The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention & Innovation
Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, Smithsonian Beanie Illustration
SEARCH:
Events
<empty>
Past events
<empty>
 

Feb 28, 2014 (Friday)

Origins of the Cell Phone: A Discussion with Martin Cooper

Martin Cooper (Dyna LLC, San Diego), one of the inventors of the first handheld cellular phone, placed the first public cell phone call in 1973. During this panel, Art Molella, director of the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, will interview Cooper about the development of the first cell phones and current innovative smart phone models.

“Origins of the Cell Phone” is part of a series on “The Art and Science of Repair,” funded by a Smithsonian Grand Challenges Consortia Grant, which seeks to bring together different perspectives on the design, use, and repair of cell phones. This panel is also part of the Lemelson Center’s “Portrait of Invention” series, which seeks to bring the story behind inventions to the public.

Friday, Feb. 28; 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Warner Bros. Theater, First Floor
National Museum of American History

 

Jan 25, 2014 (Saturday)

Teaching Science Through Art and Invention

Have you considered integrating art into your science lessons, but don't know how? Led by educators from the National Portrait Gallery and the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, this workshop will offer strategies for teaching science through invention, art, social studies, and language arts. The painting "Men of Progress" will introduce inventors from the past, and be used as a springboard into examining the changing face of the inventor throughout American history. Participants will then explore related hands-on activities and brainstorm about classroom application.

Saturday, January 25
9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
National Portrait Gallery

Registration is required

 

Oct 25, 2013 (Friday)

Inventing the Surveillance Society
2013 New Perspectives on Invention and Innovation Symposium

We are being watched. When we enter a building, place a phone call, swipe a credit card, or visit a website, our actions are observed, recorded, and often analyzed by commercial and government entities. Surveillance technologies are omnipresent—a fact underscored by the Boston Marathon bombing dragnet and the revelations of widespread domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency. We live in a “surveillance society” driven by a range of innovations, from closed-circuit TV cameras to sophisticated data mining algorithms. How did our surveillance society emerge, and what is the effect of ubiquitous surveillance on our everyday lives?

Inventing the Surveillance Society brings together scholars, inventors, policymakers, members of the media, and the public to explore the role of invention in a world where our actions (and transactions) are constantly monitored. Will we find a balance between privacy and security?

Friday, Oct. 25; 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Warner Bros. Theater, National Museum of American History

The federal government has reopened and the symposium will take place as scheduled.

View the full symposium program >>

 

Jun 21, 2013 (Friday) - Jun 22, 2013(Saturday)

Innoskate

Innoskate is a major public festival that will celebrate invention and creativity in skate culture. Innoskate will highlight the contributions skate innovators make to society through demonstrations, hands-on education activities, public programs with inventors and innovators, and donations of objects to the national collections. Activities will also include discussions and demonstrations of evolving technology such as decks, wheels, trucks, board design, materials, etc., as well as innovations in tricks that fueled further technological innovations. Hands-on activities related to skate culture may include aspects of board design and fabrication, use of new materials, and/or the engineering and physics of making decks and performing tricks.

For more information, visit http://innoskate2013.tumblr.com.

 

Jun 01, 2013 (Saturday)

Mini-Urban Challenge

The Lemelson Center hosts the national championship of the Mini-Urban Challenge. The competition challenges teams of high school students to design and operate an autonomous "car" using a LEGO Mindstorms Kit to successfully navigate through a mini city.

At the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC.

 

Mar 23, 2013 (Saturday)

Open Minds: 2013 NCIIA Student Inventors' Showcase

The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) will host its annual Open Minds showcase of student innovation at the National Museum of American History, in partnership with the Lemelson Center.


This public event is an opportunity for the nation's top graduate and undergraduate students to unveil their inventions, many for the first time. More than a dozen teams and start-ups, all funded or mentored by NCIIA, will display their state-of-the-art innovations during the showcase.

Saturday, March 23
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

 

Feb 01, 2013 (Friday) - Feb 03, 2013(Sunday)

Spark!Lab Pop-up at Washington Auto Show

The Lemelson Center and Ford are sponsoring a “pop-up” Spark!Lab at the Washington Auto Show on the first three days of the public opening—Friday, Feb. 1 through Sunday, Feb. 3—so families attending the show can experience the invention process. The workshop will offer three different exercises:

Invent A Vehicle
Visitors work together to build a vehicle of the future. What will it look like? What will it be made of? How will it run? Visitors think about these and other design and engineering questions while they work together to construct a prototype or model of their futuristic car. Vehicles are constructed from reusable materials and components on a scale that encourages collaboration, imaginative play, and even real functional testing. The larger the variety of materials available, the more creative innovation is possible!

The Pasta Concept Car Challenge
Visitors experience the ups-and-downs of the invention process first-hand as they design, build, test and then tweak their own prototype vehicle—made entirely of dry pasta (and a little tape or glue). Once complete, visitors take their vehicle for a test drive on a small ramp. Regardless of how their vehicles perform on the ramp, all visitors are encouraged to improve their design to keep making it better. Visitors are invited to take their pasta cars home with them as a reminder of their Spark!Lab visit.

Soundscapes
Visitors use the parts and pieces in this activity to create music and sound pathways for marbles. They can explore different configurations and try marbles of different sizes and materials to figure out which make the sounds they’re looking for.

 

 

Nov 02, 2012 (Friday) - Nov 03, 2012(Saturday)

Political Machines: Innovations in Campaigns and Elections

On November 2 and 3, the Lemelson Center is marking this election year by presenting “Political Machines: Innovations in Campaigns and Elections,” a symposium that examines the role of invention and technology in electoral politics. Through this lens, we will temporarily shift the focus away from today’s candidates and issues to examine the critical role that “political machinery” such as campaign advertisements, voting machines, and automated opinion polls plays in our democracy. When these technologies work well, they often go unnoticed; when they fail (e.g., hanging chads, “Dewey Beats Truman!”), the consequences can be momentous.

The symposium will be held on November 2–3, 2012, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, on the Mall in Washington, D.C. All events will be free and open to the public. Our sessions will employ formats typically seen on the campaign trail, including a keynote address, stump speeches, and interactive “town hall” Q&A sessions with our speakers. Audience members will also be able to vote on questions posed during the symposium, using a handheld audience response system or “clicker” provided by our technology partners at Meridia.

Explore the full symposium program . . .

 

Sep 25, 2012 (Tuesday)

Portrait of Invention: The Color Revolution

with author Regina Lee Blaszczyk
and fashion designers
Jeffrey Costello
Robert Tagliapietra

Join us for a “Portrait of Invention” marking the publication of The Color Revolution by Regina Lee Blaszczyk. Tracing the relationship of color and commerce, from haute couture to automobile showrooms to interior design, The Color Revolution describes the often unrecognized role of the color professional in consumer culture.

Blaszczyk leads a conversation with fashion designers Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra, two of today’s “color intermediaries” helping to move new color technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace. Playing with the tension between fabric, drape, and silhouette, the designers have established an elegant and timeless vision while pioneering the use of AirDye, an environmentally friendly textile-dyeing process.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 @ 7:30 - 9 p.m.
Warner Bros. Theater
National Museum of American History
14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
Admission is free.
First come, first seated.
A book signing follows the program.

The Color Revolution by Regina Lee Blaszczyk is part of the Lemelson Center Studies in Invention and Innovation published by MIT Press.

Go green! View the online event program >>

 

Jun 01, 2012 (Friday) - Aug 01, 2012(Wednesday)

Spark!Lab Cart Activities

During the summer, Spark!Lab will be offering some our most popular activities at the National Museum of American History. The carts will be out on the floor at various times Mondays through Thursdays. Keep an eye out for our purple shirts!

Activities include:

Now What? Invention Activity Cart
In this interactive game, visitors use their problem-solving skills (and senses of humor) to answer the question, "Now what?" Players are given a problem and then specific materials to use to solve that problem. Thinking creatively to find an answer allows visitors to experience the kind of playful and flexible thinking that inventors, designers, and other creative people use all the time.

Star-Spangled Banner Activity Cart
These brief, quickly-facilitated activities highlight the innovative uses of chemistry and textile manufacturing during the creation of the Star-Spangled Banner. Visitors learn that the flag is not only an enduring national icon, but the direct result of the best available technology and expertise of the time. The cart offers two activities: "Star-Spangled Banner: The Technique of Natural Dyeing" and "Zoom In: Textiles and Fabrics of the Star-Spangled Banner."

Electricity Activity Cart
Working with the trained cart facilitator, visitors recreate historic electrical experiments that resulted in the invention of Ben Franklin's lightning rod, Thomas Edison's incandescent light bulb, and Nikola Tesla's wireless power transmission (Tesla Coil). The activities also highlight these inventors' innovative contributions to daily life. Visitors may chose to safely experience electricity by touch, sound, and smell. Visitors may also choose to experience and exciting but harmless static electric shock.

 

May 26, 2012 (Saturday)

ION Mini-Urban Challenge


The Lemelson Center will host the national championship of the ION Mini-Urban Challenge, an initiative of the Institute of Navigation. The competition challenges teams of high school students to design and operate an autonomous "car" using a LEGO Mindstorms Kit to successfully navigate through a mini city.

 

Apr 28, 2012 (Saturday) - Apr 29, 2012(Sunday)

USA Science & Engineering Festival

The 2nd USA Science & Engineering Festival will feature over 2,000 fun, interactive exhibits, more than 100 stage shows, and 33 author presentations. The Lemelson Center will partner with Draper Laboratory to host an activity booth focused on innovations in nanotechnology.

Click here for more details.

 

Mar 21, 2012 (Wednesday) - Mar 22, 2012(Thursday)

Discovery Theater: Robot Explorers

DATE: Wed.–Thurs., March 21–22, 10:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
LOCATION: Ripley Center, Smithsonian

AGE: 6 to 11
Note: Tickets are required.

Robots aren't just in the movies anymore. Find out how amazing robots are exploring outer space, the depths of the oceans—and even the way we think. Robotics guru and innovator Anthony Nunez of Infamous Robotics, LLC, will help you navigate through the incredible world of exploration robots. Then, head over to the Spark!Lab Robot Inventing Lab (right outside the theater) where the Lemelson Center's Resident Eccentric, Steve Madewell, will work with you to design and build your very own robot prototype, which you get to keep.

This program is a partnership of the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation and Infamous Robotics, LLC.

This show is funded by a generous grant from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee.

 

Nov 18, 2011 (Friday) - Nov 19, 2011(Saturday)

Moving Beyond Earth: Innovations in Space

The 2011 New Perspectives on Invention and Innovation symposium, Moving Beyond Earth: Innovations in Space, marks the 50th anniversary of human spaceflight and explores the role of invention and technology in space exploration and space history.

