Frequently Asked Questions
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Answers to questions:
1. What is the Lemelson Center?
The Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation is part of the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Founded in 1995 through a generous gift from inventor Jerome Lemelson and his family, the Center documents, interprets, and disseminates information about invention and innovation; encourages inventive creativity in young people; and fosters an appreciation for the central role that invention and innovation play in the history of the United States. The Center offers a diverse array of symposia, educational outreach programs, exhibits, research opportunities, and documentation projects.
2. How do I get to the Lemelson Center?
The Lemelson Center is located in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW in Washington, D.C. on the National Mall. The nearest Metro stations are Federal Triangle and Smithsonian on the Orange/Blue lines.
3. What’s the difference between the Lemelson Center and the Lemelson Foundation?
The Lemelson Foundation is a private philanthropy established by one of the country’s most prolific inventors, Jerome Lemelson (1923-1997), and his family. The Lemelson Foundation uses its resources to inspire, encourage, and recognize inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs, with a growing emphasis on those who harness invention for sustainable development where the needs are greatest.
In addition to the Lemelson Center at the National Museum of American History, the Lemelson Foundation lends support to the Hands On Science Center at the National Museum of American History; the Lemelson Assistive Technology Development Center at Hampshire College, Amherst, Mass.; the Lemelson-MIT Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.; the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, based in Hadley, Mass.; and the University of Nevada at Reno E-Team program.
4. I’m an inventor. Will the Lemelson Center help me develop, patent, and/or promote my invention?
The Lemelson Center is dedicated to the history of invention and so cannot provide help with patenting or marketing inventions. However, our sister program at MIT has information on its website that inventors might find helpful. Please visit the Lemelson-MIT Program’s site and click on “Inventor’s Handbook.”
Also, consider joining an inventors’ organization to connect with a community of peers who can be an excellent source of information and support. The United Inventors Association of the United States lists local groups on its website. Subscribing to a magazine like Inventor’s Digest that is geared towards independent inventors can also be useful.
5. Can I visit the Invention at Play
Unfortunately Invention at Play has closed due to a planned renovation of the west wing of the National Museum of American History. You can still find online resources on the virtual Invention at Play exhibition!
6. I’m a teacher who’s using your Whole Cloth curriculum. I can only access three units. Where are the others?
Unfortunately, the remaining units of the Whole Cloth curriculum were never developed for the Web, and currently there are no plans to do so.
7. Can I suggest a link to a guitar maker to add to your virtual exhibit on the invention of the electric guitar?
We’re sorry, but links on the electric guitar site are limited to the groups with whom we worked in 1996 on the original From Frying Pan to Flying V: The Rise of the Electric Guitar exhibit and related programs. We are not adding new links to the site.
8. I’m a guitar collector and want to have my instruments appraised. Will you do that for me?
Unfortunately, Smithsonian staff cannot and do not serve as appraisers. We can tell you that the value of your instrument will likely depend on its age, condition, and ownership record. We suggest that you start your research by reading George Gruhn’s book, Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars (San Francisco: GPI Books/Miller Freeman, 1991) and by visiting the American Society of Appraisers website.
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