The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention & Innovation
Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, Smithsonian Beanie Illustration
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Research Opportunities

The Lemelson Center furthers professional development in the history of invention through fellowships, travel to collections awards, and archival internships. Above: Workshop participants go behind-the-scenes in the NMAH costume and textile collections. Smithsonian photo by Rick Vargas.
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Fellowships | Travel to collections awards | Archival internships

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Lemelson Center Travel to Collections Award Recipients, 1999 - present

Francesca Ammon (2013), University of Pennsylvania
Ammon examined the Bobcat Company Records, Smithsonian Institution Library Trade Literature, and other construction-related collections for her research on “Culture of Clearance: Waging War on the Landscape in Postwar America.” The decades following World War II are well known as an era of rapid American growth and construction; they were equally significant for the celebration and implementation of large-scale destruction. In “Culture of Clearance,” Ammon focuses on tractors, scrapers, and bulldozers as earthmoving technology.

Reggie Blaszczyk (2013), University of Leeds
Blaszczyk examined the history of invention and innovation in the synthetic fiber industry, asking broad questions about discovery, novelty, innovation, and the social meaning of materials. Blaszczyk used the Maid of Cotton of Records.

Alejandra Bronfman (2012), University of British Columbia
Alejandra Bronfman used the George Clark Collection of Radioana and the Western Union Telegraph Company Records for her forthcoming book project, Talking Machines: Assembled Media and Publics in the Caribbean. Bronfman examines the history of the implementation of telecommunications technologies in the Caribbean and the unwritten histories of radio and related sonic technologies.

Wendy Chun (2005), Brown University
Chun used a variety of computer-related archival collections for research on her book Programmed Visions: Software, DNA, Race. In her book, Chun argues that race and software precipitate both a frenzy of visual literacy and a decline in visual knowledge.

Laura Claridge (2007), independent writer
Claridge examined the Earl Tupper Papers for a forthcoming book on inventor Earl Tupper.

Carlotta Daro (2010), McGill University
Daro examined the Western Union Telegraph Records, the Anglo American Telegraph Company Records, and the George H. Clark Collection of Radioana for her work “Networked Cities: The Impact of Telecommunications Technologies on Urban Theories, 1880-1939.” Daro examined the infrastructures of telecommunications such as the electricity pole, the cable, the antenna, and the transmission tower as universal icons that crisscross the earth’s surface. These physical markers helped structure fundamental changes in everyday life: first, by creating networks for instant communication on a global scale, thereby collapsing perceptions of distance and speed; and second, as equipment around which cities would be rebuilt, thus giving rise to new ways of imagining and conditioning space in the metropolis.

Carrie Eisert (2009), Princeton University
Carrie Eisert from Princeton University examined the Wagner Collection in the Division of Medicine and Science and the Syntex Collection in the Archives Center for her research on the psychological conceptions of oral contraceptive patients in the United States in the 1960s. Eisert focused on David Wagner’s process of conceptualizing, designing, and patenting his design for the Dialpak, the first pill package designed specifically to help patients remember to take their pills correctly.  Additionally, Eisert delved into how conceptions of the patient presented in the psychiatry research relate to the way patients were presented in Dialpak rhetoric and advertising.

Jane Farrell-Beck (2002), Iowa State University
Author of the book Uplift: the Bra in America, Farrell-Beck continued her research on the manufacturer’s role in the marketing of brassieres and girdles to adolescent girls. She used primarily the Maidenform Collection, Seventeen, and Cover Girl Collections.

Marti Frank (2006), Harvard University
Frank explored the adoption of one of the century’s most important technologies by one of its most important industries: the steam engine and New England textile mills. Frank made use of the trade literature collection in the National Museum of American History library, the Archives Center, and the Division of Work & Industry.