The weekend program features a documentary film screening and panel discussion; symposium sessions examining the cutting-edge innovations that have enabled us to leave the planet, work in space, and explore the cosmos; and an array of family-friendly, space-themed educational activities. 

Moving Beyond Earth: Innovations in Space is presented by the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation in collaboration with the National Air and Space Museum’s Division of Space History.

Moving Beyond Earth: Innovations in Space
New Perspectives on Invention and Innovation Symposium

Friday, Nov. 18; 8 – 9:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 19; 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
National Air and Space Museum, 6th Street and Independence Avenue, S.W.

Learn more...

 

Oct 06, 2011 (Thursday)

Spark!Lab to Close

The National Museum of American History will soon be undergoing renovations to its West exhibition wing. To prepare for construction, Spark!Lab—the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation’s hands-on invention activity center—will remain open through Oct. 6.

For those looking to spark their inventive creativity while the space is closed, the Lemelson Center encourages the public to:

* Participate in a Spark!Lab cart activity at the National Museum of American History (schedule TBD, visit http://americanhistory.si.edu/events).
* Find fun, inventive activities to do at home at http://sparklab.si.edu and on Spark!Lab’s Facebook page.
* Sign up for our monthly e-newsletters to find out about Lemelson Center public programs and events, our podcast and new at-home activities.
* Visit the first Spark!Lab off the National Mall, opening at the Nevada Discovery Museum in Reno, Nev., Sept. 10.
* Visit a Smithsonian Affiliate museum participating in the Spark!Lab Outreach Kit Program. Partners include the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.; the Annmarie Garden in Solomons, Md.; the Western Science Center in Hemet, Calif.; the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach, Fla.; and the Science Museum Oklahoma in Oklahoma City. Non- affiliate Discovery Space Children’s Museum in State College, Pa., is also a partner.

Spark!Lab will re-open at the National Museum of American History following the renovations. During closure, Lemelson Center staff will be hard at work inventing new and improved activities.

Please note, the National Museum of American History will remain open during renovations.

 

Jun 17, 2011 (Friday) - Jun 18, 2011(Saturday)

Eco-Cities in Pan-Asia International Conference

"Eco-Cities in Pan-Asia: Comparative Issues and Perspectives" is the 5th international conference hosted by the International Eco-Cities Initiative. The conference focuses on contemporary eco-city developments in pan-Asia to analyse and compare various eco-city developments, including considering individual eco-city initiatives within their specific local and national contexts, as well as to discuss relevant governance and innovation perspectives comparatively across national and cultural boundaries. "Eco-cities in Pan-Asia" also provides an international platform for networking among leading academics, policymakers, and practitioners in the field.

Presented in collaboration with the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Westminster.

For more information, please visit the conference website.

 

Jun 04, 2011 (Saturday)

Innovative Lives: Daniella Reichstetter

Daniella Reichstetter is the founder and CEO of Gyrobike. She is not your stereotypical inventor. Instead, she is an entrepreneur, a competitive athlete, an avid outdoorswoman, and an innovative thinker. Daniella holds an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College and is a U.S. and international patent holder.

Using original design sketches, video footage, and prototypes, Daniella will demonstrate how she turned a college class project into a "revolutionary" invention that is changing the way people learn how to ride bicycles--the gyrowheel.

Innovative Lives: Daniella Reichstetter
Saturday, June 4 at 4 p.m.
Spark!Lab

 

May 21, 2011 (Saturday)

ION Mini-Urban Challenge

The Lemelson Center will host the national championship of the ION Mini-Urban Challenge, an initiative of the Institute of Navigation. The program challenges teams of high school students to design and operate an autonomous "car"--using a LEGO Mindstorms kit--and then successfully navigate through a mini city.

In addition to the competition, each student team will spend time in Spark!Lab working with visitors on simple robotics projects.

ION Mini-Urban Challenge
Saturday, May 21
Spark!Lab and the First Floor

 

May 07, 2011 (Saturday)

Innovative Lives: Chuck Popenoe

Chuck Popenoe earned a degree in engineering and spent most of his career at the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology--NIST), devoting much of his time to designing automated equipment for the lab's scientists. All the while, he was inventing in his basement in Bethesda, Maryland, in his free time. His most successful invention is the SmartBolt--a bolt that points out when the proper tension is achieved by providing a color-change indicator on the bolt head.

Chuck will talk with visitors about the SmartBolt and other inventions and how he approaches new projects. He will also talk about his other hobbies, including flying, building airplanes, and playing the fiddle!

Click here to read more about Chuck...

Innovative Lives: Chuck Popenoe
Saturday, May 7 at 4 p.m.
Spark!Lab

 

Apr 16, 2011 (Saturday)

Innovative Lives: Gill Pratt, DARPA Program Manager


Dr. Gill Pratt is a Program Manager in the DARPA Defense Sciences Office. Dr. Pratt holds a Doctor in Philosophy in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He was an Associate Professor and Director of the Leg Lab at MIT, focusing on the development of robots with legs and devices for helping people walk. He is an enthusiast of hands-on, "do-learn" education, and has a strong interest in the societal aspects of technology, including "green" technologies like electric cars and larger issues like the impact of robotics on the quality of life. Dr. Pratt holds several patents in series elastic actuation and adaptive control.

Dr. Pratt will talk with visitors about their backgrounds, interests, and education.

Innovative Lives: Gill Pratt, DARPA Program Manager
Saturday, April 16 at 4 p.m.
Spark!Lab

 

Apr 09, 2011 (Saturday) - Apr 16, 2011(Saturday)

National Robotics Week

National Robotics Week, an initiative of the Congressional Robotics Caucus, aims to educate the public about how robotics technology impacts society, past, present, and future.

Activities in Spark!Lab include:

*Sketch and then Invent your own robot arm
*Take the Invention Challenge to earn a special Spark!Lab patent
*Build and test drive remote-controlled (teleoperated robots)
*Experiment with the "stuff" (electronics) that robots are made of
*Play with ELECTRO, Spark!Lab's autonomous robot dog

Saturday, April 9 through Saturday, April 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Spark!Lab

"Robotics 101" mini-classes  teach visitors the basics of robotics and introduce them to the electrical, mechanical, and software components of robots.

Saturday, April 9 and Sunday, April 10 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Spark!Lab

 

Apr 01, 2011 (Friday) - May 31, 2011(Tuesday)

Spark!Bot


In movies, robots can do everything much better and faster than people can. Robot reality is quite different. While robots can be programmed to seem smart, the reality is that even the simplest tasks currently require incredibly specific instructions. The DARPA Autonomous Robotic Manipulator (ARM robot) is a cutting edge robot designed as a tool for researchers at leading U.S. universities and research labs to find ways to enhance the types of tasks robots can perform while minimizing the amount of human input necessary.

In Spark!Lab, visitors can play interactive games with the ARM robot, see what the robot "sees" on video screens behind the robot and learn how robots process information.

DARPA program engineers will be on hand to facilitate interactions with the robot, as well as talk about their own backgrounds, education, and interests.

 

Apr 01, 2011 (Friday) - Apr 03, 2011(Sunday)

NanoDays


For the third year in a row, Spark!Lab will host NanoDays activities. NanoDays is a nationwide celebration of nanotechnology aimed at teaching the general public--particularly children--about nano science and invention and the role it plays in our lives.

Spark!Lab staff and docents will conduct experiments and demonstrations with visitors over the three days, including:
*constructing a giant model of a carbon nanotube entirely from balloons
*measuring height in nanometers
*creating a liquid crystal display that changes color

On Saturday, April 2, professors and students from University of Maryland's Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) and representatives from Nanotec-USA will showcase various nano-based processes and products.

Dr. Heather Clark of Northeastern University will also be in Spark!Lab to talk with visitors about her work in inventing nano glucose sensors.

NanoDays
Friday, April 1 through Sunday, April 3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Spark!Lab



Courtesy of NCIIA.
  Courtesy of NCIIA.

Mar 26, 2011 (Saturday)

Open Minds: 2011 NCIIA Student Inventors' Showcase


The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) will host its annual Open Minds showcase of student innovation (formerly March Madness for the Mind) at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in partnership with the Lemelson Center.

This public event is an opportunity for the nation’s top graduate and undergraduate students to unveil their inventions, many for the first time. More than a dozen teams and start-ups, all funded or mentored by the NCIIA, will display their state-of-the-art innovations during the showcase.

Open Minds
Saturday, March 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
First Floor

 

Mar 05, 2011 (Saturday)

Innovative Lives: Kim Vandenbroucke


Kim Vandenbroucke is a game inventor and developer. She started her career as an inventor at the prestigious Meyer/Glass Design invention studio and has worked with organizations such as Mattel, Hasbro, Cranium and Daddy-O Productions.

In this highly interactive program, Kim will talk about how she became an inventor and work with visitors to help them invent their own games.

Innovative Lives: Kim Vandenbroucke
Saturday, March 5 at 4 p.m.
Spark!Lab

 

Jan 14, 2011 (Friday)

Call for Papers: Eco-Cities in Pan-Asia International Conference

Proposals are invited for papers to be presented at "Eco-Cities in Pan-Asia," the 5th International Conference hosted by the International Eco-Cities Initiative in collaboration with the Smithsonian's Lemelson Center, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Westminster. The confererence takes place on 17-18 June 2011 at Johns Hopkins University. "Eco-Cities in Pan-Asia" will bring together academics, planners, and policy experts with the aim of analyzing and comparing a variety of eco-city developments in China, India, Japan, South Korea, and other Asian countries. The focus will be on discussing diverse eco-city initiatives within their specific local and national contexts, as well as comparing relevant governance and innovation perspectives across national and cultural boundaries.

Papers should address individual eco-city case studies; cross-national comparative analyses; and/or theoretical perspectives relating to eco-city innovation in various Asian contexts.

The participation of early career researchers and practitioners is particularly welcome and will be supported through competitive travel grants.

The deadline for submitting abstracts (250 words) is 14 January 2011. Please send abstracts to Dr. Daniel Tomozeiu at d.tomozeiu@westminster.ac.uk.

For more details please visit the conference website.

 

Nov 05, 2010 (Friday) - Nov 06, 2010(Saturday)

Symposium: "Food for Tomorrow"

Presented in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation and the National Museum of American History Food and Wine Group

Join us for this year’s annual New Perspectives on Invention and Innovation symposium. In an array of activities that explores the inventions and innovations that affect “Food for Tomorrow,” the symposium brings together inventors, historians, farmers, scientists--and you--in conversations and demonstrations about the many ways that invention is part of our daily menu.

At the National Museum of American History.

More information ...

