The Travel to Collections Awards Program supports research on the history of invention and innovation based on the holdings of the Museum’s Archives Center and curatorial divisions. The Archives Center holds more than 20,000 feet of archival materials. The collections are particularly strong in personal papers and business records documenting the history of American enterprise and technology.

Since 1995 the Lemelson Center has supported oral and video documentation of contemporary inventors and inventions such as the SmartLevel, a high-tech electronic level, the Gerber Cutter, a computer controlled fabric cutter invented by H. Joseph Gerber, the Sendzimir “Z” Mill for cold rolling steel invented by Tadeusz Sendzimir, and the windsurfer invented by S. Newman Darby.

To encourage use of its invention-related collections, the Lemelson Center offers short-term travel awards. Awards are $150 per day for 10 business days (Monday-Friday) maximum. No additional funds will be granted for travel. The travel award may be used to cover transportation and living expenses, and copying pertinent archival resources. All funds awarded are subject to tax and non-U.S. applicants should inquire about visa status and tax implications. Scholars, graduate students, and independent researchers not residing or attending school within commuting distance of the National Museum of American History may apply for this program. Awards may not be used to extend other Smithsonian appointments. Only one award can be offered to a visitor within a twelve-month period.

Recipients must commence their research at the National Museum of American History within one year of being notified of the award. Recipients are requested to submit a short report on their research at the National Museum of American History. Edited versions of or excerpts from these reports may be used in the Lemelson Center’s publications. Recipients also are asked to provide the Center with a copy of any publication resulting from research conducted as a result of the award. Decisions are made on the basis of recommendation and review by the Smithsonian staff.

The Application Process

Applications must be received by 11:59 p.m., EST, on January 15, 2013.

Applicants must apply using the Smithsonian online application system.

Please be aware that complete applications must include the following:

  • application form;
  • current curriculum vitae or resume;
  • bibliography of relevant secondary sources;
  • statement of purpose summarizing their project and detailing why the Archives Center’s collections are essential to their research;
  • list of specific collections or resources to be consulted (visit the main archives page to search online finding aids for invention-related collections at the Archives Center).

Applicants must consult with the Travel Award Coordinator prior to submitting a proposal. Awards will be announced within two weeks of receiving the application materials.

To request information about the Archives Center’s invention-related holdings contact Alison L. Oswald at: 202.633.3726. More information about Smithsonian collections and staff can be found on the following web sites:

For more information, contact:

Travel to Collections Awards Program
Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation
National Museum of American History, Room 1210, MRC 604
Smithsonian Institution
P.O. Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012
Tel: (202) 633-3450
Fax: (202) 633-4593

Meet past Travel to Collections award recipients »