Bernard Finn

Bernard Finn

Curator Emeritus

Cornell University, Engineering Physics, BA

University of Wisconsin, History of Science, PhD

Research Specialties: 

Barney's interest in underseas cables was stimulated by a visit to Newfoundland in 1968, where he collected artifacts from the station at Bay Roberts and served as an advisor for the conversion of the Heart's Content station into a museum. He studied cable history as a visiting scholar at the Science Museum in London in 1972-73, and was guest curator of the exhibition Submarine Telegraphy, The Grand Victorian Technology. In 1976, Barney published Growing Pains at the Crossroads of the World: A Submarine Cable Station in the 1870s, based on records from Heart's Content. He was editor of a source book on cables and co-author (in 1979 with Vary Coates) of A Retrospective Technology Assessment: Submarine Telegraphy. He has also written about the history of museums, and for five years has been teaching a seminar about museums in a collaborative program with the University of Maryland, College Park.

Role in Museum: 

Bernard S. Finn is Curator Emeritus of the Electricity Collections at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. He was Curator from 1962 through 2005 and for several years was chairman of the Department of History of Science and Technology.

Projects: 

Barney has been responsible for some two dozen exhibitions, most dealing with electric communications or electric power including Person To Person, Lighting A Revolution and Edison After Forty. He was co-curator of Information Age: People, Information and Technology. In March 2001 he curated an exhibition sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries: The Underwater Web: Cabling the seas. How the Old became New and Other Seeming Contradictions Taken from the History of Submarine Telegraphy.

Professional Affiliations: 

He was managing editor of Isis (the journal of the History of Science Society) for fifteen years and is an active member of the Society for the History of Technology and of the International Council of Museums (ICOM - International Committee for Museums and Collections of Science and Technology). He was a long-time member of the History Committee of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.