There’s help for people that want to know about the beginnings of the bread slicer, the creation of the corn picker or the makings of the matchstick. A new database from the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation will show the public where to find these and thousands of other invention-related documents and collections. Created by the Lemelson Center, the MIND (Modern Inventors Documentation) database identifies the invention-related holdings of hundreds of archives across the United States and is the nation’s first database devoted exclusively to such documents.
Invention-related collections in the database cover a variety of subjects, with many from medical, consumer, scientific, household and legal fields. With more than 1,600 records when it debuted in May, it is continuing to grow as more archives, museums, libraries and historical societies report the contents of their invention-related collections to the Smithsonian for inclusion in the MIND database. Records can be searched by subject, inventor name, collection title or repository name. Users simply submit a key word to search and if the invention is in the database it will note what materials exist about the invention, which museum, archive or library holds the collection, and how to contact them for more details.
Easily accessed online, teachers can use the MIND database as a resource to help teach students how to conduct historical research. Scholars can use it as a “first stop” in locating historical documents about invention. “Collections dealing with invention are fragmented but the MIND database brings them together,” said Lemelson Center director Art Molella. “Now you can just as easily find a collection documenting the invention of a small butter churn as you can find records on Thomas Edison.” To access the MIND database or learn how those with relevant collections can contribute information about their holdings, visit invention.smithsonian.org/MIND.
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