On February 3, Hillman students from Montgomery College and Prince George’s Community College gathered at the National Museum of American History to explore the new and extensive exhibition called “American Enterprise.” This exhibit looks at entrepreneurship and innovation throughout American history and across geographies to explore the question of “what makes an inventor or an invention successful?” There is nothing quite like a roam through America’s attic of fascinating inventions! The exhibit, developed in partnership with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office includes almost 8,000 square feet of items and explanations and activities to help visitors explore invention in the U.S., starting in the mid 1700’s all the way to the present.
In addition to a guided tour, students met with Jeffrey Brodie, Deputy Director at the Smithsonian Institution’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, to reflect on the exhibit in terms of what characteristics inventors and entrepreneurs share and what leads one invention to success and another to the dirt heap of discarded ideas. Since coming to the Smithsonian in 1989, Jeff has served as a historian at the National Museum of American History and the National Postal Museum. He holds a Ph.D. in history and is interested in the impact of evolving technologies used to disseminate information in society. His expertise and enthusiasm helped to frame an almost exhaustive experience at the museum and encouraged students to go back and get a second (and third) look before returning home.
Experiences like this one help the aspiring entrepreneur to find his or her place in the universe of invention and the role they can play in shaping their society and our world. Favorite exhibits include ones on big business, mass production, the stock market, and the music industry, and the failed talking doll invented by Thomas Edison (see the strange image to the left)!