Profile profile for allisond

David K. Allison

Curator Emeritus

1974–1977 Princeton University, M.A., Ph.D. (1980) History of Science
1973–1974 University of Bordeaux, France, Diploma in French Language and Cultural Studies
1970–1973 St. John's College, B.A., Summa Cum Laude, Liberal Arts
1968–1970 Purdue University, Studies in Computer Science

Research Specialties: 

History of Information Technology, Military History

  • Project Director, The Price of Freedom Exhibition Project (18,000 sq. ft.)
  • Project Director, Making Connections Exhibition Project (13,000 sq. ft.)
  • Co-Directed Oral History project with Software History Center, 2002
  • Curated exhibition, Deep Blue: Foreshadowing the Future, 2002
  • Co-Curator of exhibition, September 11: Bearing Witness to History, 2002.
  • Produced all interactive displays for the exhibition Curated exhibition, Digilab: Digital Imaging Laboratory and Exhibition 1999
  • Curated exhibition, Behind the Lines: The Universal Product Code at 25, 1999
  • Smithsonian Representative, Computerworld Smithsonian Awards Program. 1994–1999
  • Curated Computerworld Smithsonian Awards exhibition, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999
  • Conducted 30 video histories with pioneers in computer history
  • Created Smithsonian Computer & History Web site
  • Managed Information Technology Education Symposia, 1994–1998
  • Managed Information Age Exhibition, 1990-Present
  • Associate Curator, Science in American Life exhibition
  • Chief Curator, Information Age exhibition, opened May, 1990
  • Principal Investigator Material Culture of Digital Convergence Project
Awards, Honors, and Special Recognition: 
  • Dibner Award for Outstanding Exhibition, Information Age, 1990
  • Computerworld 100 Award, 1991
Professional Affiliations: 
  • Society for the History of Technology
  • American Association of Museums
  • Society for History in the Federal Government


American Enterprise: A History of Business in America Washington, DC, Smithsonian Books, 2015
The Price of Freedom: Americans at War Seattle: Marquand Books, 2004.

Catalog for the exhibition of the same name.

"Preserving Software in History Museums: A Material Culture Approach," in Ulf Hashagen,, eds., History of Computing: Software Issues (Berlin: Springer, 2002).

Reviews issues related to preserving and exhibiting software in museums.

“Universal Product Code in Perspective: Context for a Revolution,” in Alan L. Haberman, ed. Twenty-Five Years behind Bars. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001).

Summarizes the history of the Universal Product Code.

"The ENIAC," in Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society 63 (December 1999).

Provides a capsule history of the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC).

“How People use Electronic Interactives in Information Age: People, Information & Technology” in Proceedings of the International Conference on Hypermedia and Interactivity in Museums (1991).

Reviews experience of visitors using electronic interactives in museums.

“Archives of Data Processing: The National Museum of American History” in Archives of Data Processing History (New York: Greenwood Press, 1990).

Summarizes holdings of National Museum of American History in computer history.

“John A. Dahlgren: Innovator in Uniform,” in Captains of the Old Steam Navy (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1986).

Provides a biographical review of John A. Dahlgren and his role as a naval innovator and developer of naval ordnance.

"U.S. Navy Research and Development since World War II," in Military Enterprise and Technological Change (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1985).

Reviews the process of naval research and development in the post World War II era.

New Eye for the Navy: The Origin of Radar at the Naval Research Laboratory (Washington: GPO, 1981).

Provides an in-depth history of the development of radar at the Naval Research Laboratory in the 1920s and 1930s.

"The Origin of the Naval Research Laboratory," U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 105 (July, 1979).

Reviews the development of the Naval Research Laboratory.