Running a handful of museum bots that post random images to Twitter, one quickly gets a sense of the eccentricities of of various collections and catalogings: the MoMA bot has surfaced many Louise Bourgeoise prints, the Victoria & Albert bot found an awful lot of snuff bottles, the Tate bot counts every page of Turner’s sketchbooks (even a few blank ones,) while the Cooper Hewitt bot has unearthed an large number of matchsafes. 4,267, in fact.
So when I saw this video interview with designer Irma Boom it gave me an idea. Irma Boom and her studio create books that flout convention: books with blank covers, books printed without ink, little books, and a book to last 500 years. They are rigorous, stylish, absurd, and inspiring. Her new catalog for the Cooper Hewitt showcases 1,300 carefully selected color illustrations across 912 pages. But that’s only so many matchsafes.
I decided to rectify this by generating an absurd catalog of my own. Using the Cooper Hewitt API, I pulled records for all matchsafes with images and produced a 4,390 page book purely devoted to the art: 4,101 pages of matchsafes accompanied by a 256 page index. Download the unofficial Cooper Hewitt matchsafe catalog as a 479Mb PDF. Please consider the environment before printing.
My Saturday morning has nothing on the several years invested by Irma Boom and the Cooper Hewitt team in their catalog design, but I’m pleased with the results. I’ve posted my source code of the layout and though written as a one-off, the mind wanders: why not an app where any search query could automatically generate a catalog PDF, perhaps available to print on demand? How about OpenCV to automatically generate random spreads of objects with visual similarities across different departments? Print period objects alongside text from WikiPedia? Programming print FTW!