E257801
  • fish
  • food preparation
  • water
  • hunting
  • fishing
  • tool
  • work
  • food
  • rope
  • sharp
  • pointed

Hand tools extend our physical capability to reach, throw, and catch, as well as to perform actions that are difficult if not impossible with bare hands and fingers. Specialized tasks—tonsil removal, halibut fishing—require unique shapes, distinct materials, and the maker’s personal touch to create an appropriate tool for the task.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520521/

  • carved basalt
  • Collected by the United States Exploring Expedition, 1840, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E3513
  • domestic
  • animals
  • figurative
  • curved
  • protection
  • tool
  • work
  • eating
  • food
  • survival
  • medicinal

This pounder likely would have been used to grind medicinal herbs or possibly to prepare poi, the vegetable staple of a Hawaiian diet. Weighing less than 1.3 kg (3 lb.) it is more suitable for pulverizing herbs than a fibrous kalo plant. The stylized head of a mo’o, or lizard, forms the handle, providing a sculptural surface to grip.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520527/

  • carved stone
  • Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E11043
  • domestic
  • rounded
  • stone
  • curved
  • tool
  • work
  • eating
  • food

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520535/

  • carved wood, cord
  • Collection of John J. McLean, 1881, Baranof Island, Alaska, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E45990
  • fish
  • food preparation
  • water
  • hunting
  • fishing
  • tool
  • work
  • rope
  • sharp
  • pointed

Indigenous communities in Alaska were early practitioners of sustainable fishing. This fishhook suits exactly the anatomy of a halibut. The V-shaped gap insured that the intended catch was neither too large to haul into a boat nor too small. The skillful carving showed respect for the halibut, which would hopefully return in abundance and sustain the community.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520537/

  • carved mother-of-pearl
  • Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E399982
  • fish
  • food preparation
  • water
  • animals
  • hunting
  • figurative
  • fishing
  • tool
  • work
  • iridescent
  • pointed

Hand tools extend our physical capability to reach, throw, and catch, as well as to perform actions that are difficult if not impossible with bare hands and fingers. Specialized tasks—tonsil removal, halibut fishing—require unique shapes, distinct materials, and the maker’s personal touch to create an appropriate tool for the task.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520555/

  • volcanic rock (nephelinite)
  • Department of Archaeology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Control number: 2065648, Field number: I-EgMK
  • domestic
  • food preparation
  • protection
  • tool
  • work
  • eating
  • food
  • rough
  • survival
  • jagged
  • medicinal

There is a long tradition of technical economy, of individual tools performing multiple tasks—the ancient handaxe is an elegant example. It shares design features with the Victorinox@work and iPhone: portability, tactility, and good fit for the hand, yet each of their many functions reflects the particular needs and technology of its era.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520557/

  • volcanic rock (trachyte)
  • Department of Archaeology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Control Number: 2065648, Loc. 77-IIV
  • domestic
  • food preparation
  • hunting
  • archaeology
  • tool
  • work
  • fluted
  • ceremony
  • ritual
  • sharp
  • organic line
  • cutting
  • pointed

There is a long tradition of technical economy, of individual tools performing multiple tasks—the ancient handaxe is an elegant example. It shares design features with the Victorinox@work and iPhone: portability, tactility, and good fit for the hand, yet each of their many functions reflects the particular needs and technology of its era.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520559/

  • flint
  • Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, A146025
  • domestic
  • food preparation
  • hunting
  • archaeology
  • tool
  • work
  • multipurpose
  • fluted
  • ceremony
  • ritual
  • sharp
  • cutting
  • pointed

The teardrop-shaped handaxe persisted for more than 1.5 million years. The Swiss Army knife of its era, this object performed multiple actions, including woodworking, bone breaking, hide scraping, and butchery. With the hammerstone and chopper—both used for knapping sharp stone flakes—they were the tool kit for early humans.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520959/

  • Designed by Dov Ganchrow
  • flint, elastomer
  • Courtesy of Studio AmiDov
  • artists
  • domestic
  • designers
  • archaeology
  • tool
  • multipurpose
  • postmodern
  • sharp
  • cutting
  • handheld
  • pointed

