Innovation

Image of what looks like a cell phone with one of its panels removed so that insides are visible.
New inventions always build on inventions of the past—and sometimes more than one. Few devices demonstrate that more clearly than...
Photograph of the opening of the New York City subway system. Courtesy of the New York Public Library.
William Steinway's diary resides in the National Museum of American History's Archives Center as part of the Steinway and Sons...
Rectangular cardboard box labeled "Rabies Vaccine (Duck Embryo)" in a printed label. It is half open. Inside, vials with liquid are visible.
Antibodies are always looking out for us, and this week we're taking a closer look at them. Antibody-based tests, vaccines, and drugs have...
Three amber-colored bottles that resemble upside down bells with handles. They have yellowed labels on them.
Antibodies are always looking out for us, and this week we're taking a closer look at them. Antibody-based tests, vaccines, and drugs have...
(Zoom/Detail) Black and white photo of a woman on a stage. On stage are six fridges, two lamps, and a big banner that says "REA." On a table on the floor in front of the stage, a lamp. There are decorative tassels.
Before Alton Brown, Rachael Ray, and Giada De Laurentiis, there was Louisan Mamer (1910–2005). An early employee of the Rural...
Postcard-sized illustration in color featuring three children. Two little boys light fireworks and play with toy soldiers while a little girl covers her ears and clutches a doll. Text reads "Wishing you a glorious 4th of July" in gold.
"The coming stupendous holocaust, caused by the sky-rocket, the giant fire cracker and the toy pistol, that leaves an annual trail of...
A cubed machine that is beige and brown in color. It has a switch near its base and a plug. Some features protrude from it, including a white piece on the top that has slats in it.
One of our favorite food history collecting trips over the last year started with a predicament we are all familiar with—the frustration of...
A contraption that appears to be made of translucent plastic, silver metal, and some sort of white cloth. It looks a bit like a gyroscope or a toy "top".
In The Wizard of Oz, Tin Man longs for a heart. That's a problem Manuel "Manny" Villafaña has rarely had—he has collected pieces of many...
Early television in wooden piece of furniture
Update: Thanks to you, our Kickstarter campaign to "Keep Them Ruby" was a success and we have the support we need to conserve and display...
Small, handmade car designed from cardboard pieces in red, white, and brown.
Rolling across the Potomac on any given Sunday morning in the late 1990s, you could probably find a white Volvo with my dad driving my...
Patent with black and white illustration
New posters around the museum remind us as we come to work each morning that our theme this year is "America Participates." This...
1870s Remington typewriter, black with detailed flowers and patriotic emblems painted on it
The sound of clicking typewriter keys filled the museum's Innovation Wing recently during Type-O-Rama. This event, presented by the ...
Cover of "Recipes for Today" cookbook, with an illustration of a woman wearing a read and white dress and carrying a large bowl of soup
The Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project team had a variety of reactions, taste-wise, to the 1930s recipes that...
1930s General Electric Monitor Top refrigerator
Electric refrigeration motivated Americans to rethink how they purchased, prepared, and stored food when it first took off in the 1930s....
Dennis the Menace with stethoscope and "Less of a Menace" text on button or sticker
Metaphors of war and combat are almost impossible to avoid when describing humankind's struggle to control infectious disease. The war may...
Black and white illustration of woman and girl using machine
American inventions associated with the book were having a bit of a boom between the 1850s and the 1880s. The number of books published...
Thomas Edison's patent model for improvements to a stock ticker
The Smithsonian and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are hosting an Innovation Festival at the museum on...
Place setting and tray used by the Kim family to serve Korean food
Entrepreneurial success and innovative spirit can come in many forms, and emerge from innumerable paths. The same can be said for stories...
Black and white photo of building
Guest blogger Sarah Weatherwax, a photography curator at the Library Company of Philadelphia, brings her expertise to bear on several...
Black and white photo of building surrounded by trees
Guest blogger Sarah Weatherwax, a photography curator at the Library Company of Philadelphia, brings her expertise to bear on several...
Photo of a concert on the museum's stage
Now that the first floor of our West Wing is open, I was curious what the head of our museum, Elizabeth MacMillan Director John Gray,...
Each year in August, National Immunization Awareness Month provides an opportunity to highlight the value of immunization across the...
Microscope, bronze in color, on small tripod. Small glass in viewer.
"Whoever at the seaside has not had a microscope and an aquarium has yet to learn what the highest pleasures of the seaside are." So said...
3D model of Mt. Vernon with red roof, white walls, green grass. Many columns and windows.
Curator Dr. Katherine Ott invited students in Dr. Samuel J. Redman's Museum/Historic Site Interpretation Seminar to explore the museum's...
19th Century Spherometer
You have an object that is curved and you want to know how round it is. How would you measure it? This may seem like a rather strange...
View of Smithsonian Castle, 1863
Where does creativity reside? The first place we think of is the mind. But what role do surroundings play in the ideas behind invention and...
Black and white portrait of bearded young-ish man from shoulders up, looking left.
In the last days of February 1876, Alexander Graham Bell made his way from his home in Boston to Washington, D.C. Bell's patent attorney...
Photo of display case that says "Consumer Era 1940s-1970s" featuring historic objects. One sign on display says "Sorry! Last car in this line."
On July 1, 2015, we will open a new exhibition: American Enterprise, in the Mars Hall of American Business. It is the...
Consul the Educated Monkey, Smithsonian image AHB2015r00132. Gift of Richard Lodish.
Educator Richard Lodish has just given the museum an example of a computing device called Consul the Educated Monkey. This is one of the...
Black and white photo of people of all ages exiting through a door, some holding programs. Signage advertises upcoming concerts and shows.
The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation's Places of Invention explores what happens when the right mix of...
Pick pack in circle shape
It's often said that necessity is the mother of invention, but it can be the father of invention too. Here’s the story of an innovative...
Orange juice cans
The Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project is a new interactive learning space opening on July 1. Here, we're highlighting...
Happy money, front and back
When considering the origins of objects in a museum’s collection, one might initially think of donations from private collectors, national...
D.C.-area musicians Little Benny on saxophone and and MeShell Ndegeocello on bass. Photograph by Thomas Sayers Ellis, used with permission.
Experience live go-go music on Thursday, June 11, 2015, as part of our America Now! Music Festival.In the early 1970s, musical pioneer...
3 guitar heads
Happy 100th Birthday, Les Paul!June 9, 2015, is an important day for the guitar and music world: It is the centennial of the birth of...
When you combine the right people and a mix of useful resources in a special place, invention and innovation often result. Here at the...

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