 

Oct 02, 2010 (Saturday)

Innovative Lives: Milt Jackson

In this interactive, hands-on presentation, Milt Jackson discusses his "re-invention" of the test tube, from the first spark of an idea to the final product. Jackson's test tube has a flat side that enables it to rest horizontally without a rack and a bent end.

Saturday, October 2; 4 p.m.
Spark!Lab

Drum circle in the Museum.

Smithsonian photo by Harold Dorwin
Drum circle in the Museum.   Smithsonian photo by Harold Dorwin

Aug 08, 2010 (Sunday)

Drum Circle

Join FunDrum Rhythm Circles founder Jonathon Murray in a drum circle and express yourself through the use of tuned drums and other percussion instruments.

Drum Circle
Sunday, August 8
5 p.m.
Flag Hall, Second Floor

This program is presented as part of the Lemelson Center's National Inventors' Month celebration.

 

Aug 08, 2010 (Sunday)

Meet Our Museum: Sound Recording

Museum curators Carlene Stephens and Hal Wallace discuss objects from the Museum's sound recording collections. Get a special, close-up look at artifacts such as recorders designed by John Vassos, graphophone recordings by Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison's coin-operated jukebox, the Sony CBS 16-track mixing board from the NYC recording studio built by CBS engineers, and more!

Meet Our Museum: Sound Recordings
Sunday, August 8
12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Reception Suite, First Floor

*Formal presentations will be given at 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m., but the space will be open from 12:30 - 4:30 p.m. for visitors to see the objects and chat casually with the curators.

This program is presented as part of the Lemelson Center's National Inventors' Month celebration.



Courtesy of Bluebrain
Hays & Ryan Holladay.   Courtesy of Bluebrain

Aug 07, 2010 (Saturday) - Aug 08, 2010(Sunday)

Music of The World of Tomorrow by Bluebrain

This 30-minute screening of silent films from the Museum's Edward J. Orth Memorial Archives of the World's Fair, 1939-1940, is accompanied by an original electronic score composed by D.C. musicians Bluebrain.

Music of The World of Tomorrow
Saturday, August 7 and Sunday August 8
11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Carmichael Auditorium, First Floor

Bluebrain is the musical project of brothers Hays & Ryan Holladay. A musical entity that dabbles in electronic, pop, and ambient music, Bluebrain organizes and stages projects in and around the Washington, D.C., area, including a Cherry Blossom boombox orchestra, a musical audio guide to the National Museum of Natural History and a live collaboration with a dance company in Meridian Hill Park, to name a few.

This program is presented as part of the Lemelson Center's National Inventors' Month celebration.

Prince
Prince's Yellow Cloud guitar, 1989.   From the NMAH collections. Gift of Paisley Park Enterprises.

Aug 07, 2010 (Saturday)

Meet Our Museum: Electric Guitars

Curator emeritus Gary Sturm brings some of the Museum's most "rocking" objects out of storage for a unique up-close look at electric and acoustic guitars. Sturm discusses Prince's Yellow Cloud, the Gibson ES-150, and more.

Meet Our Museum: Electric Guitars
Saturday, August 7
12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Reception Suite, First Floor

*Formal presentations will be given at 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m., but the space will be open from 12:30 - 4:30 p.m. for visitors to see the objects and chat casually with the curator.

This program is presented as part of the Lemelson Center's National Inventors' Month celebration.

Learn more about electric guitars.

Making drums in Spark!Lab

Smithsonian photo by Harold Dorwin
Making drums in Spark!Lab.   Smithsonian photo by Harold Dorwin

Aug 07, 2010 (Saturday) - Aug 08, 2010(Sunday)

National Inventors' Month

The Lemelson Center and Spark!Lab celebrate National Inventors' Month with an exploration of music and sound innovations.

Activities in Spark!Lab include creating your own musical instruments out of recycled material, music mixing on digital systems, making music on our percussion sculpture, and experiments with sound and sound waves.

Music & Sound in Spark!Lab
Saturday, August 7 and Sunday, August 8
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

August 7 and 8 will feature additional programing involving music and sound innovations. Check out the event listings for Music of The World of Tomorrow, Meet Our Museum: Electric Guitars, Meet Our Museum: Sound Recording, and the Drum Circle.

Find out about past National Inventors' Months.

Part of the <em>Solomon “Sol” Adler, Restless Inventor</em> exhibition.

Smithsonian photo by Harold Dorwin
Part of the Solomon “Sol” Adler, Restless Inventor exhibition.   Smithsonian photo by Harold Dorwin

Jun 01, 2010 (Tuesday) - Aug 31, 2010(Tuesday)

Showcase exhibition: Solomon “Sol” Adler, Restless Inventor

Although engineer and inventor Solomon "Sol" Adler (1901-1990) worked in many areas, he is best known for his work with sewing machine technology.  Adler grew up on the Lower East Side of New York City, the son of a tailor. He apprenticed in machine shops and attended the City College of New York, learning and honing the skills needed to become an expert machinist, toolmaker, and draftsman. Adler began working on sewing machine design and improvement in the late 1930s, and from 1954-1959, he worked in Japan as an engineer for the Brother International Company, designing sewing machines and other small appliances for the U.S. market.

In June 2009, the National Museum of American History acquired several of Adler's sewing machine prototypes and his personal papers.  The papers, which include correspondence, notes, photographs, drawings, sketches, litigation records, and printed materials, provide insight into an independent inventor's state of mind during the process of invention.  As Adler wrote, "when an idea is conceived by an inventor, it never leaves him in peace, it possesses him day and night until it is expressed, after which he enjoys a sense of relief and accomplishment."

Learn more about Sol Adler and his inventions.

Archives Center, first floor west.

 

Apr 30, 2010 (Friday) - Jun 30, 2010(Wednesday)

"Hot Spots" of Invention Design Challenge with the Tech Virtual

Through a series of design challenges hosted by The Tech Virtual, the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation invites the public to develop and prototype design concepts for the center’s next exhibition about modern and historic “hot spots” of invention and innovation.

The Tech Virtual at the Tech Museum in California is a new approach to creating invention and science-based exhibit content for museums using the virtual world of Second Life as a platform for content development, allowing the Lemelson Center to collect fresh ideas and utilize the most innovative tools available.

The public can contribute ideas in one or all of these categories: design an interactive exhibit space that allows museum visitors to model their own place of invention; design an activity that encourages museum visitors to practice collaboration, a key feature of many innovative communities; or use a virtual environment or other design tools to model the contributor’s own place of invention.

For design briefs and submission guidelines, visit http://thetechvirtual.org/projects/places-of-invention.

 

Apr 10, 2010 (Saturday) - Apr 11, 2010(Sunday)

National Robotics Week

Learn the basics of robotics through hands-on activities that explore the electrical, mechanical, and software components of robots.

Saturday, April 10 and Sunday, April 11
Noon - 4 p.m.
Spark!Lab, first floor west, National Museum of American History.

Presented as part of National Robotics Week.

 

Apr 03, 2010 (Saturday)

Innovative Lives: Dr. Michael Fuhrer

Michael Fuhrer, a leading expert on nanoscale electronics from the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at the University of Maryland, will discuss his research in the field as well as the role of nano-electronics in past, present, and future innovations.

Saturday, April 3
4:30 p.m.
Spark!Lab

This installment of the Lemelson Center's Innovative Lives series is presented as part of NanoDays 2010, a nationwide festival of educational programs about nanoscale science and engineering and its potential impact on the future.

 

Apr 03, 2010 (Saturday)

Nanotechnology: Risks, Benefits, and Who Decides?

Join in the conversation to discuss whether experts, watchdogs, and/or the public should be the primary decision makers about nanotechnology policy. 

 

The goal is to provide the opportunity for participants from a broad range of backgrounds to engage in a thoughtful conversation about important nanotechnology-related issues including:

·          Potential environmental, health and safety issues

·          Societal, ethical and legal implications of nanotechnology  

Saturday, April 3
3:00 p.m.
Presidential Reception Suite

Space is limited for this program. Please contact Steven Madewell at madewells@si.edu to RSVP for this free program.

This program is presented as part of NanoDays 2010, a nationwide festival of educational programs about nanoscale science and engineering and its potential impact on the future.

 

Mar 27, 2010 (Saturday) - Apr 03, 2010(Saturday)

NanoDays 2010

The Lemelson Center joins with the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network to present NanoDays 2010, a nationwide festival of educational programs about nanoscale science and engineering and its potential impact on the future.

Activities in Spark!Lab March 27 - April 3 will include:

  • constructing a giant model of a carbon nanotube entirely from balloons
  • measuring height in nanometers
  • creating a liquid crystal display that changes color
  • other nanotechnology-related experiments

Activities in Spark!Lab on April 3 will be led by science educators and nanotechnology experts from:

  • The Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation
  • The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History
  • The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum
  • The University of Maryland's Material Research Science and Engineering Center
  • The Woodrow Wilson Center's Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies
  • The Association of Science-Technology Centers
  • The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory
  • Northern Virginia Community College
  • Nanotec-USA
  • University of Michigan Risk Science Center

 

Nov 06, 2009 (Friday) - Nov 07, 2009(Saturday)

Hot Spots of Invention symposium

On November 6–7, the Lemelson Center will present a symposium at the National Museum of American History on Hot Spots of Invention as part of its New Perspectives on Invention and Innovation series. Whether it’s Edison’s laboratory or Silicon Valley, both scholars and the public have long been curious about inventors and the places in which they work. The Hot Spots of Invention symposium will feature scholars, inventors, and practitioners who will explore how invention and innovation are fostered--or hindered--by physical environments. Why do particular places or regions become known as centers of invention? What factors spark the creation of hot spots of innovation? What is the role of the individual inventor in this story? Why does one place succeed while another one fails?

The Hot Spots of Invention symposium opens with a keynote address by Dr. Bradford Parkinson, a co-winner of the 2003 Draper Prize for the concept and development of the Global Positioning System (GPS).

The symposium sessions will be divided into three broad categories--People, Spaces, and Places. Sessions on "place" will explore the evolution of particular innovation hotspots and explore the factors that led to their creation, and in some cases, their eventual decline. Sessions devoted to "people" will explore the role and influence of charismatic, dynamic individuals and their relationships to the larger region around them. "Spaces" refers to the specific locations--laboratories, and workshops, both real and virtual--that inventors generate and manipulate to suit their creative needs.

The Hot Spots of Invention symposium, complimented by additional public programs, exhibitions, and hands-on activities will advance our appreciation and understanding of "hot spots of invention" and explore the intimate relationship among people, places, resources, and ideas that shape inventors’ work.

All events are free and open to the public on a first come, first served basis. Registration is requested, but not required. Should you wish to RSVP, please do so at http://americanhistory.si.edu/rsvp/newperspectives.

Download the Hot Spots of Invention symposium program >>

Portions of the symposium will be available for viewing on http://americanhistory.si.edu/webcast in the near future.