How a tool fits the hand affects the quality and quantity of work. Spacesuit gloves protect, while allowing astronauts to perform manual activity in a vacuum: steel tips help prevent finger numbness—providing sensory feedback through the nail beds. The glove’s sharkskin improves grip sensation like the elastomer on Studio AmiDov’s flint tools or the silicon sleeve on the computer mouse.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51497573/

  • Designed by Michele Daneluzzo
  • Manufactured by Del Ben
  • hardened chrome-molybdenum-steel
  • Courtesy of Michele Daneluzzo and Del Ben
  • metallic
  • domestic
  • food preparation
  • kitchen
  • ovoid
  • tool
  • sharp
  • cutting
  • pointed

How a tool fits the hand affects the quality and quantity of work. Spacesuit gloves protect, while allowing astronauts to perform manual activity in a vacuum: steel tips help prevent finger numbness—providing sensory feedback through the nail beds. The glove’s sharkskin improves grip sensation like the elastomer on Studio AmiDov’s flint tools or the silicon sleeve on the computer mouse.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51497585/

  • obsidian blade, bamboo
  • Courtesy of Fine Science Tools
  • tool
  • line
  • health-care
  • sharp
  • cutting
  • medical
  • surgical
  • handheld
  • pointed

A sharpened blade or honed point helps to make farming more efficient, perform surgery with extra precision, or enable hunting with greater success. Carved (bird dart), forged (throwing knives), or fractured (obsidian scalpel) to be razor-sharp, these tools also show how good design is found in the shape and at the edge.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51497593/

  • Designed by Hitachi Zosen Corporation
  • plastic, steel
  • Courtesy of Hitachi Zosen Corporation
  • rounded
  • public
  • cylinder
  • scale
  • transport
  • model
  • tool
  • mechanical
  • urban planning
  • urban
  • construction
  • industrial

“Big Bertha,” the world’s widest-diameter tunnel-boring machine, is digging a double-decker tunnel under Seattle. Simultaneously excavating earth and placing concrete tiles for the tunnel wall, this multitasking tool proves more efficient than drilling and blasting and least affects the surrounding area. The machine is named for Seattle’s first female mayor, Bertha Knight Landes.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51689399/

  • Designed by Victorinox
  • Manufactured by Victorinox
  • assembled stamped, forged, polished stainless steel, brass, aluminum oxide (alox), molded cellulose acetate-butyrate (cellidor®), usb flash drive
  • Gift of Victorinox
  • personal
  • rounded
  • communication
  • collapsible
  • recording
  • brightly colored
  • protection
  • tool
  • multipurpose
  • folded
  • portable
  • mechanical
  • bold
  • sharp
  • innovative
  • cutting
  • survival
  • handheld
  • pointed
  • aluminum
  • red plastic

There is a long tradition of technical economy, of individual tools performing multiple tasks—the ancient handaxe is an elegant example. It shares design features with the Victorinox@work and iPhone: portability, tactility, and good fit for the hand, yet each of their many functions reflects the particular needs and technology of its era.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68250647/

  • colored pencil and pen on paper and tracing paper
  • Courtesy of the Artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, DO052
  • personal
  • art
  • exhibition
  • recording
  • sketch
  • squares
  • tool
  • numbers
  • geometric
  • line
  • recycling
  • hanging
  • axis
  • handwriting

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68250651/

  • colored pencil and pen on paper and tracing paper
  • Courtesy of the Artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, DO053
  • circles
  • personal
  • art
  • exhibition
  • recording
  • sketch
  • tool
  • geometric
  • line
  • recycling
  • hanging
  • axis
  • handwriting

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68250895/

  • gelatin silver print
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 84.XP.453.1
  • art
  • public
  • black and white
  • tool
  • curving line
  • photography
  • journalism
  • pointed

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68250899/

  • gelatin silver print
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 84.XP.453.17
  • art
  • public
  • symmetry
  • black and white
  • tool
  • triangles
  • angular
  • photography
  • journalism
  • pointed

