Week 4: National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum


From Invent Now’s website: Invent Now looks for new and creative ways to spread the inventive spirit, developing a range of creative products, programs and innovative partnerships that emphasize the importance of invention in society. Invent Now includes a design studio and creative team that develops and operates collaborative programs with strategic partners such as the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Invent Now is the organization that runs the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum; the United States Patent and Trademark Office headquarters house this museum space.

National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum

Currently on exhibit is Exercising Ingenuity: Inventions in Health and Fitness, which highlights innovations in medicine, sporting equipment, and other health products. Some of these products are still used today, while others have been replaced by more sound developments.

When I saw a mannequin poised in the position of rock climbing and wearing gear for this activity, I immediately thought of my sister. Soon, it became a game in my head as I walked around the exhibit: find something representing each member of my family (running shoes for my dad… Gatorade for my brother… a picture of Jack LaLanne’s dog for my dog…).

I invented this scavenger hunt for me (and my camera) just for fun, but a little game like this is also a reminder of the need for museums to make connections with their visitors. Museums have exhibits made comprised of objects, text, and other components. Visitors bring their own histories and interests when they visit. A successful museum visit is one in which something the visitor cares about meets something the museum offers.

This particular museum has several objects that today’s visitors will find relevant. People today are still drinking Gatorade, for example. Other objects are historical versions of things we have today: Dr. John Kellogg’s vibrating chair looks like a hard-backed precursor to modern massage chairs. Then there are obsolete inventions. One sign describes the haphazard, unregulated medicines on the market before passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906.

The exhibit not only promotes the perennially worthwhile topic of innovation, but also wellness and exercise. One display shows examples of US presidents exercising and promoting exercise. A television monitor shows video of presidents engaging in athletic activity.

There is also the Hall of Fame itself, listing all the inventors who have been inducted, along with a gallery of portraits of the most recent inductees. The gift shop section sells inventive items, including a gadget that makes the sound of a cat meowing when you push a button as well as books about some of the more important things that have been invented.

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November’s blog theme is Museums Versus the Problems of the World.

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About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
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