Profile profile for smithmo

Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate, Georgetown University, 2016

B.A. in History, Pomona College, 1992

Monica M. Smith is the Associate Director for the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History (NMAH). Since 1995, she has played a lead role in museum exhibitions, public programs, and other invention research and educational initiatives. Her major projects include serving as the project director, co-curator, and principal investigator for three National Science Foundation grant-funded exhibitions: Game Changers (in progress); Places of Inventionwinner of the inaugural 2017 Smithsonian Excellence in Exhibitions Award; and Invention at Play, a traveling exhibition that won the prestigious American Alliance of Museum's Excellence in Exhibition award. A selection of other Smithsonian exhibition projects she worked on include: Picturing Women Inventors (on display at NMAH)Time and Navigation: The Untold Story of Getting from Here to There (on display at the National Air and Space Museum); and From Frying Pan to Flying V: The Rise of the Electric Guitar (closed). Monica writes frequently for the Center's blog, has published articles in journals and books, and is a featured expert in the Smithsonian Channel’s award-winning film “Electrified: The Guitar Revolution.” In addition, Monica served as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Museum Education (2005-08) and is currently on the Foundation Board of the Rotary Club of Washington, DC. She earned a BA in history from Pomona College and a non-profit management executive certificate from Georgetown University.

 

Research Specialties: 

U.S. history and process of invention and innovation, ranging from sports technologies and the invention of the electric guitar to the role of place, community networks, and relationships among invention, creativity, and play. Monica has a particular interest in the role of women and minorities in the innovation ecosystem and the challenges they face.

Projects: 

Exhibition project roles include:

  • Project Director, Co-curator, and $1.8M NSF grant Principal Investigator, Game Changers exhibition (in development)
  • Project Director, Co-curator, and $2.8M NSF grant Principal Investigator, Places of Invention exhibition, opened 2015 (ongoing)
  • Curatorial team member, Picturing Women Inventors, 2021
  • Curatorial team member, Making a Modern MuseumCelebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the National Museum of American History, 2014
  • Interpretive Planner, Time and Navigation, a joint NMAH-National Air and Space Museum exhibition, NASM, opened 2013
  • Project Historian and second Project Director and $1.5M NSF grant Principal Investigator, Invention at Play traveling exhibition (two national touring versions), 2002-2011
  • Interpretive Planner, Muppets and Mechanisms: Jim Henson’s Legacy exhibition, 2006
  • Curatorial team member, Who Invented the Environment? and Color Sells exhibitions, 1997-1998
  • Co-curator, From Frying Pan to Flying V: The Rise of the Electric Guitar exhibition and complementary web site, 1996
Awards, Honors, and Special Recognition: 
  • Selected into the Smithsonian's Palmer Leadership Developmen Program for 2021-2022.
  • Places of Invention won the Smithsonian's inaugural 2017 Excellence in Exhibitions Award.
  • Places of Invention won the international Society for the History of Technology's 2016 Dibner Award for Excellence in Museum Exhibits.
  • As a member of the Lemelson Center team, Monica received the 2013 NMAH Peer Award for Risk-Taking.
  • In 2010 the Smithsonian Channel film "Electrified: The Guitar Revolution," featuring Monica as a speaker, won a CINE Golden Eagle Award.
  • Invention at Play won the American Alliance of Museums' 2003 Excellence in Exhibition Award and also won a 2003 MUSE Gold Medal Award for its companion website.
Professional Affiliations: 
  • American Alliance of Museums and its National Association for Museum Exhibition
  • Museum Education Roundtable (Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Museum Education, 2005-2008)
  • National Council on Public History
  • Rotary Club of Washington, DC (Club Historian and Sergeant-at-Arms of the Club's Foundation Board; former Chair of Membership and Director on the Club Board)
  • Society for the History of Technology

Publications

"Game Changers Inventor Spotlight: Tahira Reid Smith" From the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center Blog Series, http://invention.si.edu/blog, February 18, 2021.

Engineering professor Dr. Tahira Reid Smith has been inventive since childhood and is best known for her automated double-Dutch jump rope machine.

"Sports Innovator Howard Head" From the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center Blog Series, https://invention.si.edu/blog, September 8, 2020.

The engineer behind Head skis and Prince tennis rackets revolutionized both sports.

"Disaster Board Games" From the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center Blog Series, https://invention.si.edu/blog, April 9, 2020.

Board game inventions can help us cope with crises like Covid-19.

"How Do We Know Exactly When the New Year Begins?" From the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center Blog Series, https://invention.si.edu/blog, December 30, 2019.

Appreciating the invention of standardized time zones as the calendar turns to 2020.

"Inspirational 'Innovative Lives'" From the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center Blog Series, https://invention.si.edu/blog, August 13, 2019.

Celebrating twenty-four years—and counting—of highlighting diverse inventors and innovators in the Lemelson Center’s “Innovative Lives” program series.

"Human Computation Pioneer Luis von Ahn" From the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center Blog Series, https://invention.si.edu/blog, April 3, 2019.

Meet Guatemalan-born Luis von Ahn, winner of the 2018 Lemelson-MIT Prize honoring world-changing inventors!

"Lincoln Logs Inventor John Lloyd Wright" From the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center Blog Series, https://invention.si.edu/blog, August 23, 2018.

Yes, this popular childhood toy was designed by none other than the son of architect Frank Lloyd Wright!