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68250901/

  • gelatin silver print
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 84.XM.956.1053
  • art
  • public
  • symmetry
  • black and white
  • tool
  • geometric
  • angular
  • photography
  • journalism
  • pointed

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68250903/

  • gelatin silver print
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 84.XM.956.1057
  • art
  • public
  • symmetry
  • black and white
  • tool
  • curving line
  • photography
  • journalism
  • pointed

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68250907/

  • gelatin silver print
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 84.XM.956.1059
  • art
  • public
  • black and white
  • tool
  • curving line
  • line
  • spirals
  • photography
  • journalism

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68250909/

  • gelatin silver print
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 84.XM.956.1060
  • art
  • public
  • symmetry
  • black and white
  • tool
  • line
  • photography
  • journalism

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68250911/

  • gelatin silver print
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 84.XM.956.1063
  • art
  • public
  • symmetry
  • black and white
  • tool
  • typography
  • line
  • photography
  • journalism

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68250913/

  • gelatin silver print
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 84.XM.956.1066
  • art
  • public
  • black and white
  • tool
  • geometric
  • line
  • angular
  • photography
  • journalism

Tool Boxes

A toolbox is as unique and personal as its owner. The tools inside indicate the profession, but the container personifies the character, status, and skill of its owner. Ornamentation may conceal the box’s functional purpose, and some indigenous cultures even pay homage to the resources used to make it.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18325257/

  • enamel on copper, gilt copper, steel, ivory, cut wood
  • Bequest of Sarah Cooper Hewitt
  • figures
  • travel
  • landscape
  • communication
  • floral
  • women
  • leisure
  • decorative
  • recording
  • tool
  • writing
  • portable
  • sewing
  • toolbox
  • hygiene
  • Georgian

This “compact” for delicate grooming, sewing, and writing implements includes scissors, tweezers, needle case, penknife, pencil, and an ivory tablet for lists that doubled as a reusable dance card.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18802401/

  • coromandel-veneered joined wood, lined with silk, gilded and tooled calfskin leather, raised, chased and engraved silver, cut glass, mirrored glass, carved mother-of-pearl (handles), cut and engraved brass (hinges and tools), gilt-metal, forged steel (imp
  • men
  • container
  • personal
  • travel
  • mother of pearl
  • dressing room
  • leisure
  • silver
  • utility
  • tool
  • vegetal
  • accessories
  • foliate
  • rectangular
  • writing
  • portable
  • Victorian
  • toolbox
  • hygiene
  • grooming

A gentleman’s dressing case was boxed for travel, containing stylish, functional grooming implements above a drawer with writing surface and compartments for pen and inkwell.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457109/

  • wood, metal, paint, paper, ink
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 1977.1101.0167
  • instruction
  • figures
  • container
  • children
  • tool
  • typography
  • portable
  • toolbox
  • toys

Scaling objects for children has fascinated designers for centuries. Only adjustments to size and grip distinguish these functioning tools from their adult version.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457267/

  • Manufactured by McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Company
  • aluminum, anodized aluminum, steel, cardboard, ink
  • Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Transferred from NASA, Marshall Space Flight Center, A20110451000
  • metallic
  • utility
  • tool
  • rectangular
  • work
  • mechanical
  • handle
  • space
  • astronauts
  • toolbox
  • aluminum

Without a precedent for a spacecraft toolbox, NASA engineers turned to the familiar tool kits found in garages and workshops, adding features like Velcro® tabs for securing.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457317/

  • carved, incised, painted wood; incised tundra swan wing bone (humerus)
  • National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 21/800
  • container
  • fish
  • domestic
  • pattern
  • women
  • figurative
  • decorative
  • tool
  • carved
  • tubular
  • sewing
  • toolbox

The exquisitely carved needle case shows the importance placed on sewing in Yup'ik culture, while honoring the animals that provided sustenance.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457319/

