Energy & Power
The Museum's collections on energy and power illuminate the role of fire, steam, wind, water, electricity, and the atom in the nation's history. The artifacts include wood-burning stoves, water turbines, and windmills, as well as steam, gas, and diesel engines. Oil-exploration and coal-mining equipment form part of these collections, along with a computer that controlled a power plant and even bubble chambers—a tool of physicists to study protons, electrons, and other charged particles.
A special strength of the collections lies in objects related to the history of electrical power, including generators, batteries, cables, transformers, and early photovoltaic cells. A group of Thomas Edison's earliest light bulbs are a precious treasure. Hundreds of other objects represent the innumerable uses of electricity, from streetlights and railway signals to microwave ovens and satellite equipment.
- The abundance of timber along the shores of the Great Lakes gave steamboats a ready supply of fuel. Partly burned logs from Indiana's boiler grate indicate that the boiler had been stoked just before the steamboat sank.
- Pound for pound, coal provides more energy than wood. Coal was found in the vicinity of the boiler in the hold, and historical sources indicate that it was a common fuel on upbound (northerly) voyages, while wood was the principal downbound fuel.
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- National Museum of American History