Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center Launches Design Challenge with The Tech Virtual

Project Will Use Second Life to Seek Exhibit Prototypes from the Public
April 30, 2010
News Release

The Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation today launched a collaborative design project with The Tech Virtual at the The Tech Museum in San Jose, Calif. With a series of design challenges hosted by The Tech Virtual, the Lemelson Center invites the public to develop and prototype design concepts for the center’s next exhibition, tentatively titled “Places of Invention.”

“Places of Invention” will focus on hot spots of invention—areas where a critical mass of inventive people, networks, institutions and resources converge and creativity flourishes. The design project will simultaneously foster a dialogue about hot spots of invention and contribute to a new, participatory model for doing museum work. The Tech Virtual is a new approach to creating invention and science-based exhibit content for museums using the virtual world of Second Life as a platform for content development, allowing the Lemelson Center to collect fresh ideas and use the most innovative tools available.

“The Lemelson Center’s mission to foster and advance innovation starts at home,” said Arthur Molella, director of the center. “The partnership with The Tech Virtual not only allows us to build interest around the ways that place shapes the inventive process but also to live our mission by developing our exhibitions and programs through creative and innovative collaborations.”

The public can contribute work in three categories: design an interactive exhibit space that allows museum visitors to model their own place of invention, design an activity that encourages museum visitors to practice collaboration or use a virtual environment or other design tools to model the contributor’s own place of invention. For design briefs and more information, visit

Submissions Guidelines
Submissions must include at least a two-paragraph text description and at least four digital images to document the project. Contributors may use any tool, digital or non-digital, to document and illustrate ideas—the use of Second Life is not required. All materials should be posted to the “Places of Invention” project page on The Tech Virtual website by June 30. Contributors will receive ongoing feedback from museum staff and those who complete contributions in Second Life—a professional, collaborative prototyping tool—can participate in weekly design forums hosted in Second Life.

Notable entries may be featured on the Lemelson Center’s website. The most compelling contributions, as judged by the center, may be developed further by museum staff for inclusion in the physical “Places of Invention” exhibition. Contributions may generate new content, questions, designs and ideas that will help shape the Lemelson Center’s exhibition planning process.

The Tech Museum is a hands-on technology and science museum for people of all ages and backgrounds. The museum—located in Silicon Valley—is a non-profit learning resource established to engage people in exploring and experiencing technologies affecting their lives. The Tech Museum launched The Tech Virtual in December 2007. For more information, visit

The Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center is dedicated to exploring invention in history and encouraging inventive creativity in young people. The center is supported by The Lemelson Foundation, a private philanthropy established by one of the country’s most prolific inventors, Jerome Lemelson, and his family. The Lemelson Center is located in the National Museum of American History. For more information, visit

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