Monica M. Smith is the Head of Exhibitions and Interpretation for the Lemelson Center. She oversees planning for exhibitions, including serving as project director, project manager, co-curator, and principal investigator for the NSF-funded Places of Invention exhibition project. Previously, Monica was the project historian and the second project director and principal investigator for the Center’s NSF-funded Invention at Play traveling exhibition, and has served on many other exhibition teams. Monica helps develop and manage Lemelson Center activities, including public programs, publications, educational resources, and research initiatives about the history of invention and innovation in America.
Monica M. Smith
Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate, Georgetown University (2016)
B.A. in History, Pomona College (1992)
U.S. history and process of invention and innovation, including the role of place and community networks, the relationships among invention, creativity, and play, and specifically the invention and development of the electric guitar.
Project Director and Co-curator, Places of Invention exhibition, NMAH, opened July 2015 (ongoing)
Curatorial team member, Making a Modern Museum: Celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the National Museum of American History, NMAH, 2014
Interpretive Planner, Time and Navigation, a joint NMAH-National Air and Space Museum exhibition, NASM, opened April 2013 (ongoing)
Project Historian and second Project Director, Invention at Play traveling exhibition (two touring versions), 2002-2011
Educator, Muppets and Mechanisms: Jim Henson’s Legacy exhibition, NMAH, 2006
Curatorial team member, Who Invented the Environment? exhibition, NMAH, 1998
Curatorial team member, Color Sells exhibition, NMAH, 1997
Co-curator, From Frying Pan to Flying V: The Rise of the Electric Guitar exhibition and complementary web site, NMAH, 1996; curator of redesigned web site, 2007
The Society for the History of Technology awarded Places of Invention the 2016 Dibner Award for Excellence in Museum Exhibits.
As a member of the Lemelson Center's team, received a 2013 NMAH Peer Award for Risk-Taking.
In 2010 the Smithsonian Channel film "Electrified: The Guitar Revolution," featuring Monica Smith and former NMAH colleagues Gary Sturm and Will Eastman as speakers, won a CINE Golden Eagle Award.
The American Association of Museums awarded Invention at Play the 2003 Excellence in Exhibition Award, one of only five issued nationally. It also awarded Invention at Play a MUSE Gold Medal Award for its companion website.
- American Association of Museums and its National Association for Museum Exhibition
- Museum Education Roundtable (Former Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Museum Education, 2005-2008)
- National Council on Public History
- Rotary Club of Washington, DC - Board of Directors (2014-2016) and Membership Committee Co-chair
- Society for the History of Technology
This article in the bimonthly journal of the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) provides an overview of the Places of Invention (POI) project, including the exhibition and public programs at NMAH and with Smithsonian Affiliate project partners, as well as POI-related questions that could be adapted by other museums for public programs and oral history projects.
This peer-reviewed article shares the Lemelson Center's primary and secondary research behind the award-winning Invention at Play exhibition regarding connections among play, child development, creativity, and invention.
Provides an overview of the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History and its Places of Invention exhibition project. Reprinted from Technology and Innovation 16, nos. 3-4 (2014): 175-185.
Places of Invention tells the stories of people who lived, worked, played, collaborated, adapted, took risks, solved problems, and sometimes failed--all in the pursuit of something new. It dispels the myth of the lone inventor and shows that invention and innovation abound--not just in the Silicon Valleys of America but in hometowns across the country.
This peer-reviewed article provides an overview of the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History and its Places of Invention exhibition project. Reprinted in two parts in Inventors Digest 31, nos. 2-3 (February and March 2015).
This chapter examines how the Lemelson Center's first major exhibition evolved into an exhibition focused on play, and the research, implementation, and evaluation processes along the way, to hopefully provide inspiration for future play-related museum initiatives.
Provides a brief history of the invention and early development of the electric guitar in America. Reprinted from the American Heritage of Invention and Technology 20, no. 1 (summer 2004).
Monica Smith served as the Editor in Chief of the Journal of Museum Education from 2005 to 2008.
The magazine's cover article about the invention and development of the electric guitar and how it changed the world of music during the 20th century. Features guitarists, makers, and innovators who played important roles in the evolution of the instrument and helped influence popular music styles including rock and roll. Reprinted in Regional Cultures in American Rock 'N' Roll: An Anthology, edited by David Stuart and Scott Anderson (2011).
Entries in specialized science and technology encyclopedia about the invention and development of irons, stoves, and washing machines in America, with links to other inventions featured in the publication.
This virtual exhibition features instruments that illustrate how innovative makers and players combined the guitar with a pickup and amplifier to create a new instrument and a new sound that profoundly changed popular music—blues, country, rhythm and blues, jazz, and rock and roll—in the 20th-century. From an exhibition produced by the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, November 1996 through October 1997.