KEYNOTE: Friday, November 6
7:45 p.m., Carmichael Auditorium

Dr. Bradford Parkinson, co-winner of the 2003 Draper Prize for the concept and development of the Global Positioning System (GPS), highlights the number one innovation that enabled GPS as well as the five major barriers to original success. He will offer general conclusions on sources of invention and innovation based on the GPS experience.

SYMPOSIUM: Saturday, November 7
9:30 a.m. - 6 p.m., Carmichael Auditorium


Opening Remarks
9:30 a.m.

  • Dr. Arthur Molella, director, Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation

Places
9:45 a.m.

  • "Medical Alley": The Rise of the Minnesota Medical Device Industry
    Dr. David Rhees, Executive Director, Bakken Museum
  • Hollywood: A Place for Dreams
    Dr. Katherine Ott, Curator of Medicine and Science, NMAH
    Dwight Bowers, Curator of Music, Sports, and Entertainment, NMAH
    and Ryan Lintelman, Project Assistant for Information Technologies and Communications, NMAH

People
11:30 a.m.

  • Robert Noyce and Silicon Valley Innovation
    Dr. Leslie Berlin, Project Historian, Silicon Valley Archives
  • The Role of Place in Thomas Edison's Inventive Career
    Dr. Paul Israel, Director and General Editor, Thomas A. Edison Papers

Spaces
1:45 p.m.

  • The Architecture of Healing: Re-envisioning Medical Innovation at Johns Hopkins, NIH, and Stony Brook
    Dr. Stuart W. Leslie, Professor of the History of Science and Technology, Johns Hopkins University
  • The Power of the Power Plant of Place: How Renovation Led to Innovation
    Dr. Bryan Willson, inventor and Director, Fort Collins Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory, Colorado State University

Synthesis and Conclusions
3:15 p.m.

  • Dr. David Hounshell, David M. Roderick Professor of Technology and Social Change, Carnegie Mellon University

Commentators

  • Dr. Robert Kargon, Johns Hopkins University
  • Dr. Arthur Molella, director, Lemelson Center

FAMILY PROGRAMS: Saturday, November 7
10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Innovative Lives: Remo Belli with Ken Kimery
4 p.m., Carmichael Auditorium, First Floor Center

What do The Beatles, DuPont, and Mickey Rooney have in common? Mr. Remo Belli. Considered by many as the "father of the modern drumhead," Belli revolutionized the music products industry by perfecting the first practical synthetic drumhead, "WeatherKing." In this moderated conversation, Belli will discuss his experiences as a musician in 1940s Los Angeles and how his community of fellow musicians in Los Angeles led to his innovations and inventions in the making of percussion instruments. This conversation will be hosted by Ken Kimery, Executive Producer of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, and a question and answer session will follow.

Drum Circle with Remo Belli
5 p.m., Flag Hall, Second Floor Center
In the words of Arthur Hull, “The Community Drum Circle is a fun entry-level learning experience that is accessible to anyone who wants to participate. Drum Circle participants express themselves collectively by using a chorus of tuned drums, percussion, and vocals to create a musical song together while having a great time.”

Spark!Lab: Make Your Own Drum!
10 a.m. - 4 p.m., First Floor West

Visitors to Spark!Lab will be able to construct their own drum out of recyclable materials and join in facilitated mini drum circles at 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., and 2:30 p.m.

New Perspectives on Invention and Innovation Series
The Lemelson Center’s “New Perspectives on Invention and Innovation” symposium series was established in 1995 to address key issues and to identify new avenues of exploration about the history of invention and innovation in our society.  The annual symposium brings together historians, inventors, practitioners, and a broad range of audiences through a mixture of scholarly presentations, family hands-on activities, educational programs, invention demonstrations, and behind-the-scenes tours.

For more information, contact LemCen_Press@si.edu.



Courtesy of Ralph Baer
Ralph Baer playing an early videogame.   Courtesy of Ralph Baer

Aug 15, 2009 (Saturday)

Innovative Lives with Ralph Baer

Considered by many to be the “father of videogames,” Ralph Baer transformed people's relationship to television by inventing a new way for them to interact with their sets. His work led to "Odyssey," the first home videogame for the consumer market, and launched a multimillion-dollar industry.

In this moderated conversation about his life and work, Baer will reenact the first time he played Odyssey with his partner Bill Harrison and then answer questions from the audience.

After the program visitors will be able to play classic and contemporary videogames as well as examine objects and documents from the Museum's collections.

Program begins at 11:30 a.m.; play videogames with the inventors from 2 to 4 p.m.
Spark!Lab, first floor west

 

Aug 01, 2009 (Saturday) - Aug 02, 2009(Sunday)

From Spark to Click: Celebrating National Inventors' Month

The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation has joined the LEGO Group to celebrate National Inventors' Month. The partners will present a free, two-day collaborative build of a record-breaking 8-foot-tall light bulb--the universal symbol of a big idea. The light bulb will be made entirely of LEGO bricks constructed by visitors with the help of LEGO master builders, reinforcing the connections between play and invention explored in the Invention at Play exhibition. Spark!Lab, the Center's hands-on invention space, will feature special building and engineering-related activities throughout the weekend.

Saturday, August 1, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, August 2, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
First floor center

Can't get to the Museum for this event? You can download instructions to build your own LEGO lightbulb at home.

Lester Brown

Courtesy Earth Policy Institute
Lester Brown   Courtesy Earth Policy Institute

Jun 18, 2009 (Thursday)

Portrait of Invention: A Conversation with Lester Brown

View the webcast of this event!

The Smithsonian's Lemelson Center presents a special program featuring renowned author and global environmentalist Lester Brown. This latest installment in the Center's "Portrait of Invention" series offers participants the unique opportunity to engage Brown, founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute, in a conversation about the challenges of sustaining civilization.

Lester Brown, has been called "one of the world's most influential thinkers" by the Washington Post. Through this oral history-style interview and subsequent conversation, visitors will learn about Brown's strong influence on the early environmental movement and about solutions to today's environmental problems.

His unique work in monitoring the health of global ecosystems has allowed him to foresee pending crises and to offer holistic solutions. His farming background, training in the agricultural sciences, and a stint living in the villages of India enabled him to focus on the food/population equation. This later expanded into a broad range of environmental concerns, such as eroding soils, falling water tables, shrinking forests, disappearing species, and melting of the mountain glaciers that feed the world’s rivers.

In 1974, with support of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Brown founded the Worldwatch Institute, the first research institute devoted to the analysis of global environmental issues. While there he launched the Worldwatch Papers, the annual State of the World reports, World Watch magazine, a second annual entitled Vital Signs: The Trends That are Shaping Our Future, and the Environmental Alert book series.

Marc Pachter, former director of the National Portrait Gallery, will host the program. A cultural historian, Pachter is an innovator in the field of biography through his "Living Self Portraits" public interview series. He is the editor of Telling Lives: The Biographer's Art in which seven acclaimed biographers interpret the art of biography. Pachter has conducted public interviews for the Smithsonian with such notable figures as Agnes de Mille, William L. Shirer, Umberto Eco, Katharine Graham, and Walter Cronkite.

The Lemelson Center has a longstanding interest in environmental history and practice. In 1998, it presented a symposium on ?Inventing for the Environment,? the proceedings of which were published by MIT Press in 2003 (Inventing for the Environment, Arthur Molella and Joyce Bedi, eds.). Art Molella and the Lemelson Center have since held several other programs both here and abroad and produced publications on the environment and town planning.

Lester Brown’s work complements that of the Lemelson Center in its focus on the connections between the economy and the environment. The environment and the environmental movement have also been important collecting areas for the Museum’s Division of Science and Medicine. This program will raise questions about invention and economics in the context of making progress toward solving environmental problems facing the world today.

Brown will autograph copies of his latest book, Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, following the program.

7:30 p.m. at the National Museum of American History, Carmichael Auditorium, first floor. Admission is free, seating is first-come, first-served. Doors open at 7 p.m. The Museum is located on Constitution Avenue NW between 12th and 14th Streets NW.

 

 

Apr 04, 2009 (Saturday)

Talk: Experts from the Woodrow Wilson Center's Project on Emergine Nanotechnologies

Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies provides a deeper look at nanotechnology titled "So Nano So What? The What Why Where of Nanotechnology."

His colleague, nano researcher Todd Kuiken, highlights commercially available products that use nanotechnology.

The talk will take place in the Lemelson Center's Spark!Lab starting at 4:30p.m.

 

Mar 28, 2009 (Saturday) - Apr 05, 2009(Sunday)

NanoDays Activities in Spark!Lab

Visit Spark!Lab during NanoDays to learn about nanotechnology through hands-on activities and experiments!

Activities include constructing a giant model of a carbon nanotube entirely from balloons, measuring height in nanometers and creating a liquid crystal display that changes color as well as other nanotechnology-related experiments.

Spark!Lab is open between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Activities vary daily.

Lemelson Center Director Art Molella checks out displays at the 2008 March Madness for the Mind

Courtesy of the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA)
Lemelson Center Director Art Molella checks out displays at the 2008 March Madness for the Mind   Courtesy of the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA)

Mar 20, 2009 (Friday)

March Madness for the Mind 2009

Fifteen teams of student scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs from around the nation present their inventions at the National Museum of American History. The students will display their inventions and give kid-friendly demonstrations in the Lemelson Center's hands-on invention and science space, Spark!Lab.

The 13th annual March Madness for the Mind is presented by the Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation and the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA).

12 - 5:30 p.m., National Museum of American History, first floor.

Portrait of Franklin by Joseph Siffred Duplessis, premier artist of the French royal court.

National Portrait Gallery
Portrait of Franklin by Joseph Siffred Duplessis, premier artist of the French royal court.   National Portrait Gallery

Jan 20, 2009 (Tuesday) - Jan 20, 2009(Tuesday)

Benjamin Franklin's Experiments in Electricity and Diplomacy

Join us for a demonstration of Benjamin Franklin's Experiments in Electricity Diplomacy.  Visitors can learn about several of Franklin's most significant experiments--significant not only for their contributions to scientific knowledge, but also for their contributions to the budding American democratic system--and find out how Franklin capitalized on his reputation as "the man who tamed lightning" to gain France's considerable military and financial support for the American Revolution.

3 p.m., National Museum of American History, first floor center.

Woody Norris  

Mar 10, 2007 (Saturday)

Listen to a Sound Invention: Hear How Woody Norris Invented HyperSonic Sound

With dozens of patents to his name, Woody Norris’ inventions range from personal recording devices to a personal helicopter. Norris will share how he developed many of his fascinating inventions in a free Lemelson Center program at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 10, designed to inspire young people and families to think creatively. He will explain how the influences of a childhood in western Maryland led him to become one of the nation’s most important contemporary inventors. In particular, Norris will demonstrate HyperSonic Sound—sound that is focused into a narrow beam audible from great distances. It is so precise that someone standing in the beam can hear it, but someone just one foot away cannot.

