Smart phones: Collecting an electronic montage

New inventions always build on inventions of the past—and sometimes more than one. Few devices demonstrate that more clearly than smartphones. These technological marvels pack a battery-powered telephone, camera, radio, television, computer, flashlight, and more into one pocket-sized package. In addition to the hardware, there's the software, both the apps and the coding that makes the hardware function as a single device.

A seven-year struggle to build New York's subway

William Steinway spent seven years being confronted with every conceivable obstacle to planning a subway for New York City.

Sneaky 1960s rabies prevention inventions

Anyone who endured a terrifying childhood screening of "Old Yeller" can testify that the ghastly symptoms of rabies, as well as its transmission via the bite of an infected animal, make rabies a particularly feared and fabled disease.

An-tee-bodies: T-shirts in celebration of the antibody

When did you first learn about your immune system? Maybe you have childhood memories of being vaccinated, hearing about the protection your body was building through antibodies.

Now you're cooking with electricity!

Before Alton Brown, Rachael Ray, and Giada De Laurentiis, there was Louisan Mamer (1910–2005). An early employee of the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), Mamer traveled around the country teaching farmwomen how to use electricity in their daily lives. Demonstrating how to cook with electricity was a major part of Mamer's job and she developed many recipes during the course of her career.

When real patriots got Tetanus

By the beginning of the 20th century our love of colorful explosions and loud bangs brought with it a scourge: a deadly infection that became known as "patriotic tetanus."

Innovations in Defense

Mayhem Cyber Reasoning System, 2016

Hacked servers. Phishing scams. Computer viruses, trojan horses, and worms. Spam. Adware, spyware, and botnets. Not all innovations seek to benefit society. Mayhem, on exhibit in 1 West (the “Innovation Wing”) is the first artificial intelligence cyber defense system designed specifically to thwart attacks on our increasingly interconnected—and vulnerable—devices.

Heart valves galore, to Tin Man's delight

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 hearts.

Pay attention to the man on the television screen!

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 Dorothy's Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz. Stay tuned for updates on the project.

Cutting-edge recent acquisitions sharpen our understanding of food history

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 dull knife and a Thanksgiving turkey in need of carving. While continuing to expand our collections on the major changes in American food production, distribution, preparation, and consumption, curator Paula Johnson and I traveled to the headquarters of the EdgeCraft Corporation in Avondale, Pennsylvania in December 2015.