Highlights from our rotating collection of special exhibitions.

Museum Exhibits

Gallery of Icons

This exhibit shares fascinating tales behind the more than 500 National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees, amazing men and women responsible for conceiving among the most recognizable and widely used inventions of our time.

Familiar names include the prolific Thomas Edison, who filed more than 1,000 patents, including the electric light bulb; the high-flying Wright Brothers, who successfully piloted the first powered aircraft; and the brilliant George Washington Carver, who famously developed crop-rotation methods for conserving nutrients in soil and discovered hundreds of new uses for crops such as the peanut and sweet potato.

Of course, modern-day luminaries including Apple visionary Steve Jobs feature prominently in the Gallery of Icons, as do lesser-known – though hugely influential – inventors like Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf, who created the architecture for the Internet you’re using right now!

Intellectual Property Power

What is intellectual property? How can patents and trademarks shape a culture? How do inventions impact society? Our Intellectual Property PowerTM exhibit answers those questions and more on a trip that puts you behind the lens, in the driver’s seat, and blazing down the information superhighway.

Sponsored by Ford Motor Company, Qualcomm and in partnership with the George Eastman Museum, Intellectual Property PowerTM focuses on the stories of three iconic brands and the revolutionary inventions that made them global phenomena.

Step into the driver’s seat of a custom-designed 1965 Ford Mustang merged with a 2015 Ford Mustang to get a firsthand view into how far automotive design and technology has come in 50 years – and what the next half-century may bring for the automobile. It’s been a wild ride since the days of Hall of Fame Inductee Henry Ford’s Model T.

See how the patents of Hall of Fame Inductees George Eastman, Steve Sasson, and Eric R. Fossum changed the way we see the world. Get a full picture of the progression and development of the camera and interact with cultural touchstones of imaging history, thinking about your own most-treasured photos and what they mean to you.

Just as a world without photos is unfathomable, it’s hard to imagine life without your smartphone – but in 1990, when Hall of Fame Inductee and Qualcomm co-founder Dr. Irwin M. Jacobs told an audience, “We are here because someday, everyone will have their own phone number,” such a device was still a fantasy. Interactive displays within the Intellectual Property PowerTM exhibit illustrate how a connected world came together through the power of technology – and what it means for the world of tomorrow.

2018 Inductees

Each year, the National Inventors Hall of Fame, in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, recognizes a class of Inductees – whose innovations and inventions have impacted the world we live in – by bringing their incredible contributions to life in a new exhibit. The 2018 Class includes such visionaries as Stan Honey, inventor of Sports Broadcast Graphic Enhancements; Sumita Mitra, inventor of Nanocomposite Dental Materials; and Joseph C. Shivers, Jr., inventor of LYCRA® Fiber (Spandex). View the full 2018 Class


Interactive Kiosks

Trademarks are all around us in the form of colors, characters, slogans and logos. Each day, we encounter an estimated 1,500 trademarks for some of the world’s most well-known brands. Through continuous exposure, we’ve learned to correlate various cues with name-brand companies and products. The intellectual property protections of patents and trademarks have helped power these companies to become the most well-known on the planet.

Our interactive kiosks put your patent and trademark knowledge to the test. Match some of the most iconic characters, colors and sounds to their respective brands. After acing the test, find out what inventor superpower you have, by answering questions that align you with one of our superhero National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees.


Visionary Veterans

Twenty-five National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) Inductees sought the experience of life on the sea, serving in the United States Navy during peace and wartime, at home and abroad.

Presented in this exhibit are the stories of five NIHF Inductee Navy Veterans. Whether they joined for freedom, opportunity, challenge or duty, they emerged from the Navy with a unique set of experiences that undoubtedly influenced their future inventions and shaped our country.

Lewis Latimer was the child of escaped slaves who lied about his age in order to join the Union Navy during the Civil War. He later worked with Thomas Edison and invented durable carbon filament that made incandescent lighting practical.

Frank Sprague, a prolific inventor known as the “father of electric traction” for his work on all types of electric transportation, served in the Navy following his graduation from the United States Naval Academy in 1878. His later contributions to the Navy included serving on the Naval Consulting Board as a civilian both during and post-World War I.

Leroy Grumman invented retractable landing gear and folding-wing technology with direct applications for the Navy.  A veteran of World War I, he is best-known for his eponymous company that produced Navy Hellcat planes, widely credited as a key factor in winning the war in the Pacific Theater in World War II.

Maxime Faget served on a submarine during World War II, but he shifted his sights from the sea to the sky following the war. Working for NASA, he designed the Mercury space capsule and conceived and designed the space shuttle.

Lloyd Conover put his college studies on hold to join the Navy in 1943. Within a decade of his wartime experiences on a tank landing ship in the Pacific, Conover was granted the patent for tetracycline, a broad-spectrum antibiotic that is still widely used today.