Jul 02, 2015 - 12:30pm

Smithsonian Taps Into American Innovation


Former Communications Intern

Former Staff Assistant, Communications

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Long before the iPhone, there was the Apple "Classic" Macintosh personal computer. Photo credit: Amanda Trcka

American innovation is on display every day, whether you are picking up a telephone, opening a refrigerator or logging in to your computer. But now it is on exhibit – at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

The museum’s new American Enterprise wing, which highlights ingenuity and its effect on everyday life, opened on Wednesday after years of planning and construction.

The interactive exhibit occupies 45,000 square feet and showcases more than 70 objects, ranging from old patent models to the original Apple computer. Other highlights include John Deere’s plow, Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephones and Barbara McClintock’s microscope.

The wing's opening included performances from two thoroughly American music genres: jazz and hip hop. After the official ribbon cutting, attendees were encouraged to participate in cutting more ribbons in individual sections of the exhibit and building a giant American flag out of Legos.

“American Enterprise chronicles the tumultuous interaction of capitalism and democracy that resulted in the continual remaking of American business—and American life,” according to museum literature. “It traces the development of the United States from a small dependent agricultural nation to one of the world's largest economies.”

David Allison, associate director of the office of curatorial affairs with the Smithsonian, said the exhibit focuses on what is different about American business and how that impacts consumers. Democracy and capitalism play an important role in innovation, with a direct impact on American lives.

“We want to get young people excited about this stuff,” he said.

Along with telling the American story, the museum is hoping to inspire the next generation of inventors with its new wing. One section, Draper Spark!Lab, allows visitors to experience innovation and business through hands-on activities. It helps kids learn about the inventive process and how products are made, as well as highlighting biographies of notable inventors.

American business has always set itself apart, and now the Smithsonian is bringing that innovation to life. So what differentiates American business? Visit the new American Enterprise Exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History to find out.

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More than 70 objects, ranging from old patent models to this early cash register, occupy the new wing’s 45,000 square feet of space. Photo credit: Amanda Trcka

About the Authors

About the Author

Former Communications Intern

About the Author

Former Staff Assistant, Communications