Cool & Collected: Recent Acquisitions

ONGOING

First Floor: F Street Side

Tools and models and toys and drawings: the many extraordinary objects in the National Building Museum’s collection illustrate the varied ways in which we can learn from architecture and design. These physical pieces of the world we design and build—from the tools that help create it to the toys that help explain it—inspire new perspectives on the built environment and how to improve it.

National Building Museum, Corner Marker preparatory drawing. Kaskey Studio.

Cool & Collected features a wide range of recent additions to the Museum’s extensive collection. In addition to the dollhouse and bending brake, we’re displaying a complete salesman’s kit from the Underground Homes company. In the 1960s and 70s, Jay Swayze tried to convince Americans to invest in their luxury dugouts, arguing that the Cold War and other security threats warranted the move. The kit includes photographs of the few underground homes that were indeed built, as well as suggested floor plans.

The exhibition also includes pieces of decorative terra cotta—a lightweight, fireproof building material—from several important buildings in Chicago and New York City, including the Audubon Ballroom where Malcom X was killed in 1965 and the Helen Hayes, an old-time Broadway theater that was demolished in 1982 to make room for a luxury hotel.

An in-depth look at the work of local sculptor Raymond Kaskey rounds out the show. Kaskey is most famous for his work in Washington, D.C. at the World War II Memorial, where he sculpted, among other pieces, 24 panels illustrating the history of the conflict both abroad and on the home front. His work across the country also includes the Portlandia statue in Oregon, a pediment for the Nashville Symphony hall, and the figure of Queen Charlotte who welcomes visitors to an airport in North Carolina. Maquettes, or scale models, of all of these projects, along with pieces that explain the sculptor’s artistic process such as drawings and molds, are also displayed.

Around the World in 80 Paper Models, a special exhibition featuring some of over 5,000 architectural paper models in the collection, is featured in the second gallery.

The National Building Museum collects all sorts of things you might not expect. Materials in storage include approximately 75,000 photographic images, 68,000 architectural prints and drawings, 100 linear feet of documents and 4,500 objects, including material samples, architectural fragments, and building toys. Join us as we open up our storage room and display some special objects. Learn more about the National Building Museum’s collections.

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