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For A Better Tomorrow: Why You Should Visit The Lemelson Center

(Image courtesy of the Smithsonian)

Studying history enables a person to understand past intentions and current recuperations. As a history major, I traveled to distant lands and times, all in the comfort of either Engineering Building I, Nicholson School of Media, or Classroom Building I. But, my love of history did not begin in college. One of my first memories was when I was six years old. In 2004, The Smithsonian Museum of American History was restoring The Star-Spangled Banner. The Star-Spangled Banner inspired Francis Scott Key to write the United State's national anthem (Smithsonian,2021). For more information about the flag, please go to

Historians would painstakingly go stitch by stitch, returning The Star-Spangled Banner to its original state. I remember feeling in awe of the universal respect given to the historians and the flag. In an era before cell phones enabled people to be "professional documentarians," people from all different backgrounds just stopped and watched. At six, I recognized but did not comprehend the magnitude of that moment. It was a moment where we were all present.

(Image: Places of Invention, an exhibition from the Lemelson Center. Smithsonian photo)

The Smithsonian continues to allow people to learn in engaging ways. At the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the National Museum of American History, staff empowers individuals of all ages to create tomorrow's solutions. I had the chance to speak with Laura H., Public Affairs Specialist, to learn more about the center.

1. What do you do?

I work for the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, located inside the National Museum of American History. The Center is located in the American History Museum because the late Jerome Lemelson, a prolific American inventor with more than 600 patents, funded programs to encourage young people to pursue careers in invention and entrepreneurship, and to foster greater awareness and appreciation of inventors and invention in the United States.

We study invention from an American angle. As a result of our location, we’re able to use some of the Museum’s exhibit space and access their vast collections. The Center is composed of a team of historians, curators, educators, and I handle the marketing duties on the team. We primarily study patents, invention stories, and operate a hands-on invention space called Spark!Lab. Spark!Lab is designed for kids ages six-twelve to think about inventive solutions through creative play.

(Image courtesy of The Lemelson Center. Smithsonian photo)

2. Who are some of the big American inventors that you find based on your work some really impactful in today's life?

We have a current exhibition about women inventors called Picturing Women Inventors. When you think of American inventors, you think of Thomas Edison or Alexander Graham Bell; we want to show how the United States has a rich history of women inventors. For example, Marilyn Hamilton invited the Quickie wheelchair. When she was younger, she loved participating in extreme sports. One day she was in a terrible hang-gliding accident that left her paralyzed. Hamilton was not ready to quit her active lifestyle. Instead of resigning to fate, she and some friends developed a lightweight wheelchair, called the Quickie, using hang gliding materials. She went on to win National Wheelchair Tennis Singles and Doubles Championships with her Quickie wheelchair.

(Image courtesy of The Lemelson Center. Smithsonian photo)

3. What are the lessons that young professionals can learn from the center?

Our primary mission is to empower everybody with the knowledge that they are inventive. People can take away important lessons from inspiring invention stories to get a new perspective on things you encounter every day. It boils down to practicing your creativity. I think it's so important to know you have the competence and confidence to create solutions. Inventing is the art of finding solutions to problems.

(Video courtesy of The Lemelson Center)

4. What are some ways that you at home you can become more inventive?

I would say, look around and think of the issues that you are experiencing at any level. Maybe your sink isn't working, or you can't find your clicker. It's about finding a different way to accomplish a task that is easier and better. It's about not accepting the status quo as the solution to the problem.

5. What is the future of the center?

We are currently preparing for events and programs for 2022. Our award-winning Innovative Lives spring series begins in February. In April we will be hosting the ACCelerate Creativity + Innovation Festival, a celebration of science, engineering, arts and design featuring projects designed by students and faculty of participating Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) schools.

(Video courtesy of The Lemelson Center)


Me on my first day of graduate school

Rachel Huss

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