"Spencer, Percy LeBaron." In American National Biography, April  26, 2018.

Online biographical profile of inventor Percy Spencer (1894-1970), who is best known for his discovery of microwave cooking but also earned the US Navy's Distinguished Public Service Award and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his magnetron research at Raytheon.

"Lost Histories of African American Inventors" From the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center Blog Series, https://invention.si.edu/blog, February 2, 2018.

In a book written especially for kids, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar shares fascinating stories you probably don't know about 16 historical and contemporary African American inventors.

"O Canada! Inventors from Across the Border" From the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center Blog Series, https://invention.si.edu/blog, November 10, 2017.

A blog post inspired by visitor stories submitted to our Places of Invention exhibition map about Canadian inventors and inventions.

"Highlighting Hispanic Inventors and Innovators" From the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center Blog Series, https://invention.si.edu/blog, September 22, 2017.

A few stories of often overlooked inventors and innovators in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

"Meet Lonnie Johnson, the Man Behind the Super Soaker" From the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center Blog Series, https://invention.si.edu/blog, January 26, 2017.

Get to know engineer Lonnie Johnson, founder and president of Johnson Research and Development Co., who invented the wildly-popular Super Soaker water gun, worked on high-performance Nerf dart guns, and focuses today on inventions related to clean energy.

"The Devil is in the Details: Researching an Inventor's Biography" From the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center Blog Series, https://invention.si.edu/blog, November 16, 2016.

The quest to confirm biographical details about the life and work of radar researcher and microwave oven inventor Percy Spencer.

"The Summer Olympics Starring Scientists and Engineers" From the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center Blog Series, https://invention.si.edu/blog, August 11, 2016.

The unsung heroes behind the 2016 Summer Olympics are the scientists and engineers whose inventions and innovations help these athletes strive toward the Olympic motto of “Faster, Higher, Stronger.”

"Playful Invention, Inventive Play." International Journal of Play 5, no. 3 (July 2016): 244-261.

This peer-reviewed article shares the Lemelson Center's primary and secondary research behind the award-winning Invention at Play exhibition regarding connections among play, child development, creativity, and invention.

"Exploring Sports and Innovation at the Lemelson Center" From the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center Blog Series, https://invention.si.edu/blog, June 9, 2016.

 

“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” This often paraphrased quote inspired me to think about the “how” in terms of sports and innovation.

"Why There? Why Then? Examining Places of Invention." Dimensions 18, no. 3 (May-June 2016): 30-35.

This article in the bimonthly journal of the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) provides an overview of the  Places of Invention (POI) project, including the exhibition and public programs at NMAH and with Smithsonian Affiliate project partners, as well as POI-related questions that could be adapted by other museums for public programs and oral history projects.

“Medical Alley, Minnesota (1950s): Tight-Knit Community of Tinkerers Keeps Hearts Ticking.” In Places of Invention, edited by Arthur P. Molella and Anna Karvellas, 86-109, Washington, DC Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 2015.

Places of Invention tells the stories of people who lived, worked, played, collaborated, adapted, took risks, solved problems, and sometimes failed--all in the pursuit of something new. It dispels the myth of the lone inventor and shows that invention and innovation abound--not just in the Silicon Valleys of America but in hometowns across the country.

"The Woman Inventor Behind 'Monopoly'" From the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center Blog Series, https://invention.si.edu/blog, March 26, 2015.

The invention process can be messy. Case in point: the invention of the board game "Monopoly."

"The Electric Guitar's Long, Strange Trip" What It Means to Be American website (February 10, 2015)

Exploring the invention history of the electric guitar from its acoustic origins to Eddie Van Halen's "Frankenstein" or "Frankenstrat" guitar.

"Places of Invention Project." With Arthur P. Molella. Inventors Digest 31, nos. 2-3 (February and March 2015).

Provides an overview of the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History and its Places of Invention exhibition project. Reprinted from Technology and Innovation 16, nos. 3-4 (2014): 175-185.

"A Twist of Fate: The Invention of the Rubik's Cube" From the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center Blog Series, https://invention.si.edu/blog, July 15, 2014.

In 1974, Ernő Rubik thought up the idea for the Rubik’s Cube in order to help teach three-dimensional design to his students. Today the number of Rubik’s Cubes sold worldwide is estimated at about 350 million.

"Inspiring Inventor: Stephanie Kwolek (1923-2014)" From the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center Blog Series, https://invention.si.edu/blog, June 24, 2014.

Monica Smith pays homage to Stephanie Kwolek, inventor of Kevlar® and a great friend to the Lemelson Center, who passed away in 2014.

"'Places of Invention' Exhibition Overview" From the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center Blog Series, https://invention.si.edu/blog, April 9, 2014.

Places of Invention is a family-friendly exhibition developed by the Lemelson Center and on display at the National Museum of American History. Featuring six communities that represent a fascinating array of people, places, time periods, and technologies, the exhibition shows visitors what can happen when the right mix of inventive people, untapped resources, and inspiring surroundings come together.

"The Lemelson Center's Places of Invention Project" With Arthur P. Molella. Technology and Innovation 16, nos. 3-4 (2014): 175-185.

This peer-reviewed article provides an overview of the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History and its Places of Invention exhibition project. Reprinted in two parts in Inventors Digest  31, nos. 2-3 (February and March 2015).

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