The Department of Exhibitions was first organized as the Exhibits Section in 1946. Prior to 1946, persons in charge of exhibitions were Assistants to the Curator of the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration. Alliene E. Dodge, D. Graeme Keith, James I. Rambo, Everett P. Lesley, Jr., and William R. Osmun were Assistants, Exhibits Section, during the period from 1946 to 1953. The Assistants were under the supervision of the Curator, and later, under the Director.
In 1953 the Exhibits Section was redesignated the Department of Exhibitions, and the title of Assistants was changed to Keepers. Lesley, Osmun, and Christian Rohlfing held the title of Keepers during the period from 1953 to 1958. The title of Keeper, Department of Exhibitions was changed to Curator, Department of Exhibitions in 1958. Rohlfing held the title of Curator, and Edward L. Kallop, who became Associate Keeper in 1957, became Associate Curator. When Rohlfing became Acting Administrator of the Museum in 1963, the position of Curator remained vacant. The Department was discontinued as an administrative unit when the Cooper Union Museum transferred to the Smithsonian Institution in 1968.
The Department of Exhibitions was responsible for the design, preparation, installation, maintenance, and dismantling of "special" or theme exhibitions of museum and non-museum collections for the general public, including exhibitions for other branches of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Sciences and Arts.