After starting his career in the U.S. Air Force as a nuclear weapons specialist, Norris became director of the Engineering Experiment Station at the University of Washington. After his first commercial invention in 1970, he left the university to embark on his entrepreneurial career. In 2005, he was awarded the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize for his contributions as an inventor and innovator.

Aside from speaking about his career and influences, Norris will answer questions from the audience. Norris’ appearance is part of the Lemelson Center's Innovative Lives program series.  The program will be held at Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy St. in Arlington, Va. Free parking is available at the library; visitors also may take Metrorail’s orange line to the Ballston or Virginia Square stations and walk a short distance to the library. Admission is free. For Smithsonian information, call (202) 633-1000 (voice) or (202) 633-5285 (TTY).

Learn more about the Arlington Public Library's programs for kids and teens.

 

Dec 07, 2006 (Thursday)

Gas Prices Got You Down? Revving Up Innovations in Fuel Technology

With fuel prices and concern over global warming heating up, what's being done to cool things off with more efficient fuels and engines? Join NPR Talk's Moira Gunn, who will moderate a discussion with leading policy and energy experts, for a thought-provoking look at current challenges and future opportunities in fuel innovation.

The "cafe-style" discussion program will be held at the Koshland Science Museum in Washington, DC, which is co-sponsoring the program with the Lemelson Center and the National Academy of Sciences' Transportation Research Board. Refreshments are included with your admission.

Date: Thursday, December 7, 2006
Time: 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Cost: $15
Age Range: 13+

Guests Presenters:

The Hon. Philip Sharp is president of Resources for the Future, an independent and non-partisan research institution and think tank focusing on policy analysis of energy, environmental, and natural resource issues. He served ten terms as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Indiana and was a member of the National Research Council's Committee on the Effectiveness and Impact of the Corporate Average Fuel Energy (CAFE) Standards. Sharp is Congressional chair of the National Commission on Energy Policy.

Dr. David Greene is a corporate fellow at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Center for Transportation Analysis. Through extensive committee service to the National Academies, he has advised the nation on global oil markets, sustainability, transportation energy policy, and energy use.

Dr. Moira Gunn is host of NPR Talk's weekly radio shows, Tech Nation and BioTech Nation, which explore the impact of science and technology on public opinion and global policy. She is a member of the Dean's Science Advisory Council at Purdue University and the Advisory Board of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University.

Advance ticket purchase strongly suggested. For tickets, contact the Koshland Science Museum at 202-334-1201 or email ksm@nas.edu.

The Rotunda, designed by Thomas Jefferson, is an inspirational venue for this conference on technology and democracy.  

Nov 03, 2006 (Friday) - Nov 04, 2006(Saturday)


Friday, November 3, 2006, 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.

Technology and Democratic Values in the Early Republic
This panel opens the Charlottesville portion of the conference by examining how Franklin, Jefferson, and other leaders in the late eighteenth century thought about and used technology to establish America as a democratic republic.  The speakers will consider how Franklin used the printing press as an effective tool during the Revolution, how Jefferson thought about intellectual property, and how political leaders balanced public good and monopoly power in the challenges created by Robert Fulton and the introduction of the steamboat.

Location: the Rotunda, Dome Room, UVA

Saturday, November 4, 2006, 9:00 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Political Lives of Inventors
9:00 to 10:45 a.m
This session will examine how inventors wove politics and technology together in the course of their careers.  While Thomas Paine promoted his bridge inventions as energetically as his ideas about liberty and freedom, Samuel F. B. Morse linked politics and technology by worrying about how different groups in America might make use of his invention of the telegraph.  A third paper explores the world of crank inventors who often combined impractical machines with eccentric social visions in the hopes of transforming American society.


Manifesting Democratic Values in Art and Technology
11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Art is sometimes a mechanism for exploring the role of technology in a democratic society.  In this session, scholars examine how Charles Wilson Peale interpreted the role of invention in American life in his paintings and how architecture was employed to celebrate the civic potential of the Fairmount Waterworks built in Philadelphia in the 1820s.  A third presentation examines how the demand for civic monuments in the nineteenth century went hand-in-hand with the development of the bronze industry in America.

Lunch
12:30 to 1:45 p.m.

Technology and the Practice of Democracy
1:45 to 3:45 p.m.
Panelists in this final session will talk about how technology has shaped the practice of democracy in the twentieth century.  They will consider how television and radio have changed our notions of a civic society and the ways we participate in democratic discourse. This session will also look at how new technologies such as the fax machine and dictograph (an early sound recording device) changed how political campaigns are conducted and our expectations of acceptable behavior of elected officials.

Location: Harrison Institute, UVA

Download the complete program for November 3-4 at the University of Virginia

Download the session abstracts

Directions to the University of Virginia campus

Map of University of Virginia campus

Lodging options at the University of Virginia

Walter Isaacson
Walter Isaacson  

Nov 02, 2006 (Thursday)

Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary: Inventing America with Walter Isaacson

Join historian Walter Isaacson, author of "Benjamin Franklin: An American Life," and Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein as they discuss how Americans have wrestled with the interplay of technology and democracy from Franklin's time until today. Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute and former Chairman/CEO of CNN and managing editor of "Time" magazine, will draw on both his knowledge of Franklin and his own experiences in journalism to explore how communications technologies have shaped the practice of democracy.

Location: William G. McGowan Theater
National Archives
Constitution Ave. between 7th and 9th Streets, NW
Washington D.C.
7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Free and open to the public.  No registration required.

Take Metro to the presentation.  Yellow and Green lines.  Archives-Navy Memorial station.

See more in our promotional program flyer.

1801 engraving by Cornelius Tiebout depicting Thomas Jefferson as statesman, scientist, and inventor. The bust is of Benjamin Franklin.   Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

Nov 02, 2006 (Thursday) - Nov 04, 2006(Saturday)

Inventing America: The Interplay of Technology and Democracy in Shaping American Identity

Throughout our nation’s history, Americans have often adopted new technology, and have been willing to experiment with new political ideas and practices.  Commemorating the 300th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Franklin, this conference will examine how Franklin, Jefferson, and their contemporaries saw technology as integral to the creation of a new form of government, a democratic republic, as well as how Americans since Franklin’s time have wrestled with the interplay of technology and democracy.

The program will be held at the National Archives, Washington, D.C. and the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. It is free and open to the public with no registration required.

The conference is sponsored by the Lemelson Center and co-sponsored by the National Archives, the Department of Science, Technology and Society at U.Va.’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello.

Details on program schedule, topics, speakers, and locations are posted as they become available. 

Note the daily schedule for each venue below.

 

Aug 03, 2006 (Thursday) - Aug 06, 2006(Sunday)

Invention on the Mall -- A Family Invention Festival

August is National Inventors' Month and to celebrate we present “Invention on the Mall,” a family-friendly celebration of invention, led by the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center, examining the breadth and diversity of invention and innovation from a variety of artistic, scientific, historic perspectives. Invention is not limited to technology, nor is it simply an American phenomenon, and it pre-dates written history. “Invention on the Mall” will explore the universal nature of invention through programs at the National Museum of American History, National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of the American Indian, and National Museum of Natural History featuring each museum’s unique collections and scholarship. The weekend-long event will help the Lemelson Center kick off its second decade as a nationally recognized organization which documents, interprets, and disseminates information about invention and innovation.

“Invention on the Mall” is the last major, family festival to be held at the National Museum of American History before it closes to the public for renovation on September 5, 2006.

The following Invention on the Mall events are all free and open to the public.  Please note that some events have limited attendance.

"The Dark Crystal" film screening
August 3, 7:00 – 8:45 p.m.
Carmichael Auditorium, First floor center, National Museum of American History

The products of Jim Henson’s imagination have reached across generations and communities with warmth, wild humor, and fantasy. They combine the razzle-dazzle of American popular culture with technological innovation. Henson’s inventive work transformed both the art and the science of puppetry from the simple, cloth, hand-and-rod Muppets to the complex figures of the 1982 film "The Dark Crystal," which used a remote-controlled system of movement called animatronics.

This 35mm screening of “The Dark Crystal” (1982; 93 min.; rated PG), is in conjunction with the Muppets and Mechanisms: Jim Henson’s Legacy exhibition that features items from the film, including details on the animatronics. Museum curator Dwight Blocker Bowers will provide introductory comments. 

First come, first served seating.

Innovations in Aviation and Space - Hands-on Activities and Demonstrations with National Air and Space Museum Curators
August 4, 10:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (Curator talk times and locations are noted below).
Gallery 109, National Air and Space Museum

Visit How Things Fly (gallery 109) and experience the four forces of flight through hands-on activities and demonstrations.  (A schedule of demonstrations will be posted at the entrance to the gallery). Look for Discovery Stations throughout the museum.  These hands-on carts offer an interactive experience about innovations in aviation, space exploration, and astronomy.

"SpaceShipOne: Winner of the Ansari X Prize"
Milestones of Flight (Gallery 100) - 10:00 a.m.
Valerie Neal will discuss the innovations of SpaceShipOne that made it a grand prizewinner.

"Science Fiction: The Blue Print for Science Innovation"
Space Race (Gallery 114) - 10:30 a.m. & 12:30 p.m.
Margaret Weitekamp will show how science fiction is an inspiration to designers and engineers.

"The Wright Flyer: First to Fly"
Wright Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age (Gallery 209) - 10:45 a.m.
Peter Jakab will talk about the Wright Brothers greatest invention.

"Viking: First Space Craft to Operate on Mars"
Milestones of Flight (Gallery 100) - 11:00 a.m.
Roger Launius will highlight the innovations of the first spacecraft on Mars.

"Kite to Flight: Learn About the Kite that Inspired the Wright Brothers"
Wright Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age (Gallery 209) - 11:30 a.m.
See a model of the Wright Kite and talk to Tom Crouch about how it inspired the Wright Flyer.

"Space Suits: Making a Stroll in Space Possible"
Apollo to the Moon (Gallery 210) - 11:45 a.m.
Amanda Young will answer all your questions about space suits.

"The Cola Wars:  Drinking Carbonated Beverages in Space"
Apollo to the Moon (Gallery 210) - Noon
Valerie Neal tells the tale of two famous cola makers who developed ways to drink cola in space.

"Ask an Astronomer!"
Explore the Universe (Gallery 111) - Noon 
David DeVorkin will answer your astronomy questions.  Look for the man in the wizard's hat.

