The National Museum of American History has many items in its collections that relate to invention and innovation. While you will probably not have time to visit and discuss them all during your trip to the museum, here is a list of resources that you can use later in your classroom. If you are arriving with a larger group, these can also be good places to visit while some of your group is waiting for their turn in Spark!Lab. For general information about the museum, visit americanhistory.si.edu.
In the 1 West Wing, home to Spark!Lab, there are many other exhibits related to invention and innovation, providing numerous opportunities to engage in interactive activities.
Places of Invention highlights regions in the US that fostered inventions and innovations through creativity, collaboration, problem-solving, and learning from mistakes.
Inventive Minds tells stories of inventors and innovators to increase our understanding of the invention process.
Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project demonstrates how people, innovative things, and social change shaped life as we know it.
American Enterprise takes you on a historical journey of inventions and innovations that transformed American businesses.
Ralph Baer's Workshop is an example of a place an inventor calls home.
Inventing in America focuses on patents and trademarks for inventions and innovators of the past and present.
1 East Wing traces major elements of transitions in American society. Invention and innovation are dispersed within these exhibits, highlighting the ways American life has benefitted from new discoveries.
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000 showcases the emergence of new technologies in the post-WWII era that impacted production and consumption of food in American society.
America on the Move explores the role of transportation in American history.
Lighting a Revolution takes you on a journey through the invention of the light bulb, as well as other notable inventions by Thomas Edison.
Power Machinery contains examples of machines that powered America in the Industrial Revolution.
INVENTION AND INNOVATION ACROSS THE MUSEUM
Every object in NMAH can be considered an invention or an innovation. As you view the objects on display, take note of how they relate to invention and innovation. Encourage critical thinking by asking probing questions:
- What problem(s) did the object solve?
- Does the problem(s) still continue today?
- What kinds of materials were used to invent the object?
- Has the form and design of the object changed since it was first created?
- Can you think of ways to improve the object to better fit today’s needs?
Keep your eyes open for other objects and exhibits related to invention and innovation around the museum! Click on the coffee lid below for some ideas!
Take your visit beyond the museum and explore our online resources. These are also helpful if you didn’t have a chance to visit some areas on your list.
Explore invention.si.edu to learn about inventors, their process, try-at-home challenges, book recommendations, and other fun resources!
See how objects at the National Museum of American History are used to describe the real-world application of the invention process with the Smithsonian Learning Lab’s Process of Invention Collection.
Explore the "DO Try This at Home" section of this website for fun invention ideas or take The Hub Challenge for the classroom or at home by clicking the link in the black box.
Check out lessons and activities, engage in interactive media, and learn about more resources at Smithsonian’s History Explorer.