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Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

In 2021, the Interaction Lab at Cooper Hewitt, with the support of Verizon 5G, launched a competition titled Activating Smithsonian Open Access (ASOA). The goal was to use cutting-edge technology to bring to life the millions of 2D objects in Smithsonian’s Open Access Collection.  Lorem Ipsum’s solution was to develop a prototype that connects the physical and digital world in an unexpected way. Doorways Into Open Access is an augmented and virtual reality mobile app that takes people back in time to experience artifacts from the collection.


Traditionally, museums aren’t perceived as being inclusive or welcoming places for the general public. We wanted to create an experience that brought history to people in neighborhoods and cities that may not have access to or ever visited a museum.  Our proficiency with the latest AR/VR technology empowered us to create Doorways Into Open Access as an iOS app, allowing people from all over the world to engage with artifacts in their own environment.


The challenge was telling one story within the millions of archival images. We wanted to contextualize the artifacts, so we curated a selection from La Belle Époque, a fascinating era of enlightenment, and created a connection with contemporary issues that our audience is familiar with, from vaccinations to music and fashion.

Lorem Ipsum curated the artifacts from more than three million digital items, including images and data across the Smithsonian’s nineteen museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives, and the National Zoo. Download the app here.


Our team designed 3D models of the artifacts based on photographs. We meticulously recreated every detail, facet, and material to replicate the objects as closely as possible. We wanted the user to engage with each artifact as if it were right in front of them to enjoy the craftsmanship and beauty first hand.


We recreated a sitting room from La Belle Époque from scratch to provide an environment for the artifacts. We built the sitting room inspired by imagery and design from the period so users could discover the artifacts in their original environment within the app.

We optimized the 3D models to maintain their visual fidelity within Unity’s platform.


The tone of the text is approachable, relatable, and easy to understand, allowing people to connect with the time period in a familiar way. We were able to draw connections with science, technology, and the arts during the Golden Era and today.

Each object in the room is not only visually engaging, but tells a story that is relevant today. We also brought the objects to life with interactive text which explains the importance of the artifact then and now.


Our concept was rooted in providing a museum experience to those unfamiliar with museums. To attract the public’s attention to our app, we designed a poster and wheat pasted it on the streets of NYC.

The poster design was simple and bold, created to stand out. Download and print the poster to experience Doorways into Open Access for yourself and share with your community.


To create an experience that is inclusive and accessible for everyone, Lorem Ipsum incorporated basic accessibility standards into the foundation of the app. From custom wayfinding navigation beeps to haptic feedback and voiceover, the app was designed to fully integrate into the iPhone’s native accessibility features.

We constantly strive to bring to life the past and make it relevant to today through our work. Though only a prototype, Doorways into Open Access opens the door to limitless possibilities beyond Paris in the 1920s. We invite you to experience the app for yourself by downloading it here.

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