Wright Flyer Simulator Demonstration
August 4, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
South Lobby, National Air and Space Museum

Stop by the South Lobby to do craft activities that illustrate innovations in aviation and space, from the first flight of the Wright Flyer in 1903 to the successful launch of the first private spacecraft, SpaceShipOne.  Meet experts throughout the Museum who will be discussing a variety of topics that will illuminate the inventions and innovations that have made flight in the air and space possible.

Adaptation as Invention: Innovative Behavior in the Natural World.
August 4, Noon – 4:00 p.m.
Visit various carts and stations throughout the National Museum of Natural History for a number of activities and demonstrations from museum curators and others outlining inventive behavior in nature.

"Adaptation as Invention: Examples from the Insect World"
Rotunda - 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Join Gary Hevel for a look at the innovative means insects adapt to their environment.

"Whale Adaptations" – Location and time TBD

"Scientific Illustration Inventions"
Rotunda - 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Join Vichai Malikul for a demonstration of how to use specimens, microscopes and art supplies for scientific insect illustration.

"Plains Indians and the American Bison:  How Native Americans "Discovered" Many Innovative Ways of Using the Bison"
North America Gallery in the Kenneth E. Behring Hall of Mammals, Noon to 2:00 p.m.
Hal Banks and Michelle Williams demonstrate objects made from bison.  The bison was very important to the Plains Indians.  Learn how they put every part of the animal to use.  For example:
• Meat for food
• Hide with the hair left on for winter clothing and blankets
• Sinew for bowstrings and thread for sewing
• Hair for making rope
• Tail as a fly swatter
• Horns for making bowls and spoons
• Dung for fueling campfires

The Crowtations
August 5, Noon – 12:30 p.m.  repeats from 4:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Flag Hall, second floor center, National Museum of American History

The Crowtations, part of the Brewery Troupe, is made up of four birds performing an engaging revue of soul music and hip-hopping choreography.  Under the creative leadership of founder Brad Brewer, this group of performers is recognized as one of the world’s premier African American puppet companies. Brewer will also lead puppet-making workshops at the museum.

Brad Brewer, of Freeport, New York, founded the Brewery Troupe in 1973. His interest in puppetry began when he was six years old. Self-taught as a child and later trained under Jim Henson, Brad Brewer is involved in all aspects of puppet theater from design, sculpture and painting to carpentry and performing. He last appeared at the National Museum of American History in 1998 to celebrate the 150th birthday of inventor Lewis Latimer. The Lemelson Center commissioned the Brewery Troupe to create a puppet play about this African American inventor's life.  "Lewis Latimer: Renaissance Man," was performed at the Museum in December 1998 and is still shown on video to schools around the country.

Meet the Inventors
August 5, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.
Carmichael Auditorium, first floor center, National Museum of American History

Learn about the varied world of invention from four modern inventors in a panel discussion with students and museum visitors.  The Lemelson Center’s “Innovative Lives” program series inspires young people to explore the interdisciplinary world of invention. By interacting directly with inventors and entrepreneurs, young people learn firsthand about history, technology, and science. Past “Innovative Lives” presenters Ashok Gadgil, Ann Moore, José Hernández-Rebollar, and Hal Walker will be on hand to share their invention stories and to help encourage young people to appreciate their problem-solving skills and consider the possibilities of a future in invention and innovation.

Seating is first come, first served.

Brewery Troupe Puppet-making Workshops
August 5, 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00 p.m.
Reception Suite, first floor center, National Museum of American History

Brad Brewer and the Brewery Troupe, who worked with Muppet creator Jim Henson, will lead three puppet-making workshops beginning at 1:00, 2:00 and 3:00 p.m.  (Attendance is extremely limited and young people can participate on a first come, first served basis only. One adult companion per child.) Families will “invent” hand puppets and Brad Brewer and the troupe will discuss their work with Henson and the innovative transition from traditional hand puppets to the animatronic Muppets featured in the Muppets and Mechanisms exhibition and shown in "The Dark Crystal” film and other Henson productions.

Attendance is extremely limited.  First come, first served only.  Each session is expected to last approximately 30-40 minutes.

Hands On Science Center
August 5, Noon – 4:00 p.m.
August 6, Noon – 4:00 p.m.
Hands on Science Center, first floor west, National Museum of American History

The Hands On Science Center offers museum visitors a deep and practical understanding of the role science plays in American history and daily life. For "Invention on the Mall," the Center will recreate some of Benjamin Franklin's famous experiments with electricity, and will demonstrate a polygraph created by another famous American inventor, Thomas Jefferson.

Floor demonstrations and hands-on activities
August 5, Noon – 4:00 p.m.
First floor east, center and west, National Museum of American History

A variety of fun invention-related demonstrations and hands-on activities for families will take place throughout the first floor of the museum. Docents will facilitate activities from the museum's former Hands-On History Room, including showing visitors how to use a cotton gin. Argyle Design will demonstrate invention education kits that are currently in development. Visitors can contribute their opinions on their future use by the Lemelson Center.

Additional participants include the following Lemelson Center partner organizations:

  • The Benjamin Banneker Academic High School InvenTeam of Washington, D.C. will present their invention project - a biometric, computer-controlled cell-phone locker system. Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams is a national grants initiative of the Lemelson-MIT Program to foster inventiveness among high school students.
  • Celebra la Ciencia (Celebrate Science), a project of the Self Reliance Foundation, encourages Hispanic Americans to learn about science in fun, non-formal settings. CLC's bilingual hands-on exhibits will share health science information with young people and their families at the festival.
  • WNET children's television program "Cyberchase" and the Children's Museum of Houston are developing education kits that they will prototype with museum visitors Saturday and Sunday. "Cyberchase" is an Emmy Award-winning animated PBS television series and multimedia project that teaches math concepts to children ages 8-12 through the adventures of a team of curious kids in Cyberspace.
  • Winners of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington's annual "Thingamajig" Invention Convention, which takes place this year on August 3, will display their projects on Saturday. "Thingamajig"  is an exciting and unique learning experience for children ages 5-14. Children compete by designing an "invention" in a range of categories, which gives them the opportunity to exercise their imaginations, basic, scientific principles, and problem solving skills.

Meet the Composer: Raven Chacon
August 5, 1:00 and 3:00 p.m.
Conference Center (Rooms 4018-4019), National Museum of the American Indian

Raven Chacon (Navajo), a composer and performer, talks about inventive aspects various electronic instruments and devices he has adapted for his compositions, including a Theremin/guitar, 4 track recorder delay device, and even a Sony Walkman, and demonstrates them in mini-performances.

Portrait of Invention -- Meet Tom Newby
August 5, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m.
Carmichael Auditorium, first floor center, National Museum of American History

The Lemelson Center’s “Portrait of Invention” series features innovators whose contributions to their field are recognized as some of the most significant. In an interview format, inventors share stories about their childhood influences, careers, and the innovative processes they used to create products that gave them their niche in history. This “Portrait of Invention” program will feature Tom Newby who worked with Jim Henson at the Henson Creature Shops. Dwight Bowers will interview him about the innovative processes and collaborative projects that took place in these “laboratories” to create the famous Muppets and develop the animatronics featured in the Muppets and Mechanisms: Jim Henson’s Legacy exhibition.

Seating is first come, first served.

Inventing Electronic Music Workshop
August 6, Noon – 4:00 p.m.
Reception Suite, first floor center, National Museum of American History

Ever wonder how Hip-Hop and electronic dance music producers make the beats that move audiences at concerts and on dance floors? How did a lone inventor in the Soviet Union in search of an effective security alarm create a device that would transform music forever? Participants will explore invention stories behind the birth of electronic music and try their hands at creating their own electronic music with state-of-the-art music production software at this interactive demonstration and historical artifacts display. Electronic music producer Brian Miller (a.k.a. SAD) will show visitors how to create beats of their own with software. On view will be a c. 1929 Theremin, the first synthesizer, as well as vintage drum machines and synthesizers including Herbie Hancock's 1983 MemoryMoog, from the museum's Division of Music, Sports, and Entertainment collection.

First come, first served.

Floor demonstrations and hands-on activities
August 6, Noon – 4:00 p.m.
First floor east and west, National Museum of American History

A variety of fun invention-related demonstrations and hands-on activities for families will take place throughout the first floor of the museum. Docents will facilitate activities from the museum's former Hands-On History Room, including showing visitors how to use a cotton gin. Argyle Design will demonstrate invention education kits that are currently in development. Visitors can contribute their opinions on their future use by the Lemelson Center.  WNET children's television program "Cyberchase" and the Children's Museum of Houston are developing education kits that they will also prototype with museum visitors. "Cyberchase" is an Emmy Award-winning animated PBS television series and multimedia project that teaches math concepts to children ages 8-12 through the adventures of a team of curious kids in Cyberspace.


Innovative Lives -- Meet Tom Newby
August 6, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.
Carmichael Auditorium, first floor center, National Museum of American History

The Lemelson Center’s “Innovative Lives” series inspires young people to explore the interdisciplinary world of invention. By directly interacting with inventors and entrepreneurs, young people learn firsthand about history, technology, and science. This new “Innovative Lives” program will feature Muppet animatronics innovator Tom Newby, who most recently controlled the motion of "Elmo" in the July 4 Independence Day concert at the U.S. Capitol. Young museum visitors are encouraged to ask Newby questions and to learn more about the variety of careers available in fields of invention and innovation.

Seating is first come, first served.

 

Jun 12, 2009 (Friday) - Sep 06, 2009(Sunday)

Invention at Play Open Late!

Invention at Play, the Lemelson Center's interactive exhibit, will be open until 6.30 p.m. through September 6th!

Now you have more time to explore the playful side of invention and the inventive side of play. Learn how play--the ordinary and everyday "work of childhood"--connects to the creative impulse of both historic and contemporary inventors.

First floor west. And don't miss Invention at Play online!

An accessible snowboard is featured in the exhibition.

Courtesy the Hampshire College Lemelson Center for Design
An accessible snowboard is featured in the exhibition.   Courtesy the Hampshire College Lemelson Center for Design

Dec 01, 2008 (Monday) - Oct 07, 2009(Wednesday)

Sporting Invention

Sporting Invention traces the development of sports inventions through drawings and prototypes, revealing the little-known stories of invention behind familiar sports equipment and also highlighting aspects of universal design in sports technology development.

Objects featured include the skis and tennis racquets invented by Howard Head and an accessible snowboard for people with disabilities, developed by student inventors at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. By examining the inventive process through the inventors’ sketches and models, visitors gain a new appreciation for how inventors transform the way Americans play.

First floor west.

An employee pushes a microwave radar dish down a Rad Lab corridor.

