Spark!Lab is a hands-on invention activity center where visitors learn that invention is a process and that everyone is inventive. Activities incorporate history, science, engineering, technology, and art. A visit to Spark!Lab “sparks” imagination and curiosity, and can be the first step to exploring our own inventiveness and invention in the world around us.
Spark!Lab opened at the National Museum of American History in 2008 and was one of its most popular attractions until it closed in 2012 in preparation for the renovation of the Museum’s west wing. The success of Spark!Lab led the Lemelson Center to establish the Spark!Lab National Network in 2011. The Network is an active community of museum professionals who foster inventive creativity in families in their own neighborhoods.
The first Spark!Lab off of the National Mall opened at the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum in Reno, NV, in 2011. A generous donation from the Ford Motor Company Fund is expanding the Network to three additional US sites.
Internationally, the Lemelson Center shared the Spark!Lab experience with visitors to Art Arsenale in Kyiv, Ukraine, during a temporary installation in 2012. Spark!Lab operated in Gurgaon, India, in 2014.
Spark!Lab National Network Members
- The original Spark!Lab at the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC (reopening July 1, 2015)
- Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum in Reno, NV
- Science City at Union Station in Kansas City, MO (Ford-funded site)
- Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA
- Anchorage Museum in Anchorage, AK (Ford-funded site, opening March 2015)
MEMBERSHIP IN THE SPARK!LAB NATIONAL NETWORK
Network members pay an initial, two-year licensing fee of $40,000, after which they pay regular two-year renewal fees of not more than $10,000. Network members benefit from many tangible and intangible products. This includes licensed use of Smithsonian, Lemelson Center, and Spark!Lab names and logos; access to Smithsonian expertise through active consultation; facilitated relationships with other Network members; and customization of activities, if desired. Additionally, members receive the following:
- 10 start-up Spark!Lab activities with all materials for the first two years
- In-depth professional development training on Spark!Lab activity facilitation, community engagement, invention principles, inquiry learning, and much more
- In-person assistance with set up and implementation of the Spark!Lab space during the member’s Grand Opening
- Consultation services on new activity development, volunteer management, visitor engagement, history of invention, and much more
- Access to Lemelson Center historians, Spark!Lab activity designers, new media specialists, and partnership management professionals
- Facilitated relationships with other Network members, including teleconferences and video chats
- Two (2) in-person site visits per contract year, including customized professional development training based on the member’s need
The Lemelson Center approaches all Network memberships as reciprocal relationships. As such, Network members will be responsible for the following:
- Quarterly reporting of Spark!Lab updates
- Liaising with Lemelson Center staff in a timely manner to gain approval of new activities
- Liaising with Lemelson Center staff on use of Smithsonian branding, logos, and names, as well as general Spark!Lab promotion
- Active participation in the Network community, including responding to inquiries and requests from other Network members
- Participating in regular check-ins with the Spark!Lab National Network Manager
To request further information on how you can bring Spark!Lab to your community, contact Tricia Edwards, Head of Education at EdwardsT@si.edu.