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Innovation and Invention: USPTO and Smithsonian Museum Partner in Exhibiting 'The Great American Hall of Wonders'

Kappos at podium

The exhibition, The Great American Hall of Wonders, examining the 19th-century American belief that the people of the United States shared a special genius for innovation, is now open at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. It is a collaborative effort between the museum and Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and explores six subjects – three natural resources, three man-made inventions – that helped shape America during this period: the buffalo, Giant Sequoia, Niagara Falls, the gun, the railroad and the clock. The exhibition will focus on the ways these six subjects brought together artistic, scientific and technological ways of seeing the world.

In addition to providing creative and technical assistance for development of the exhibition, the USPTO has played a part in the public program development by working with the museum to provide:  speakers for university level courses as well as inventors from the National Inventors’ Hall of Fame for a lecture series.   There will also be a day and a half long inventors symposium held at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the USPTO will take the lead in providing experts to address the many challenges facing independent inventors and entrepreneurs.

In the exhibition galleries, works of art are displayed in conversation with scientific and technological images and objects. The great innovations that took place during America’s Industrial Revolution evoke parallels with the new culture of creativity inspired by today’s Media Revolution.

On November 11, 2011, an exhibition featuring a unique display of patent models from the private collection of Alan Rothschild opens to the public at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The exhibition, Inventing a Better Mousetrap: Patent Models from the Rothschild Collection, will fascinate attendees as they view the unique models from early inventors.

The Great American Hall of Wonders is on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. from July 15, 2011, to January 8, 2012. More information about the exhibition can be found at, including audio podcasts, a slideshow of selected objects from the exhibition and information about free upcoming public events being held in conjunction with the exhibition.

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