MIT Museum
An employee pushes a microwave radar dish down a Rad Lab corridor.   MIT Museum

Nov 06, 2009 (Friday) - Oct 22, 2012(Monday)

Showcase exhibition: Hot Spots of Invention

Invention happens everywhere. But sometimes a “hot spot” of invention takes shape when the right mix of creative people, resources, and inspiring surroundings come together. In the 1930s, a hot spot began to form among the industrial labs and universities of New England. As World War II neared, the hot spot matured at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The campus bustled with a growing network of inventive people and new research laboratories.

The Hot Spots of Invention showcase exhibition features the stories of three of the many war-era labs at MIT: Charles Stark Draper’s instruments lab, the Radiation Laboratory, and Harold Edgerton’s strobe lab. Together, they helped transform Cambridge into a dynamic place of invention.

Learn more about the MIT hot spot.

First floor west.

One of Lemelson
One of Lemelson's toy inventions.   Courtesy the Lemelson Foundation

Dec 01, 2008 (Monday) - May 10, 2012(Thursday)

Showcase exhibition: Jerome Lemelson--Toying with Invention

Jerome Lemelson earned more than 600 patents, and about 70 of them describe toys—inflatable toys, jumping toys, toys with propellers, toys that run on tracks, target games, dolls, and more. In fact, Lemelson’s first patent, issued in 1953, was for a new kind of propeller beanie. The objects in this case are examples of Lemelson’s toy ideas and show some of the stages in inventing a new plaything.

Lemelson Center foyer, third floor west.

Read more about Lemelson's toy inventions.

Skeksis head from Jim Henson
Skeksis head from Jim Henson's film, "The Dark Crystal"   Photographer: J. L. Jones. ™ & © 1982, 2006 The Jim Henson Company.

May 19, 2006 (Friday) - Sep 04, 2006(Monday)

Lemelson Center Sponsors "Muppets and Mechanisms: Jim Henson’s Legacy" Exhibit

The products of Jim Henson’s imagination have reached across generations and communities with warmth, wild humor, and fantasy. They combine the razzle-dazzle of American popular culture with technological innovation. Henson’s work transformed both the art and the science of puppetry from the simple, cloth, hand-and-rod Muppets to the complex figures of the 1982 film The Dark Crystal, which used a remote-controlled system of movement called animatronics.

Co-sponsored by the Lemelson Center, the objects displayed through September 4, 2006 on the Museum’s first and third floors represent two important eras and achievements in Henson’s extraordinary career. Whether it’s the fleece-and-foam zaniness of the Muppets or the intricate creatures of The Dark Crystal, his work exhibits a constant and enduring appeal. 
  
The small display features:

On the third floor west:

  • The Sam and Friends figures, created by Jim Henson in 1955 for shows broadcast on local Washington, D.C., television station WRC-TV; they are regarded as the earliest puppet creatures known as “the Muppets.”
  • Classic Muppets that Jim Henson personally activated and voiced, including Kermit the Frog, the Swedish Chef, Rowlf, Dr. Teeth, and the banjo player from the Country Trio, which is a Muppet that resembles Jim Henson.


On the first floor west at the Lemelson Center:

  • Animatronic figures from the 1977 television show Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas and the 1982 movie The Dark Crystal.

 

Mar 25, 2006 (Saturday)

Sustainable Shelter
A Symposium Exploring Socially-Responsible Innovations in Architecture

The Lemelson Center invites you to learn how contemporary innovators in architecture are ensuring their designs benefit the common good—from preserving the environment to improving building inhabitants’ quality of life.  The subject will be discussed at Sustainable Shelter, a free public program on Saturday, March 25 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland, OR.  No tickets are required for OMSI visitors.

Sustainable Shelter explores socially-responsible inventions in architecture, and examines ways that organizations and individuals put their philosophies on sustainability into practice in the kind of spaces they create for themselves. Visitors to OMSI will also have the opportunity to step inside a temporary relief shelter designed to house people displaced by war or natural disaster.

The keynote speaker is architect Sim Van der Ryn, a founder of the sustainable design movement, who shares his vision of merging the natural and designed world.  A session on Innovation for Sustainable Homes examines how innovative building materials and design can help you “green” your home.  And a session on Innovation for Disaster Relief features sustainable innovations that respond to disaster victims’ need for shelter.

View the full program here.

The program is part of Lemelson Center’s “New Perspectives on Invention and Innovation” program series and is designed to broaden our understanding of history through research, discussion, and dissemination of ideas about invention and innovation.

Portrait of Franklin by Joseph Siffred Duplessis, premier artist of the French royal court.

Courtesy: National Portrait Gallery
Portrait of Franklin by Joseph Siffred Duplessis, premier artist of the French royal court.   Courtesy: National Portrait Gallery

Mar 25, 2006 (Saturday)

Inventing America: The Legacy of Benjamin Franklin, 1706-2006

In honor of Benjamin Franklin’s 300th birthday, the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center will sponsor a celebration for the whole family on Saturday, Mar. 25 (rain date Mar. 26) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the National Museum of American History and on the Washington Monument grounds in conjunction with the Smithsonian Kite Festival.  This special program will include hands-on demonstrations of Franklin’s science experiments, readings by children’s author Cheryl Harness, a new display of Franklin artifacts, appearances by one of the nation’s leading portrayers of Benjamin Franklin and kite-making demonstrations.


This free program celebrates Franklin’s legacy in such varied fields as science, invention, diplomacy and social welfare.  Throughout the day, families can experiment with static electricity, just as Franklin did, at demonstration tents for the Kite Festival on the Washington Monument grounds, courtesy of the museum’s Hands On Science Center. At 10:45 a.m. Harness will read excerpts of her new Franklin biography, “The Remarkable Benjamin Franklin” on the Museum's second floor.  The program will repeat at 12:30 p.m.  Joining her will be Ralph Archbold, who has portrayed Franklin for more than 30 years and was appointed to the 15 member federal commission to oversee the celebration of Franklin’s 300th birthday. Shortly after 2:30 p.m., "Franklin" will lead museum visitors on a parade from the Mall entrance of the National Museum of American History to the Kite Festival at the Washington Monument.

Meanwhile, the Lemelson Center, with the assistance of Wings Over Washington (WOW), will sponsor kite making sessions for young people from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at a tent near the Museum's Mall entrance.  Sessions will be held approximately every hour, and timed tickets are required for the half-hour, kite-making sessions.  They will be distributed on a first come, first served basis at the Lemelson Center tent at the Museum beginning at 10 a.m.


Visitors also will be able to see a special display on Franklin, the statesman in “Benjamin Franklin: A Revolutionary Role,” open Jan. 13 through April 17, 2006. On display for the first time in more than 30 years will be a three-piece, silk suit worn by Franklin during his diplomatic trip to Paris that resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Alliance in 1778. This rare presentation of the Franklin suit, on long-term loan from the Massachusetts Historical Society, represents a historic undertaking by the museum due to the suit’s delicate condition. Accompanying Franklin’s suit will be a walking cane presented to him during his trip to France, which he later bequeathed to George Washington, and “Benjamin Franklin,” the famous portrait by Joseph Siffred Duplessis that was commissioned during Franklin’s stay in Paris and is on loan from the National Portrait Gallery. A full presentation on the objects displayed will be held at 11:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.

"Benjamin Franklin," portrayed by living history presenter Ralph Archbold, will greet Museum visitors and share stories of his work as a printer, scientist, inventor, and diplomat.  

Jan 21, 2006 (Saturday)

Inventing America: The Legacy of Benjamin Franklin, 1706-2006

In honor of Benjamin Franklin’s 300th birthday, the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center will sponsor a celebration for the whole family on Saturday, Jan. 21 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the National Museum of American History.  This special program will include hands-on demonstrations of Franklin’s science experiments, readings by children’s author Cheryl Harness, a new display of Franklin artifacts, appearances by one of the nation’s leading portrayers of Benjamin Franklin and a birthday party with cake and candles.


This free program celebrates Franklin’s legacy in such varied fields as science, invention, diplomacy and social welfare.  Throughout the day, families can experiment with static electricity, just as Franklin did, at demonstration tables courtesy of the museum’s Hands On Science Center. At 1 and 3 p.m., Harness will read excerpts of her new Franklin biography, “The Remarkable Benjamin Franklin.” Joining her will be Ralph Archbold, who has portrayed Franklin for more than 30 years and was appointed to the 15 member federal commission to oversee the celebration of Franklin’s 300th birthday. At 1:30 p.m., Archbold’s “Franklin” will blow out the candles on his birthday cake.


Visitors also will be able to see a special display on Franklin, the statesman in “Benjamin Franklin: A Revolutionary Role,” open Jan. 13 through April 17, 2006. On display for the first time in more than 30 years will be a three-piece, silk suit worn by Franklin during his diplomatic trip to Paris that resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Alliance in 1778. This rare presentation of the Franklin suit, on long-term loan from the Massachusetts Historical Society, represents a historic undertaking by the museum due to the suit’s delicate condition. Because of the fragile condition of the suit, it will be displayed for only approximately one month before being replaced with a reproduction created for this display. Accompanying Franklin’s suit will be a walking cane presented to him during his trip to France, which he later bequeathed to George Washington, and “Benjamin Franklin,” the famous portrait by Joseph Siffred Duplessis that was commissioned during Franklin’s stay in Paris and is on loan from the National Portrait Gallery.

 

Oct 21, 2005 (Friday)

Buckminster Fuller: Innovation by Design

Hailed as one of the greatest minds of our times, Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) is known as an American visionary. Designer, architect, engineer, inventor and philosopher, he was undeniably one of the key innovators of the 20th century. The Lemelson Center is proud to present a "Meet the Author" program with Michael John Gorman, author of the new book “Buckminster Fuller: Designing for Mobility.” A visually rich and complete overview of Fuller’s design and architectural production, Gorman’s book situates Fuller’s projects in their historical context. Gorman’s presentation will be on Friday, Oct. 21 from noon to 1 p.m. in the Information Age Theatre on the first floor of the National Museum of American History.  The program is free and open to the public.

Creator of the geodesic dome, champion of autonomous living and inventor of synergetic geometry, Fuller proclaimed his own life to be a dramatic experiment aimed at discovering what “an average healthy human being could achieve by working on behalf of all humanity.” Fuller’s work exerted a powerful influence on a generation of architects, artists, engineers, designers, environmentalists, scientists, philosophers and social thinkers.

Michael John Gorman will explore Buckminster Fuller as inventor through a visual exploration of his innovative projects. Gorman is the project director of Arkimedia, an initiative that explores science, technology and their connections with the arts in Dublin, Ireland. He is the former associate curator of the Buckminster Fuller Collection at Stanford University Libraries.

Blair Towns apartment community in Silver Spring, Maryland

Photo provided by The Tower Companies
Blair Towns apartment community in Silver Spring, Maryland   Photo provided by The Tower Companies

Oct 15, 2005 (Saturday)

What Makes a Building "Green?" -- Guided Tours of Cutting Edge Environmental Architecture in the Washington Area

This program is sold out.