Brian Frehner (2013), Oklahoma State University
Frehner used the Serge Scherbatskoy Papers for research on the history of geophysical oil exploration, a practice that originated primarily in Oklahoma and Texas from 1920 to 1960. Scherbatskoy was a pivotal inventor and practioner in the field of exploration geophysics as it emerged and evolved throughout the twentieth-century. His background and contributions made him a unique and important figure in the oil industry at the time. Frehner’s work will contribute to a museum exhibit being built in collaboration with the Society of Exploration Geophysicists as well as an article.

Dana Freiburger (2000), University of Wisconsin, Madison
Exploring the early tracking devices used for wildlife research and their related technologies, Freiburger examined the George H. Clark “Radioana” Collection for initial work done in radio locating. Specifically, he sought details related to the invention of the first transistor radios since early practical wildlife radio equipment used this device.

Dana Freiburger (2013), University of Wisconsin, Madison
Freiburger explored “The Rise and Fall of the Chicken Breast Meter,” a tool developed in the late 1940s by American agriculturalists to determine the breast angle of meat-type chickens. Freiburger focused on collection materials held in the Division of Work & Industry related to John E. Weidlich, an accomplished chicken breeder. He examined instruments developed by Weidlich to better understand and explain how and why American chicken producers turned to science in pursuit of a better bird. The project looks at food-related scientific instrumentation as well as the chicken breast meter’s failure.

Cheryl Ganz (2000), University of Illinois, Chicago
Ganz explored the role of inventions at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair for her dissertation. She traced the relationship of inventions to the fair organizers’ and exhibitors’ idea of progress from the first stages of the development of an exhibit all the way to its installation by corporate sponsors. She examined the S.C. Gilfillan papers and Warshaw Collection located at the Archives Center, and other archival and library materials at the National Air and Space Museum and the Archives of American Art.

Martha Gardner (2014), Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Gardner examined the Cover Girl Make-Up Advertising Oral History and Documentation Project and the Sterling Drug, Inc. Records for a forthcoming book proposal on "Germicidal Gold Rush": The Use of Hexachlorophene in Hospital and Home Products. Through these collections, Gardener analyzed hexachlorophene, a synthesized chemical compound and germicide to better understand its original synthesis, its marketing and use in both hospital and consumer products, perceptions of both its effectiveness and its risks, the regulatory environment, medical environment, and consumer environment in which it was couched.

Evan Glasson (2008), The New School
Glasson examined the Western Union Telegraph Company Records in order to analyze telegrams from the perspective of poetry. Glasson analyzed the messages’ diction, syntax, punctuation, brevity, urgency, whimsicality, and often deeply-felt emotional content. Glasson found evidence to support his hypothesis that the telegraph allowed people to send messages that, like the best poems, needed to communicate, and the economical language that was born out of the invention presents a dichotomy of clarity and mystery essential to poetry.

Graeme Gooday (2006), Leeds University
Gooday examined the William J. Hammer Collection to compare and contrast one individual’s creative experience of electrification in the United States, France, Germany, and Britain from 1880 to 1900. This research will contribute to his monograph Domesticating Electricity: Risk, Gender and Expertise in Late Nineteenth Century Culture.

Aimi Hamraie, Emory University (2012)
Hamraie used a variety of collections related to universal design (Ronald Mace Collection, Milton K.Wirtz, D.D.S., Artificial Eye Collection, Safko International, Inc., Records, Accessible Snowboard Collection, and Harriett Green Kopp Papers) for her project “What Can Universal Design Know? Scientific Research About Bodies in Disability-Accessible Design, 1968-Present.” Hamraie looked at the role of scientific knowledge production in accessible design and in the invention of assistive technologies through the movement Universal Design (UD).

David Hanlon (2010), St. Louis Community College
Hanlon studied components of the Draper Family Collection in the Archives Center and early photographic examples in the Photographic History Collection for his work “Recording Light on Paper.” He concentrated upon the writings and images created by John William Draper (1811-1882), with special attention given to his use of light-sensitive material within his experiments.

