CELLPHONE: UNSEEN CONNECTIONS A Museum Exhibition with Educational Programming and National Outreach



Ubiquitous. Empowering. Transformative.

It’s impossible to capture with a single word the dramatic influence cellphones have on human life.

These devices penetrate almost every aspect of daily life with the power of convenience and constant connectivity, reshaping entire industries, and revolutionizing how we engage with each other. They have become our intimate companions as we document and express our lives.

But, behind their screens, cellphones hold a deeper story about the ways we are connected to the earth, and to each other, through the technology we create.


“Americans are grappling with a myriad of issues, whether it’s climate change, race, gender, the impact of technology. The Smithsonian ought to be a place where people can go to wrestle with that, to find the tools to live their lives. I want people to see that we are as much about today and tomorrow as we are about yesterday.”

—Lonnie Bunch III, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution


Cellphone: Unseen Connections will be a suite of educational experiences, including a first-of-its-kind museum exhibition, to reveal the unseen yet powerful connections produced by cellphones.

From the minerals, infrastructure, and human ingenuity that power our cellphones, to the immense cultural impacts driven by social media, data collection, constant connectivity, and much more, Cellphone will explore the gamut of timely topics that shed light on how humans are shaping and understanding our role with each other and our environment in the 21st century.

This unique project provides an opportunity to inspire and educate the public while catalyzing conversation on the undeniable and immediate relevance of our cellphones.

The more we understand this ecosystem, the more connected we become to the global community and the natural resources that make the fastest communication tool in our history possible.

From raw materials and human labor, what goes into making our cellphones?

Investigate the natural resources used to make cellphones, meet the workers along the supply chain and around the world that are involved cellular technology, and learn about the innovative solutions that will lessen the burden on our planet and our communities.

What technology and infrastructure does it take to make our cellphones work and keep working?

Follow the journey of a call, text, or social media post from your cellphone through the “invisible” infrastructure of telecommunications. Explore the science necessary to make cellphones function and witness “green” innovation efforts along the way.

How do diverse cultures use their cellphones around the world?

Cellphones are much more than mere communication devices. They enable so much functionality and creativity in our daily lives, effortlessly collapsing technology from our past for us to create new media and cultural practices. From mobile money to emoji development to indigenous language revitalization, cellphones enable a richer cultural diversity.

How are we adapting to cellphones and how are cellphones adapting to us?

Explore the potential of cellphones to help us address today’s societal challenges, disrupt oppressive systems, and transform how we relate to each other and the world around us.

What is our consumer responsibility when we are finished using our cellphones?

Consider what to do when your phone no longer works, and learn about making responsible choices to repair, recycle, or refurbish.


Educational and outreach programming will complement the Cellphone: Unseen Connections exhibit content by providing programs that are topical and relevant, and that inspire participants to become more engaged with technology, innovation, and their own consumer choices.

  • 5,400 sq. ft. exhibit on the National Mall to engage 5 million annual visitors
  • Individualized cellphone chatbot experience inside the exhibit
  • Cellphone DIY exhibit with resource toolkit for local communities
  • STEM-focused learning programs available online and onsite
  • Teen inclusive project development and outreach


Cellphone: Unseen Connections offers a unique opportunity to collaborate with the trusted brand and global platform of the Smithsonian Institution to promote social and sustainable practices around cellphone production and consumption.

Corporate partners can activate their community commitment and solutions-based objectives by engaging an estimated 10 million onsite museum visitors over the course of the project’s 3-year installation with support of this educational blockbuster, free to the general public.

Partners are needed for content expertise, exhibitory props, in-kind donations, and financial support.

Financial sponsorship benefits may include:


  • Category exclusivity with prominent name recognition on gallery donor panel, print and digital promotion, and verbal acknowledgements (5M annual visitors)
  • Smithsonian issued press release announcing sponsor’s philanthropic partnership
  • Recognition includes sponsor’s Corporate Social Responsibility hashtag or tagline in museum’s select social media campaign for exhibit (743K followers)
  • Opportunity to develop and distribute gift bags during non-public exhibit opening event
  • Permanent name placement in Smithsonian’s Distinguished Benefactors Room
  • Sponsorship payable over three years
  • All the following benefits


  • Opportunity to explore with museum specialists the ways a separate in-kind donation may be incorporated to enhance audience experience
  • Prominent recognition and cross-linkage on project web page (12M online visits in FY19)
  • A “Sponsor Spotlight” in the museum’s monthly e-newsletter (97K households)
  • Opportunity to host one event within first three years of sponsorship (rates apply)
  • Three customized museum tours for 20 guests each with curators and/or museum leadership during exhibit installation
  • All the following benefits


  • Co-host opening events with invited Secretary of Smithsonian, members of Congress, museum leadership, and other luminaries
  • Recognition on gallery donor panel, print, and digital promotion
  • Media toolkit to promote sponsor support, social media messaging, Smithsonian quotes, and branding assets
  • Two customized museum tours for 20 guests each with curators and/or museum leadership during exhibit installation
  • Sponsorship payable over two years
  • All the following benefits


  • Recognition in press release announcing project (Winter 2022)
  • Recognition on gallery donor panel and project web page
  • One-way hotlink from sponsor’s website to museum’s project web page
  • One customized museum tours for 20 guests each with curators and/or museum leadership during exhibit installation
  • Invitations to opening events

Sole sponsorship of Cellphone: Unseen Connections is also available. 


Kristen Hunter // 202.633.0837 // HunterK@si.edu

Phil Recchio // 202.633.7716 // RecchioP@si.edu


The Unseen Connections team includes creative staff with expertise in exhibitions, education & outreach, scientific research, and media design.


Photos by Smithsonian Institution, unless credited below. Ubiquitous photo by Ed Owles, Worldview, Minerals to Mobility photo by Luca Galuzzi, What goes into our cellphone photo by National Instruments, What does it take to make cellphones work photo by Russ Allison Loar, Recycled parts photo by Fairphone, Extending the connection photo by NASA/Joel Kowsky, Cellphone Lab, After-hours and weekend programming, and Shared Studios photos by Fairphone, National outreach photo by vog.photo, Contact Us photo by U.S. Air Force/ Capt. Meghan Smith