Lemelson Center receives $2.6 million grant for informal science education

A child using a sailboard simulator at the Lemelson CenterThe Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation recently received a grant of $2.6 million from the National Science Foundation to support informal science education through the center’s “Places of Invention” exhibition project.

Images right and below: Children participate in hands-on activities at the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.

“Places of Invention,” a planned 3,500-square-foot exhibition at the National Museum of American History scheduled to open in 2014, will feature a selection of “hot spots” of invention and innovation—places where a critical mass of inventive people, networks, institutions, funding and other resources come together and creativity flourishes. Focusing on the mid-19th century to the present, each exhibition area will have hands-on experiences based on inventive skill-building and illustrating the ways that place and social collaboration shape the inventive process.

A child playing a puzzle game at the Lemelson Center“Scholars and the public have long been interested in the physical spaces and geographic locations that foster invention and innovation,” said Arthur Molella, director of the center. “This grant allows us to bring these stories to the public after years of work by the center in researching these ‘hot spots.’ We look forward to embarking on this next step.”

Plans include an “invent town” activity area within the exhibition where visitors can interact with each other, exchanging ideas and practicing skills; a website; and collaboration with Smithsonian Affiliate museums. Visitors to the museum and the website will be invited to add hometown stories of creative activities and share inventive designs. “Places of Invention” represents a new model in exhibition design where content is co-created in a collaborative manner by the center, professional partners and the public.

The Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center is dedicated to exploring invention in history and encouraging inventive creativity in young people. The center is supported by The Lemelson Foundation, a private philanthropy established by one of the country’s most prolific inventors, Jerome Lemelson, and his family. The Lemelson Center is located in the National Museum of American History. For more information, visit http://invention.smithsonian.org.

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