Laurie Kahn-Leavitt (1999), independent filmmaker
Why plastic? Laurie Kahn-Leavitt asked this question and more when she researched the Leo Baekeland and Earl Tupper Papers, the Celluloid Corporation Records, the J. Harry DuBois Collection of the History of Plastics, the Plastics Pioneer Association interviews, and the Warshaw Collection for a one-hour documentary film Plastics: A Cultural History. Kahn-Leavitt’s documentary evolved into Tupperware and was broadcast on PBS as part of the American Experience in 2004. Her film won a Peabody Award.

Ivan Katchanovski (2007), University of Toronto
Katchanovski examined the Computer Oral History Collection for a book-length project on the “Puzzle in the Invention and Patenting of the Electronic Computer in the United States.”

Shaul Katzir (2004), Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The notebooks in the Walter G. Cady papers were the subject of Shaul Katzir’s research. Cady’s notebooks contain information relating to the early application of piezoelectricity and his invention of the piezoelectric resonator. Katzir looked at the shift of piezoelectricity from pure to applied science.

Pagan Kennedy (2002), author and freelance journalist
Kennedy made use of the extensive computer history archives to research a general nonfiction book titled The Computer Wore Pearls. Using the Grace Murray Hopper papers, Kennedy hoped to show how the female mind helped shape the most important technological leap of the 20th century.

Cynthia Liu (2006, 2007), independent filmmaker
Liu, an independent writer-filmmaker with Tears in Rain Productions, conducted research for a feature-length documentary about the Filipino American roots of the yo-yo. Liu made use of the Duncan Family Yo-Yo Collection.

Bernadette Longo (2003), University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Edmund Berkley, an early computer popularizer and founder of the Association for Computing Machinery was the focus of Longo’s research. She used a wide variety of computer-related collections for her biography of Berkley.

Allison Marsh (2011), University of South Carolina
Marsh used a variety of collections in the Archives Center (N W Ayer Advertising Agency Records, Underwood & Underwood Glass Stereograph Collection, and Warshaw Collection of Business Americana) and the Smithsonian Libraries, as well as artifacts from the Division of Work and Industry for her forthcoming exhibit, The Ultimate Vacation: Watching Other People Work. The exhibit explores the history of factory tours in America, focusing on three main industries (food, mail order and automotive). The exhibit shows the widespread popularity of industrial tourism from the 1890s to the present day and seeks to show how innovative ideas of industrious leaders transform consumer society.

David Nofre Mateo (2010), University of Amsterdam
Nofre Mateo examined the early attempts to promote the exchange of computer programs by bringing to a halt the proliferation of programming languages. Specifically, his project takes the programming language ALGOL (for algorithmic language) as a lens to explore the first decade of programming language development. Nofre Mateo consulted The Computer Standards Collection, SHARE Records, Paul Armer Collection, SHARE Numerical Analysis Project Records, John Clifford Shaw Papers as well as materials held in the Division of Information, Technology, and Communication for his project, “Learning to live with Babel: rethinking the early history of programming languages, 1958-1968.”

Alexis McCrossen (2002), Harvard University
McCrossen used her travel award to support research for her book Marking Modern Times, which deals with the ownership and distribution of mechanical timepieces between the Civil War and World War I. She made use of the E. Howard Clock Collection and the James Arthur Collection of watch and clock repair manuals, and she surveyed the Division of History of Technology’s pocket watches and tower and clock movements.

John McVey (2003), Montserrat College of Art
McVey studied the ways in which telegraph code books were conceived and organized; how they were used; how they affected telegraphic expression; their relationship to other linguistic, literary, and even philosophical developments of their time; and the semantic nature of user-side data compression in the age of telegraphy. McVey made use of code books and telegrams from the Western Union Telegraph Company Records.

Ben Miller (2009), Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Miller used the Ralph Baer and Semi Joseph Begun Papers for his current research War Engineers Peace which examines communication technologies. Specifically, Miller looked at Baer's work in electrical engineering and munitions training, and the relationship forged therein between martial and information technologies while his use of the Begun papers explored how magnetic recording as a technology advanced from a wire-based curiosity to the indispensable medium of contemporary recording today.

