Tools: Extending Our Reach

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Tools: Extending Our Reach

29.95

Why do tools come into being? And why do they look the way they do?

We all use tools—to work and measure and communicate, to observe and make and survive. Tools are extensions of ourselves, designed to help us overcome the limitations of our bodies.

Often, we think of tools as complex creations involving technology or engineering, but some are actually simple things we use every day. Some save us time and help make our lives easier, while others have helped us achieve amazing feats; some inventions forever change the way we do certain things, and many more have remained nearly the same for centuries.

The classic teardrop-shaped handaxe, for example, has persisted for more than 1.5 million years. While some tools are created for a single use, others, like the axe, are multipurpose from the beginning. Today’s digital counterpart, the iPhone, with its numerous functions, continues to expand its capabilities without physically changing size.

Selected from Cooper Hewitt and nine other Smithsonian collections, the 175 objects in Tools span diverse cultures, places, and time periods. The 1.85 million years of tool use and design represented in the exhibition provide an opportunity to consider tools as classic examples of design, and reveal the fundamental role they play in shaping our lives

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