  • carved and perforated bone, hide cord
  • National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 4/8457
  • domestic
  • women
  • curved
  • tool
  • rope
  • sharp
  • sewing
  • making
  • pointed

Shapely ivory points were used to perforate thin skins or gut, with strips of hide, sinew, or fiber threaded or tied to the awl for sewing. The variety of sizes reflects the range of thicknesses of the materials.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35457321/

  • carved ivory
  • National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 3/6271
  • domestic
  • women
  • curved
  • tool
  • tapered
  • sharp
  • sewing
  • making
  • pointed

Shapely ivory points were used to perforate thin skins or gut, with strips of hide, sinew, or fiber threaded or tied to the awl for sewing. The variety of sizes reflects the range of thicknesses of the materials.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460389/

  • enamel on copper, gilt copper, glass, wood
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of John Gellatly, 1929.8.245.26
  • figures
  • container
  • landscape
  • communication
  • floral
  • women
  • leisure
  • decorative
  • recording
  • tool
  • writing
  • portable
  • toolbox
  • Georgian

This highly decorative “trifle” for a lady was designed for a letter-writing era. Its tightly packed interior includes an adjustable penholder and two cut-glass vials for ink.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35460713/

  • case: mahogany, brass, chamois; instruments: steel, ebony
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 302606.773
  • container
  • collapsible
  • science
  • tool
  • rectangular
  • folded
  • health-care
  • organization
  • flat
  • medical
  • toolbox
  • observation
  • surgical
  • examination

Elegantly designed, specialized surgical tool sets like this one for the removal of stones from the kidney or bladder were sources of pride for physicians.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520541/

  • stitched and embroidered sea lion intestine
  • Collection of Lucien M. Turner, 1882, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E65272
  • container
  • personal
  • domestic
  • women
  • beads
  • tool
  • line
  • flat
  • sewing
  • toolbox
  • opaque

This gut bag contained sewing tools for making waterproof and windproof garments and accessories from sea-mammal intestine. Sewing and transforming it into “cloth” were reserved for women.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/35520549/

  • carved wood, walrus-ivory inlay
  • Collection of Edward W. Nelson, 1879, Gift of Edward W. Nelson, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, E36240
  • container
  • personal
  • rounded
  • ovoid
  • women
  • tool
  • sewing
  • handle
  • toolbox

A Yup'ik woman’s workbox safeguarded her most precious tools and materials: scrapers, awls, yarn and other fibers, and needle cases. Turned over, it became a cutting board.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51682593/

  • wood, metal, felt, mirror, approximately 250 tools
  • Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, 1989.0259.348
  • container
  • factory
  • labor
  • utility
  • tool
  • rectangular
  • work
  • organization
  • workers
  • toolbox
  • industrial
  • industry

Having the right tool on hand to repair industrial machinery at a shoe factory made this handsome workhorse essential to its owners.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/51689393/

  • Designed by Victorinox
  • Manufactured by Victorinox
  • assembled stamped, forged, polished stainless steel, aluminum, brass, molded cellulose acetate-butyrate (cellidor®); cut and stitched leather, velcro (case)
  • Gift of Victorinox
  • personal
  • rounded
  • collapsible
  • protection
  • tool
  • multipurpose
  • folded
  • mechanical
  • sharp
  • innovative
  • cutting
  • survival
  • pointed

Combining functionality, innovation, and iconic design, this multitool boasts 101 survival features, with more than 30 instruments tucked inside.

Tools: Extending Our Reach

https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/68268461/

  • Designed by Apple Industrial Design Team
  • Manufactured by Apple Inc.
  • anodized, cnc-milled, drilled, and laser-pierced aluminum, arsenic-free glass, polycarbonate
  • Gift of Apple
  • personal
  • metallic
  • home
  • rounded
  • communication
  • digital
  • storage
  • offices
  • tool
  • organization
  • flat
  • lightweight
  • innovative
  • keyboard
  • computing
  • making
  • software
  • toolbox
  • aluminum

A toolbox for the digital age, the MacBook Air preserves the analog era in its toolbar’s icons, while constantly adding new implements through applications and software.