John Miller (2013), Georgia Institute of Technology
Miller examined the complex dynamics of technological innovations that influenced strategic and tactical decision-making by military leaders of the Civil War. His research centered on one of the less frequently examined command and control elements: the electro-magnetic telegraph. Miller used the Western Union Telegraph Company Records, the Baltimore and Ohio Records, and the Warshaw Collection of Business Americana.

Nicholaas Mink (2010), University of Wisconsin, Madison
Mink’s research focused on better understanding the maturation of the restaurant franchise system from the 1920s to the present and understanding it as an integral part of American business, cultural, technological and food history. Mink consulted the Carvel Ice Cream Records, Coon Chicken Inn Scrapbooks, Horn and Hardart Company Records, Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation Records, A. Bernie Wood Papers, and the library’s trade literature collection for his dissertation, "A Technological, Cultural, and Culinary Analysis of the Development of Restaurant Franchising."

Eric Nystrom (2013), Rochester Institute of Technology
Nystrom explored the invention of coal mining machinery in America before World War Two, and the re-construction of that history of innovation through efforts to document and collect it for the Museum of History and Technology (now the National Museum of American History) in the early 1960s. Nystrom consulted documents and artifacts pertaining to the invention of coal mining machinery that were collected for the museum by retired coal machinery manufacturing executive J.D.A. Morrow from 1959-1963. Nystrom consulted the Charles O. Houston curatorial files, which are part of the records of the Division of Work and Industry, National Museum of American History, as well as the Smithsonian Libraries Trade Literature Collection containing coal mining machinery catalogs.

Jeff Opt (2001), National Cash Register Archives
Opt, an archivist for the National Cash Register (NCR) archives at the Montgomery County Historical Society of Dayton, Ohio, conducted research in the Computer Oral History Collection. Opt used specific oral histories that discussed NCR in preparation for an oral history project.

Emily Orr (2014), Royal College of Art/Victoria & Albert Museum
Orr used the Messmore & Damon Company Records, the Landy Hales Papers, the William Bird Holidays on Display Collection, and Smithsonian Libraries Trade Literature Collection for her forthcoming dissertation on “Dressing a New Interior: The Development of Department Store Display, 1880-1920.” Orr examines the rise of the department store in London, New York, and Chicago from the point of view of the window dressers, shop fitters, and mercantile interior decorators. Her research focuses on the specialist design strategy, fixtures, and technologies at work as important evidence of innovation and invention in the commercial retail sphere.

Rachel Plotnick (2011), Northwestern University
Plotnick conducted research in the N W Ayer Advertising Agency Records, J. Harry Dubois Collection on the History of Plastics, Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, and the William J. Hammer Collection for her dissertation, Media’s Middlemen: A History of Navigation from Tuning to Touch. Plotnick’s research explores three technologies—the radio, television and the computer—platforms that provide content and various modes of navigation to access that content. Plotnick aims to answer questions related to the historical relationship between touch and technology, issues surrounding consumer access to and control over media content, and evolving forms of navigation on material, social, and cultural levels.

Tara Rodgers (2009), McGill University
Exploring the history of sound media, Rodgers used the Analogue Music Synthesizer Oral History Project to for her dissertation research on Synthesis: A Feminist History of Synthesized Sound, 1945-1980.

Audrey Russek (2013), Gustavus Adolphus College
Russek explored technological innovations used by the U.S. restaurant industry in the first half of the twentieth century for her forthcoming book, Restaurant Orders: Controlling the Public Dining Environment in Modern America. Russek examined several collections, including the Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Smithsonian Institution Library Trade Literature, N W Ayer Advertising Agency Records, and Bennett Pottery Company Records.

Alexander Russo (2001), Brown University
Using primarily the George H. Clark “Radioana” Collection, Russo conducted research for his dissertation on the transition from network radio to network television, focusing on ways in which each medium affected the development of the other. Russo also used the Warshaw Collection, N.W. Ayer Advertising Collection, and the Kraft Foods Advertising Collection.

