Using the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum's collection, Acquiring Design proposes an online interface for data-rich digital collections. The interface is premised on presenting the collection as a series of relationships within the context of the museum's history and broader design world. By viewing the collection through relationships, user can investigate more complex connections between individual objects, filtered subsets of the collection and the larger historical context of the museum.
Much of the rhetoric around online collection presentations continues to assume that by placing images of and information about its collection online, an institution can immediately provide access to a collection. Over the past several years, many museum professionals have acknowledged the deficiency of this approach. In 1997 Kevin Donovan argued that simply allowing users to search through extensive lists or to use a blank search box does not equate to access, and that cultural institutions should focus on facilitating learning rather than just providing information. Though technology has advanced, this problem of nominally providing "access" to a collection without offering ways to learn more persists in the dominant single-object approach."How Do Institutional Philosophies Manifest in Online Collections"
The infinite canvas of the web can comprehensively showcase entire archives. In an attempt to move beyond users simply searching through a collection, Acquiring Design presents objects in context with one another and reveals underlying relationships across time. Two modes - Object View and Aggregate View - enable different interpretations of the collection. However, "the other" and "the related" is continually present. The key is the juxtaposition - this versus that - which allows users to identify relationships.