To ensure that the records of invention are preserved for the future, the Lemelson Center and the National Museum of American History Archives Center established the Modern Inventors Documentation (MIND) Program. Working directly with inventors, the MIND Program promotes the advancement and diffusion of knowledge about American inventors; acts as a clearinghouse for inventors seeking to preserve and donate their historical materials; identifies and preserves the papers and other historical materials of living inventors; promotes access to and use of this documentary record by scholars, students, and the public; and identifies inventors whose papers and artifacts have particular significance to the research and educational goals of the National Museum of American History.
About the MIND Database
Information in the database was drawn from many sources: Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN); Online Computer Library Center (OCLC); National Union Catalog of Manuscripts Collections (NUCMC); online catalogs for universities, colleges, historical societies, and other organizations; ArchiveGrid (a service of RLG); Sources in Electrical History 3: An International Guide to Corporate Records and Archives of Companies in Electrical, Electronics, and Computer Industries compiled by the IEEE, 1995; and A Directory of History of Medicine Collections, 9th edition, compiled by the National Library of Medicine, 1999. All database entries were sent to the appropriate repository for verification. In some instances, repositories submitted additional information on their holdings. The records reflect differing descriptive practices among repositories. Researchers seeking additional information should contact the repository.
Alison Oswald of the Lemelson Center staff researched and edited the original database entries with the assistance of Lemelson Center and Archives Center staff at the National Museum of American History. The database was designed by Interactive Knowledge of Charlotte, North Carolina.
The first of several planned expansion phases to include information on international archives with invention-related holdings in the MIND database began in 2008. Project staff investigated Canadian holdings that are appropriate for inclusion in the database; additions from other countries are welcome as well. Translations into English are encouraged. For further information on the MIND database or to submit corrections, contact archivist Alison Oswald at email@example.com.
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Contributing to the MIND Database
This MIND database is an ongoing project to gather and provide information about invention and technology collections in archives, libraries, historical societies, and museums. The database will assist scholars, inventors, teachers, and students. Additionally, the database will enable the Lemelson Center to identify gaps in the invention record, for example the papers of women and minority inventors.
We seek information about inventors (corporate, government, and independent), scientists, and industries in all areas associated with invention. We also seek information on records of institutions such as academic departments and research laboratories. The database contains information from all time periods. If papers are held privately, but available for research, we welcome this information. Additionally, we would like to know if papers of significant inventors have been destroyed. The types of materials included in the database are: correspondence, course notes, diaries, drawings, financial records, grant applications, instructional materials, logbooks, notebooks, patents, patent applications, photographs, publications, sound recordings, videotapes, film, and artifacts, objects, invention prototypes, and tools associated with archival collections. If you would like to let us know about an invention-related collection not listed in the database, please contact archivist Alison Oswald at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An Inventor's Guide for the Preservation, Protection, and Donation of Personal Papers
The papers and artifacts of modern invention often are at risk. Geographic mobility, limited storage space, lack of knowledge about potential repositories, and busy schedules all make it easy to postpone dealing with non-current documents and files.
What You Can Do
The history of invention is in your hands. Whether you are an independent inventor or working in a corporate or academic laboratory, you can help save the records of your life’s work. The papers, artifacts, and electronic media that you have generated attest to the creative spirit of American invention. By making sure these materials are preserved, the achievements of individuals like you, who have made significant contributions to American life, will be recognized by many groups.
The records of invention help students, scholars, and the general public understand more fully the creative process and provide perspective on how invention and innovation affect our daily lives. Historians and curators rely on these materials for exhibitions and research projects. Without your help, this rich resource will not exist to serve future generations.
How We Can Help
The MIND Program staff is ready to aid inventors, their families, and their colleagues in handling the papers, records, and artifacts created during the inventive process. We can guide you in determining what should be preserved and why, and provide preservation advice. We can give information on locating an appraiser, on the financial and tax implications of donating your papers and artifacts, and on copyright and other intellectual property issues. We will help you locate an appropriate repository for your materials and explain the donation process and your role as a donor. Finally, information on your materials will become part of our growing national database on collections documenting the history of invention in the United States.
Thinking about Your Historical Resources
To assist inventors and their families in preserving the historical resources of invention, this checklist may be used as preparation for more detailed discussions with an archival repository. We urge you to act now while the materials are still intact.
What types of materials do you have?
- Artifacts/Objects (models, parts of inventions, prototypes, tools)
- Company Records
- Computer Disks
- Correspondence (business, legal, personal)
- Course Notes
- Financial Records
- Grant Applications
- Instructional Materials
- Laboratory Notebooks
- Patents/Patent Applications
- Publications/Catalogs, Reports
- Sound Recordings
Are your materials in good physical condition?
Are your materials organized?
Do you have an inventory list?
What is the approximate time span of the materials?
What is the approximate size of your collection?
Where and how are the materials stored?