Places of Invention

National Museum of American History

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Places of Invention is a comprehensive subject of study at the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center in Washington D.C., part of the National Museum of American History. The thesis sites specific places throughout history which have emerged as hot spots of innovation, such as Hartford in the 1880’s, Hollywood in the 1930s, and the well-known example of Silicon Valley in the 1970s. Roto designed and built the POI exhibit at NMAH. 


  • Roughly 3,500 square feet in seven areas
  • NMAH collections objects as centerpieces
  • Unique open-ended interactives to enhance stories
  • A central gathering place for conversation
  • Interactive map that connects to POI website
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The POI exhibit was the product of extensive collaboration between Roto designers and developers, and Lemelson Center curators and historians, with additional advisors, evaluators and museum experts participating over a nearly 3-year period.

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Each of six main stories are contained within highly similar pods or groupings, each visible from a central gathering place, emphasizing the common threads that “places of invention” share. Each pod features an original interactive central to that specific story of invention, each offering visitors the chance to invent themselves.

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The integration of objects, stories, media and specialized interactive experience benefit tremendously from Roto’s design-build methodology, enabling prototyping and testing to occur throughout development, and for project leadership to remain in full control of the outcomes from concept through installation.