Christine Broda-Bahm (202) 633-9156 / SI-218-2002
"Invention At Play" - Smithsonian Explores the Inventive Side of Play and the Playful Side of Invention
What do the inventors behind Post-it Notes¨, Kevlar¨, Velcro¨ and the microwave oven have in common with children? Play! Play and its connection to the innovative mind will be explored in "Invention at Play," a new interactive exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. The exhibit opens July 19 and continues through December.
The exhibition, developed by the museum's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation in partnership with the Science Museum of Minnesota and the National Science Foundation, focuses on the similarities between the way children and adults play and the creative processes used by innovators in science and technology. Visitors of all ages will experience various playful habits of mind that underlay invention: curiosity, imagination, visual thinking, model building and problem solving; the very habits that inventors find key today. Working with kitchen utensils to guide a rolling ball down a ramp, creating block towers on a wobbly surface, and devising wind-powered devices and tessellation patterns will give visitors a feel for the the problem-solving skills integral to invention.
"'Invention at Play' is a highly interactive, engaging and surprising exhibition that departs from traditional representations of inventors as extraordinary geniuses who are 'not like us' to celebrate the creative skills and processes that are familiar and accessible to all people," said Arthur Molella, Lemelson Center director, "And, of course, it celebrates the creative spirit which is central to the mission of the Lemelson Center."
Through photos, stories and artifacts from the museum, visitors will be introduced to inventors and innovators who have used playful and creative techniques in their work, including: Stephanie Kwolek, the chemist who invented Kevlar (a strong and lightweight substance used in bullet-resistant vests and cable, among other things); Newman Darby, inventor of the sailboard; and Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone; and IDEO, a design company renowned for its creative team-centered processes.
Narratives and interactive devices will assist visitors in exploring the motivation for inventions and the childhood experiences that influenced an inventor's work.
Visitors will also be encouraged to reflect upon questions and debates surrounding the history and future of play. Experimental playthings and historic and contemporary toys and games will allow visitors to explore the connection between the objects visitors played with as children and their creativity today.
A series of educational programs designed to complement the "Invention at Play" exhibition will serve diverse families, parents, teachers and youth groups. The exhibition will travel to a number of sites across the United States after its run at the museum. For more information, call (202) 357-1593.