Innovation

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...
Milling machine with cranks and gears and four feet, table sized
Having worked at the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation for seven years, I see invention and innovation...
Photograph of an America Online installation disk, 1990s
On June 11, 2015, we present America Now, a nationwide celebration of America's innovative spirit. As part of the day's festivities,...
Photograph of William Ramsey's ledger
Several years ago, Dr. Ann Smart Martin and I met at a conference and discovered our mutual interest in making eighteen and nineteenth-...
Portrait of Caroline Jones at the start of her career as an advertising executive
A fedora, Lucky Strike cigarettes, and a set of cocktail-ready tumblers: all the hallmarks of a 1960s ad agency were on display Thursday...
Musical device with Dolby system
"'I wish you wouldn't keep appearing and vanishing so suddenly: you make one quite giddy.'"'All right,' said the Cat; and this time it...
Microscope
In the store-rooms of the museum, we recently discovered a small microscope made around 1750. The "I. CUFF Londini Inv. & Fec."...
Chair made of 50 yellow pencils
The humble chair has long been the subject of invention and reinvention. From reclining and office chairs to today's ever-shrinking airline...
The Cycle Parade March sheet music
It's that time of year when many D.C. commuters forgo their usual Metro rides and haul their bicycles out of storage or rent a bikeshare...
An early self-portrait of inventor and businessman Robert Cornelius, taken in 1839. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.
We often rely on our colleagues who have expertise in specific areas to guide us in our selection of objects for the American Enterprise...
Curator preparing “Abigail” doll for display in the “American Enterprise” exhibition.
A small, 11" cloth doll might seem like an incongruous object for discussing the issues of the American Great Depression. Yet enduring the...
Illustration of an ambulance-style van with a red cross and text: "U.S.A. X-Ray Car No. 4"
In 1897, at the age of 22, Henry Lyman Saÿen's career in scientific instruments seemed to be set. Little did he know that his talents would...
Apparatus
February 27, 2015, marks the 75th anniversary of the discovery of the radioactive carbon isotope, carbon-14, by Martin Kamen and Sam Ruben...
Alyea in lab with mechanism
I'm willing to bet most people would agree that hearing some of the earliest recorded sound is pretty cool. But what exactly makes it so...
Blue poster announcing year of innovation
Do you ever wonder how your National Museum of American History conceptualizes and then creates the exhibitions and programs that so many...
Touring Ralph's workshop
I love being around inventors. I love the quality of their imaginations, but most of all, I love the kind of people they are, their...
Valentine card with phone lines
Sending warm and fuzzies to a special someone this Valentine's Day? If you're not able to convey your affections in person, you'll probably...
Ellipsograph
As a child, you may have played with a simple wooden toy called a "do-nothing" machine or simply a "grinder."As a mathematician, I find...
What motivates donors to give to museums? As a development intern at the National Museum of American History, I was curious to find out.One...
Side portrait of Bell, blue tinted
The name Alexander Graham Bell has become indelibly tied to the telephone (so much so that I'm surprised we don't call those handheld...
"There is no subject attracting more attention at the present time among men of science throughout the world, than the newly discovered...
Lightbulb patent
If time-travel were possible and I could pick a moment, I'd choose Menlo Park, New Jersey, for my destination on New Year's Eve in 1879.As...
For me, it's almost hard to imagine a holiday season without Coca-Cola. The adorable polar bear commercials, the penguins romantically...
Atari E.T. cartridge in landfill dirt
The video game history collection at the museum has some amazing objects in it that represent big moments in the development of the...
"Health corsets" and ready-to-wear clothing will be a part of the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project, opening July...
Ralph Baer passed away on December 7. The world will remember him as the inventor of the first video game. Here at the Smithsonian, we also...
Spitz Junior Planetarium
On November 17 and 18, I'll be in my backyard hoping for clear skies as the Leonid meteor shower lights up the sky. Here in the museum's...
15th century painting depicts hand cannons in action
The 620-year-old solid piece of iron is as heavy as it looks. Examining this brutally simple hand cannon, it's hard to imagine that...
North Korea is sometimes called The Hermit Kingdom due to the secretive nature of its government and its closed society. I never expected...
Cover of Tetris game
When one thinks of symbols or images of the Cold War, one might say nuclear missiles, Sputnik, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Khrushchev's shoe...
Cartoon designed cover of BASIC book on computer games
Fifty years ago, mathematicians John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire introduced BASIC, a new language for...

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