“GREEN TOURS” -- Join the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center on October 15 for a day-long, behind-the-scenes, guided tour of three, environmentally-responsible building projects in the greater Washington, D.C., area.

  • The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Philip Merrill Environmental Center in Annapolis, Md. is a prime example of sustainable architecture and the first to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s Platinum rating.
  • John M. Langston High School in Arlington, Va. is among the first schools in the country to be certified “green” by the U.S. Green Building Council.
  • LEED-certified Blair Towns in Silver Spring, Md. represents a sustainable approach to multi-family development. This 78-unit apartment community was built with 40% recycled content and 60% regionally manufactured materials.

Bus departs at 8:30 a.m. from the Mall entrance (Madison Drive) of the National Museum of American History, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. Returns by 5:00 p.m. Nearest metro stations are Federal Triangle and Smithsonian on the Blue and Orange lines. Cost is $5. Lunch included. Appropriate for ages 12 and older. 

This program is sold out.

José Hernández-Rebollar with his AcceleGlove.

Photo: Douglas Benton-Fisheye
José Hernández-Rebollar with his AcceleGlove.   Photo: Douglas Benton-Fisheye

Aug 03, 2005 (Wednesday)

Listen to This! A Talking Glove!

American Sign Language is considered the fourth most common language in the United States, but is used by fewer than 2 million people. The AcceleGlove is a recent effort to help the hearing and non-hearing worlds communicate by translating sign language into speech. The glove’s inventor will demonstrate how it works on Aug. 3 at 1 p.m. in Carmichael Auditorium on the first floor of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The program is free and appropriate for the whole family.

As a graduate student, José Hernández-Rebollar came to the United States from Mexico on a Fulbright scholarship to study engineering at George Washington University. For his dissertation project, he came up with the idea of a glove that would convert sign language into words you can hear. Using sensors attached to the glove and the arm of the user, this prototype device maps the placement and movement of the arms and fingers in three-dimensional space. An attached computer reads the data and converts them into words that can be heard on a loudspeaker or read on a computer screen. The AcceleGlove currently can translate the alphabet and more than 300 words in ASL into both English and Spanish.

Hernández-Rebollar’s appearance is part of the "Innovative Lives" program series of the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, dedicated to showing how invention and innovation are essential elements of American history and heritage.

Edgar Meyer in his studio.

photo provided by Edgar Meyer.
Edgar Meyer in his studio   Photo provided by Edgar Meyer

Jul 07, 2005 (Thursday) - Jul 08, 2005(Friday)

Get a Grip -- Molecules You Can Handle -- Biochemist Edgar Meyer's Inventive Look at the Molecular World

How do you use technology to create images of things that have no image? How do you choose what color a colorless virus should be? In programs July 7 and 8 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, noted biochemist and artist/sculptor Edgar Meyer will examine the fascinating intersection of art and science and explain how he gives 3-D visions to the very small.
 
“While molecules are neither good nor evil, their effects can be beneficial, like vitamins, or devastating, like viruses,” says Meyer, “Information explaining what molecules look like and how they work can help us understand and hopefully control molecular-scale evil wisely.”

Meyer’s accurate models of the polio virus are on display in the museum’s exhibition, "Whatever Happened to Polio?" Meyer will present a lecture program Thursday, July 7 at 6:30 p.m. in the museum’s Information Age Theater (first floor, west wing). Seating is limited. The polio exhibition will be open at the conclusion of the program. On Friday, July 8, Meyer will hold gallery talks in the "Whatever Happened to Polio?" exhibition (second floor, west wing), at 1 and 3 p.m.

In each of the programs, Meyer will explain how he takes molecular slice scans and uses that information to make his scientifically accurate models. Scientists use many types of models to visualize concepts about the real world. “Now that you can see a virus, what can you do with it?” asks Katherine Ott, curator of the polio exhibition. “The polio virus is distinct from AIDS or Ebola viruses, but for virologists, any contribution to knowledge about one virus helps further understanding of how all viruses may work.”

Edgar Meyer’s appearances are part of the Lemelson Center's "Innovative Lives" program series and are presented in partnership with the "Whatever Happened to Polio?" exhibition and the Hands On Science Center of the National Museum of American History. The March of Dimes is the presenting sponsor of the exhibition, with additional funding from Rotary International and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

The National Museum of American History is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., and through Labor Day is open daily with summer hours from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Admission is free. For more information about the program, call (202) 633-1000 (voice) or (202) 357-1729 (TTY).

 

May 04, 2005 (Wednesday) - May 04, 2005(Wednesday)

Reinventing the Wheel: An Educational Video Field Trip

The Lemelson Center and the Fairfax Network invite you and your students to join us on some of our favorite video field trips.

Reinventing the Wheel: The Continuing Evolution of the Bicycle
May 4, 2005
1:00 - 1:30 p.m. (EDT)
Audience: Students in Grades 6 through 12

This program explores the bicycle's unique history and technology.  The velocipede achieved great popularity almost immediately when it was introduced more than a century ago.  Countless inventors were inspired to make bicycles more efficient and comfortable, and bicycle innovation continues today.  Students will see historic bicycles from the collections of the National Museum of American History and some amazing prototypes for the future.  Program highlights include "high wheelers," hand powered cycles for the disabled, mountain bikes, and even a bicycle that rides on snow.

To register for this FREE program and to receive satellite coordinates and other technical information please follow this link to the Fairfax Network

 

Dec 03, 2004 (Friday)

The Electric Guitar: A History of an American Icon

Someone’s got to make it, and someone’s got to play it. That’s how musical instruments work, and those are the steps the electric guitar took to become perhaps the foremost icon of American music around the world. In a program that combines history and artistry—part analysis, part jam session— Paul Reed Smith, one of America’s most celebrated guitar- makers, is joined by guitarist David Grissom and historian André Millard to show us how the making and playing of electric guitars have interacted and kept the amplifiers hot for the past 70 years.

Smith—originally from Bethesda, Maryland—is a musician, artist, and founder and managing general partner of PRS Guitars. The list of artists who have used his guitars reads like a Who’s Who of top contemporary musicians. Among them is David Grissom, who played for three years with John Mellencamp’s band and has toured and recorded with artists like Buddy Guy, the Allman Brothers Band, and Ringo Starr. André Millard is the director of American studies and professor of history at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is also the author of America on Record: A History of Recorded Sound.

The program celebrates the launch of The Electric Guitar: A History of an American Icon (Johns Hopkins), the latest book published under the auspices of the Lemelson Center. The volume, available for signing after the program, is edited by Millard and is based on research and materials from the Center’s 1996 symposium Electrified, Amplified, and Deified: The Electric Guitar, Its Makers and Its Players.

The program is free to the public, but tickets are required.  Tickets can be obtained through Smithsonian Resident Associates at www.residentassociates.org or call (202) 357-3030, weekdays 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. E.T.

 

 

Aug 03, 2004 (Tuesday)

Meet the Author of Replaceable You: Engineering the Body in Postwar America

After World War II, innovations in medical technologies and procedures, such as prosthetic devices, endocrinology, and reconstructive surgery, inspired Americans to believe in a new age of modern medical miracles. Author David Serlin and medical history curator Katherine Ott discuss how the use of these innovations came to reaffirm Cold War anxieties about normalcy, patriotism, and consensus. Book signing follows.

Noon - 1:30 p.m. National Museum of American History, Reception Suite, first floor. Free and open to the public; no reservations required, but space is limited.

 

May 12, 2004 (Wednesday)

The Electric Guitar: Its Makers and Its Players

Broadcast on the Fairfax Network

The Lemelson Center presents this video field trip celebrating the invention of the electric guitar. Guitar maker Paul Reed Smith and guitar player G. E. Smith demonstrate their crafts and share stories about some of the people involved in developing and popularizing the electric guitar. Moderated by Bob Santelli, former director of education at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, this program is a rebroadcast of the 1996 video conference that linked students at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., with students in Cleveland, Ohio, and Elkhard, Indiana. Join them for an exciting exploration of the timeless intersections of technology and music. For students in grades 4 through 9.

1 - 1.30 p.m. Teachers may register to show this program in the classroom for free on the Fairfax Network Web site.

 

Mar 29, 2004 (Monday) - May 07, 2006(Sunday)

Inventing Ourselves showcase exhibit

Is there anything about humans that technology can't mimic, replace, or alter? This exhibit examines how we are using technology to reinvent our bodies. Exploring the history and design of artificial limbs, implantable devices (such as artificial hearts and hip joints), and even running shoes, see how inventors use technology to push the limits of human life and ability.

The Inventing Ourselves exhibit will be closed effective Monday, May 8, 2006.

10 a.m. - 5.30 p.m., Monday - Sunday, Lemelson Center showcases, first floor west, National Museum of American History, 14th St. and Constitution Ave., NW.

Free and open to the public.

Van Phillips

Photo courtesy Giovanna Nigro-Chacon
Van Phillips.   Photo courtesy Giovanna Nigro-Chacon.

Mar 28, 2004 (Sunday)

Artificial Parts: Reinventing the Human Body

Co-sponsored with The Smithsonian Associates

Innovations in replacement body parts have often come from those who have been injured, whether it be an athlete, a car crash victim, or a soldier wounded in battle. "Artificial Parts" reveals how frustration can often inspire innovations that reinvent the human body and explore the fascinating history of prosthetics technology.

1 - 4.30 p.m., National Museum of American History, 14th St. and Constitution Ave., NW.

Free and open to the public; however, tickets are required for "Active Lives, Active Duty" only. To order free tickets by phone, call the Smithsonian Resident Associates at (202) 357-3030 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Eastern time, Monday through Friday, and mention Code 1X1-252. You may also order tickets online at www.residentassociates.org.

 

Jan 12, 2004 (Monday)

The Inventive Side of Nobel exhibit closes

Don't miss the last chance to visit our showcase exhibit that looks at the connections between Nobel Prize-winning science and invention. The Inventive Side of Nobel explores the everyday inventions that have resulted from the Nobel-winning research of scientists Guglielmo Marconi, whose ground-breaking experiments in radio earned him the 1909 prize in physics, and William Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain (physics, 1956), whose work on transistors transformed consumer electronics.

10 a.m. - 5.30 p.m., Monday - Sunday, Lemelson Center showcases, first floor, west wing, National Museum of American History, 14th St. and Constitution Ave., NW.

Free and open to the public.

<empty>
:: Home :: About Us :: Centerpieces :: Events :: Resources :: Video & Audio ::
:: Press Room :: Blog :: Newsletter :: Site Map :: Facebook :: Flickr :: Twitter ::
Smithsonian