Massimo Banzi, David Cuartielles, Tom Igoe, David Mellis, Gianluca Martino. Arduino “Diecimila” Microcontroller. 2004–05. Electronic components, 2.7 x 2.1″ (5.3 x 6.9 cm). Gift of the designers

Massimo Banzi, David Cuartielles, Tom Igoe, David Mellis, Gianluca Martino. Arduino “Diecimila” Microcontroller. 2004–05. Electronic components, 2.7 x 2.1″ (5.3 x 6.9 cm). Gift of the designers to the MoMA.

I’ve always said that one day I’d wake up and the Arduino would be in a museum. However, I’d sort of expected it to take a bit longer.

Back in 2004 the MoMA did something fairly radical, they held a show called Humble Masterpieces. In it they displayed elements of the museum’s permanent design collection—from Post-it notes, to paper clips, to Bic pens—that normally would, perhaps, be somewhat overshadowed by the Picassos or the Pollocks also held by the museum.

The design collection at the museum was begun in 1934, with the purchase of more than a hundred simple industrial objects—such as springs and calipers—that had been shown in the exhibition called Machine Art earlier that year. Over the years the collection has been expanded and the MoMA now houses over 3,800 design objects in its collection, ranging from a helicopter to a microchip.

In 2011 the MoMA acquired Botanicalls and Little Bits for the permanent collection. This fall they’re adding not just the Arduino, but also the Ototo, the Makey Makey, the Colour Chaser and the DIY Gamer Kit.

As design curators, we have an instinctive response to designs we find compelling, and when that feeling survives the passing of time, we know we’re on to something worthwhile. We believe our new acquisitions will withstand that test. All promise to make a difference…

Like Botanicalls and Little Bits before them, the five new arrivals are well known, and well celebrated in the maker community—the Arduino especially is seen by many as one of the building blocks of the next industrial revolution.

The first Arduino board ever made

Humble beginnings—the first Arduino board ever made

The Arduino started off as a project to give artists access to embedded micro-processors for interaction design projects, but it has grown far beyond its humble beginnings. It allows rapid, cheap, prototyping for embedded systems. It turns what used to be fairly tough hardware problems into simpler software problems.

We all know what it feels like to master a skill previously thought completely outside our abilities, or to unlock new possibilities of experience and thought. It’s exhilarating, life-changing, and (healthily) addictive, the same reason people keep coming back to see MoMA’s Pollocks and Picassos…

I think some things—like the maker movement they represent—can be levers that can help you move the world, and it looks like the MoMA agrees with me.