November 14, 2020 – February 7, 2021

Mantel Clock, 1928, made by E. Ingraham. Photography by Todd McLellan.

Take a closer look at the objects that surround you each day—there is so much more than meets the eye! Through extraordinary photographs, disassembled objects, and fascinating videos, Things Come Apart reveals the inner workings of common, everyday possessions. This exhibition presents more than 40 images of dozens of objects that explore how things are designed and made and how technology has evolved over time. For example, the individual components of a record player, a Walkman, and an iPod illustrate the technical changes in sound reproduction over the years, and images of the parts of a mechanical and digital watch demonstrate different approaches to timepiece engineering.

As a visual investigation of design and engineering, Things Come Apart also celebrates classic examples of industrial design like the sewing machine, the mechanical pencil, and the telescope. The exhibition is a profoundly thought-provoking way to reexamine the everyday objects around us, to embrace curiosity, and to think about ways we can create a more sustainable future.

Power Drill, 2006, made by Ryobi. Photograph by Todd McLellan.

Things Come Apart features photographer Todd McLellan’s uniquely beautiful approach to documenting the technological methods of modern mass production – in reverse. For his photographs, McLellan spent countless hours carefully disassembling objects of all sizes and function, laying each component out in order and photographing the assembly of parts. His images highlight the contrast between old-world craftsmanship and sleek modern engineering.

Things Come Apart is a must-see for photography fans, tinkerers, and STEAM learners (science, technology, engineering, art, and math).

Upcoming Program
“Black Inventors and Innovators: New Perspectives:” Join the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center Nov. 16 -20 for a webinar series focusing on historic and contemporary inventors of color. To learn more and register, please click here.

Things Come Apart is an exhibition organized by Todd McLellan and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).

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