The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History has opened a new exhibit, “Cellphone: Unseen Connections,” which features material from ISRI member companies including Sunnking and HOBI International. The new exhibit focuses on the technological, environmental and cultural impacts of cellphones.
“What an unbelievable honor that Sunnking will have its material featured at the Smithsonian Institution for the Unseen Connections exhibit over the next four years,” said Adam Shine, president of Sunnking. “It’s an incredible honor and privilege.”
The exhibit includes multimedia installations, an interactive group chat, a graphic novel spanning three gallery walls and displays more than 750 objects from around the world. Many of the cellphones displayed are on loan from Sunnking, HOBI and other organizations.
“HOBI is incredibly honored to be a part of this amazing exhibit. The anthropological and environmental significance of the cellphone is extraordinary,” said Cathy Hill, CEO of HOBI International. “The Smithsonian team has carefully curated the history, the impacts, and the ongoing story of resource use and recovery of these devices. This display is not only beautiful, but educational, and will have an immeasurable effect on raising awareness of the impacts of these devices from the mining of the raw materials through the lifecycle as well as the social implications of connectivity. HOBI congratulates this 10-year effort on the part of the Smithsonian stakeholders to tell this story so very well.”
Part of the exhibit highlights the impact the recycled materials industry has on the cellphone supply chain. The raw materials needed to produce a phone — including gold, cobalt, lithium, and other heavy metals — require energy-intensive mining, and their extraction often causes significant environmental pollution. Recycled materials provide an alternative source of high-quality renewable materials for cellphones while also reducing waste and carbon emissions.
“Cellphones are one of the most significant technological creations in the annals of humankind,” said Kirk Johnson, the Sant Director of the National Museum of Natural History. “We are proud to bring the behind-the-scenes story of this revolutionary device to museum visitors.”
Part of the exhibit includes putting a human face on the international supply chain to reveal what is involved in making and maintaining these devices. Minerals, including quartz, silicon and silver from the museum’s collection, will represent the roughly 65 elements that comprise the standard cellphone.
“‘Cellphone’ explores the global stories and natural histories of our mobile devices,” said Joshua Bell, the exhibition’s lead curator and the museum’s Curator of Globalization. “Visitors will see anew the intersections between culture, nature and technology, which are central dynamics of what it means to be human.”
The exhibit is expected to run through January 2027.