Spotlight on invention at The Smithsonian

National Museum of American History, The Smithsonian

The Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. is famous for bringing together amazing and thought-provoking exhibitions. At the National Museum of American History, curators have gathered together the history of invention and the places that fostered innovation.

Opened earlier this month, the Places of Invention exhibition allows visitors to travel through time and place. The interactive displays allow people to get to know the inventors by seeing where they lived, where they worked and played, and who they collaborated with. The exhibit also looks intently at the risks, failures and successes of some of the most influential inventors of all time.

But this particular event focuses not so much on the inventors themselves, but where they invented their ground-breaking products. Museum organisers have asked the public “what kind of place stimulates creative minds and sparks a surge of invention and innovation?”

“The idea is that you can invent things with stuff you have in your own house,” said Tricia Edwards, an education specialist at the museum, to The Washington Post.

Or in the case of Velcro®, it may have been outside of the house. George De Mestral got the idea for Velcro® whilst on a hike in the woods in 1948. When he found several cockleburs caught in his clothes and his dog’s fur, the Swiss engineer began to think about how they attached themselves to everything. After viewing the burs under a microscope, he noticed the tiny hooks and barbs. The revelation led to the development of the world famous fastener.

Other places that are examined include precision manufacturing in Hartford, Connecticut in the late 1800s, the development of Technicolor in Hollywood, California during the 1930s, and the birth of hip-hop music in New York City in 1970s.

There are examinations into life-changing medical innovations, the creation of the personal computer and clean energy in Colorado.

More than just the collection of Smithsonian museums, Washington D.C. is home to some of America’s best known landmarks and tourist destinations. It is a popular stop on escorted tours in the USA.

Image Credit: Kārlis Dambrāns (