The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention & Innovation
Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, Smithsonian Beanie Illustration

MIND: Modern Inventors Documentation Program

The MIND Program acts as a clearinghouse for inventors seeking to preserve and donate their historical materials; identifies and preserves the papers and other historical materials of living inventors; promotes access to and use of this documentary record by scholars, students, and the public; and identifies inventors whose papers and artifacts have particular significance to the research and educational goals of the National Museum of American History.

Download An Inventor's Guide to the Preservation, Protection, and Donation of Personal Papers (PDF file, 950K) »

About the Documenting Invention website

Documenting Invention presents tested methods of documenting the work of inventors and other creative individuals. The site is designed primarily for researchers, historians, museum professionals, oral historians, and students of archival and museum methodology. The documentation, reports, bibliographies, case studies, images, and guidelines included on the site reflect fifteen years of research by the staff of the Lemelson Center. Topics highlighted include: finding inventors to document; understanding inventors' work processes; identifying the kinds of resources and relationships that influence inventors' work; determining the types of materials that were created during the invention process and that can be collected; and selecting techniques to use when documenting an inventor.

Our goal is to support, encourage, and promote those who seek to document the creative process, as well as contribute to the historical record ourselves. This is an ongoing project and we will continue to refine, test, and enhance our work as we learn more about invention. Information in this website was drawn from many sources, including staff research, archival collections, oral history interviews with inventors, and professional workshops exploring targeted areas of the invention process.

Lemelson Center historian Maggie Dennis and archivist Alison Oswald researched the website, with the assistance of Lemelson Center and Archives Center staff at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, and Lemelson Center senior historian Joyce Bedi, who also advised on the site's content, design, and structure. Joan Mentzer edited the site. Archives Center intern Cathy Chou designed the site's graphics and navigation. Lemelson Center new media program assistant Matt Ringelstetter built the web pages and provided technical support. The site was tested by staff at the National Museum of American History and other targeted audiences.

Go to the Documenting Invention website »

About the MIND Database

Information in the database was drawn from many sources: Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN); Online Computer Library Center (OCLC); National Union Catalog of Manuscripts Collections (NUCMC); online catalogs for universities, colleges, historical societies, and other organizations; ArchiveGrid (a service of RLG); Sources in Electrical History 3: An International Guide to Corporate Records and Archives of Companies in Electrical, Electronics, and Computer Industries compiled by the IEEE, 1995; and A Directory of History of Medicine Collections, 9th edition, compiled by the National Library of Medicine, 1999. All database entries were sent to the appropriate repository for verification. In some instances, repositories submitted additional information on their holdings. The records reflect differing descriptive practices among repositories. Researchers seeking additional information should contact the repository.

Alison Oswald of the Lemelson Center staff researched and edited the original database entries with the assistance of Lemelson Center and Archives Center staff at the National Museum of American History. The database was designed by Interactive Knowledge of Charlotte, North Carolina.

The first of several planned expansion phases to include information on international archives with invention-related holdings in the MIND database began in 2008. Project staff is investigating Canadian holdings that are appropriate for inclusion in the database; additions from other countries are welcome as well. Translations into English are encouraged. For further information on the expansion of the MIND database, contact Alison Oswald at

Contributing to the MIND Database

This MIND database is an ongoing project to gather and provide information about invention and technology collections in archives, libraries, historical societies, and museums. The database will assist scholars, inventors, teachers, and students. Additionally, the database will enable the Lemelson Center to identify gaps in the invention record, for example the papers of women and minority inventors.

We seek information about inventors (corporate, government, and independent), scientists, and industries in all areas associated with invention. We also seek information on records of institutions such as academic departments and research laboratories. The database contains information from all time periods. If papers are held privately, but available for research, we welcome this information. Additionally, we would like to know if papers of significant inventors have been destroyed. The types of materials included in the database are: correspondence, course notes, diaries, drawings, financial records, grant applications, instructional materials, logbooks, notebooks, patents, patent applications, photographs, publications, sound recordings, videotapes, film, and artifacts, objects, invention prototypes, and tools associated with archival collections. You may download the MIND Database Submission Form in either a Microsoft Word or PDF and return it to:

Lemelson Center
Smithsonian Institution
P.O. Box 37012
National Museum of American History
Room 1210, MRC 604
Washington, DC 20013-7012
Fax (202) 633-4593
If you have any questions, please contact Alison Oswald at (202) 633-3726 or email

Search the MIND database »


Last Update: 13 Apr 2012

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