The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History opened a whole new floor of innovation-themed exhibitions. One of the first things you’ll see is Ralph Baer’s video game invention lab. Baer thought TV sets should be interactive and created the first video game console for home use. It went on sale in 1972.
The museum opened its Innovation Wing July 1 with a celebration to inaugurate the 45,000-square-foot space featuring 12 exhibitions, learning galleries and program places all centered on the themes of
invention, business, and creativity.
The experience begins in the Johnson-Louis Gateway to Innovation where “Inventing in America,” in collaboration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, displays early patent models, trademarks and inventions of National Inventors Hall of Fame members.
Museum goers can go global in “American Enterprise” in the Mars Hall of American Business, with objects from George Washington’s tea chest to the cellphone belonging to Vint Cerf, recognized as one of the founders of the internet. In the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project, visitors consider everyday things that changed everything-such as the bicycle and refrigerator-through 250 objects displayed within a 9-by-40-foot sculpture.
“Our goal is to make history essential by presenting the compelling ideas and ideals of America and animating them through transformative experiences,” said John Gray, the museum’s director.
A vault door marks the new Gallery of Numismatics with its inaugural exhibition, “The Value of Money.” Opening in the Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Hall of Invention and Innovation are two exhibitions, “Places of Invention” and “Inventive Minds;” and kids ages 6-12 and their companions can engage in the invention process in “Draper Spark!Lab.”
Featuring more than 400 objects from the collection, including some of the rarest in the world, the “The Value of Money” will include a storied 1933 Double Eagle, a personal check signed by President James Madison in 1813, a 1934 $100,000 dollar note, and a depression-era one-dollar clam shell.
Almost 2,000 objects are featured throughout the galleries with 167 electronic and mechanical hands-on interactives. More than 800 programs are planned for the Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza during the opening year. The SC Johnson Conference Center is the hub of the museum’s professional development training and educational outreach to schools.