Kara Schlichting (2012), Rutgers University
Schlichting’s research examines innovations in suburban design and leisure spaces as part of the modernization of metropolitan planning from 1870 to 1940 in greater New York, the Bronx, and Queens, and bordering Westchester, Nassau, and Fairfield counties. Specifically, Schlichting’s research is a new interpretation of the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair as an exhibition of design and planning efforts that claimed to soothe concerns about urban environment with planning, architecture, and technological innovations designed for suburban living. Important implications for the histories of metropolitan growth and city and regional planning emerge from an analysis of the Fair and its exhibits as part of the story of twentieth-century innovations and invention. The Fair’s exhibits showcased ideas of modernity in the fields of science, technology, economics, architecture, and industrial and urban design. In imparting a sense of newness and innovation through its design and exhibits, the Fair presented the future as a time of newness, invention, and unlimited American potential for growth and accumulation. Schlichting consulted the Larry Zim World’s Fair Collection; the New York World’s Fair Collection, 1939; Division of Community Life World’s Fair Collection, 1876-1993; and the Edward J. Orth Memorial Archives of the World’s Fair, 1939-1940.

Peter Scott (2012), University of Reading
Scott used the George H. Clark Radioana Collection to study the innovation, productivity, and industrial structure in the United States radio equipment industry from 1920 to 1941.

Marsha Siefert (2006), Central European University
Siefert used the Western Union Telegraph Company Records for her current book project, a comparative history of telegraph systems in large land-based multicultural empires of Europe and Asia.

Anthony Silva (1999), independent researcher
Silva, a former Western Union employee, examined the history of labor management relations in the telegraph industry. Silva used the Western Union Telegraph Co. Records for research that resulted in an article titled “Dots, Dashes, and Tyranny,” published in Labors Heritage, vol. 11, no. 3, Spring/Summer 2001.

Ovidiu Tichindeleanu (2004), State University of New York, Binghamton
Tichindeleanu’s research focused on the historical and philosophical inquiry into meaning, symbols, and the mechanical transcription of sound in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His work contributes to the understanding of historical dimensions of sensorial perception and affectivity in the aftermath of the development of mechanical means of sensory transcription and reproduction. Tichindeleanu examined the William K. Applebaugh papers and the Charles Sumner Tainter Papers.

Shaun VanCour (2005), University of Wisconsin, Madison
VanCour conducted research in the George H. Clark “Radioana” Collection. His dissertation, "The Sounds of ‘Radio’: Technologies, Programming, and Production Practices of 1920s American Broadcasting," delineates the aesthetic parameters of early American broadcasting: the emergence of new technologies of sound reproduction, their use within the production practices of a new class of radio professionals, the programming forms and presentation styles that characterized the cultural output of this new field of broadcast radio, and the corresponding forms of cultural experience offered to radio’s growing audience of broadcast listeners.

Jennifer Way (2009), University of North Texas
Way examined the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) Records for further understanding of the post-1945 relationships of writing about technology and visual culture by researching the reception and use of the English-language version of Walter Benjamin's essay, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." Additionally, Way studied the Janese Swanson Innovative Lives Presentation video footage to advance a multimedia project "Women Art Technology."

Logan Williams (2011), Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute
Williams used the Patricia Bath Innovative Lives Presentation and Interview for her dissertation Moving Science from Below—NGOs Fighting Avoidable Blindness in South Asia and the United States. Williams research examines the circulation of innovation globally, in particular innovative surgical technologies, ophthalmic technologies and hospital operations management techniques that have been created to fight avoidable blindness around the world.

Paige Welch, Duke University (2012)
Welch examined records related to the 1997 exhibit, “Oil from the Arctic” for her work on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and the 1970s frontier. Welch focused on the intersection of environmentalism and pipeline engineering and the significance of technology to national identity.

Josh Wolff (2005), Columbia University
Exploring the Western Union Telegraph Company Records, Wolff examined the company’s status as the first private national monopoly in the U.S., highlighting the internal and external debates about the balance between property and civic responsibility and the power of the federal government to regulate innovation and industrial capital in the Gilded Age.

 

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Last Update: 25 Jul 2014

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