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Tools of communication have transformed American society time and again over the past two centuries. The Museum has preserved many instruments of these changes, from printing presses to personal digital assistants.
Cartoonist, book illustrator, and children’s author David Crockett Johnson painted over 100 works relating to mathematics and mathematical physics. 80 of these paintings are in the Museum's collections.
Beginning in the late 19th century, Americans used special tabulating machines to compile the large quantities of data accumulated by governments, large businesses, and scientists. Operators punched holes in cards. Machines read these, accumulated totals, and sorted the cards for further processing. Tabulating machines would be displaced by electronic computers beginning in the 1950s, although punched cards remained in use somewhat longer.
The Museum's collections of medical science artifacts represent nearly all aspects of health and medical practice.
The Museum's collections hold thousands of objects related to chemistry, biology, physics, astronomy, and other sciences. The mathematics collection holds artifacts from slide rules and flash cards to code-breaking equipment.
The engineering artifacts document the history of civil and mechanical engineering in the United States.
From butter churns to diesel tractors, the Museum's agricultural artifacts trace the story of Americans who work the land.
Beginning in the 14th century, a small number of European businesses kept careful written records of receipts and expenditures. These bookkeeping methods gradually diffused throughout Europe and the United States. With the advent of typewriters and adding machines, many large retail firms, government offices, and banks invested in custom-made, expensive bookkeeping machines. The bookkeeping machines in the collection of the National Museum of American History come from a variety of makers, including adding machine manufacturer Burroughs, cash register maker NCR, and typewriter firms Remington and Underwood.
As American business and cash purchases expanded in the second half of the 19th century, shopkeepers bought recorders and registers to secure their money and track transactions. This object group traces the development of the register from its invention in 1878, suggests the dominance of the market by National Cash Register Company during much of the 20th century, and shows the introduction of electronic point of sale terminals and the rise of the Universal Product Code.
In the course of the 1970s, handheld electronic calculators transformed the way tens of millions of people did arithmetic. Engineers abandoned slide rules, business people gave up desktop calculating machines, and shoppers replaced simple adding machines and adders.
The Smithsonian’s collection of kinematic models is housed in the National Museum of American History. These models were published by the German firm of Martin Schilling at the turn of the 20th century. Kinematic models were used to produce mathematical curves and other mathematical concepts useful to mathematicians, engineers and scientists.
This group features a variety of mining lamps, lights, hats and helmets from the collection of the Division of Work and Industry. Mining lights include oil-wick lamps, carbide lamps, and safety lamps. The mining hats are often soft caps with metal or leather mounts for a light. The hard plastic helmets have mounts for mining lights, usually electric lamps.
During the last third of the 19th century American mathematics matured and American women gained access to both undergraduate and graduate education. Most of the items in the Smithsonian collections that relate to women mathematicians are connected with pioneering women who joined the growing American mathematical community before World War II. The objects in this collection illustrate diverse aspects of the personal and professional lives of several women mathematicians.
After the U.S. entered World War I in April 1917, the Army commissioned eight artists to record the activities of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in France. The mission of America's first official war artists was to capture the wide-ranging activities of American soldiers with the intent of shaping popular understanding of the war at home. Their collective output of more than 700 sketches, drawings, and paintings captured a rich and compelling “in-the-moment” view of the Great War. The Division of Armed Forces History holds over 500 pieces of this official artwork in their collections.
A selection of prints collected by Stephen James Ferris (1835–1915), a Philadelphia painter and etcher. The collection includes over 2,000 European and American prints and a variety of artistic subjects, compositions, and styles.
Americans have always been a people on the move—on rails, roads, and waterways (for travel through the air, visit the National Air and Space Museum).
Trigonometry allows one to systematically convert between measurements of angles and measurements of length. A wide range of objects have assisted people doing and learning to do this task.
Clothing houses people. These objects provide not just warmth and wrapping of the human form, but also establish identity and distinctiveness. The Virginia Lee Mead collection objects give insight on a Chinese immigrant family through the clothes in which they lived
- Sidney, George, 1916-2002
- Columbia Pictures
- National Museum of American History (U.S.). Division of Music, Sports and Entertainment
- Paramount Pictures
- Goodman, Benny (Benjamin David), 1909-1986
- Margret, Ann-, 1941-
- Robinson, Edward G., 1893-1973
- Sidney, Corinne Entratter
- Sidney, George, 1877-1945
- Sidney, Hazel Mooney
- Sidney, Louis K.
- Sullivan, Ed, 1901-1974
- Morton, Azariah
- Mount Zion Baptist Church (Newark (N.J.))
- Vaughan, Sarah, 1924-1990
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- Work and Industry: National Numismatic Collection 457123
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- Political and Military History: Armed Forces History, Military 80209
- Work and Industry: Graphic Arts 71329
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- Numismatics Rapid Capture Project 50001
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- Home and Community Life: Textiles 44243