Lemelson Center Fellowship Program on Invention and Innovation

The Lemelson Center Fellowship Program supports projects that present creative approaches to the study of invention and innovation in American society. These include, but are not limited to, historical research and documentation projects resulting in dissertations, publications, exhibitions, educational initiatives, documentary films, or other multimedia products.

The program provides access to the expertise of the Smithsonian's research staff and the vast invention and technology collections of the National Museum of American History (NMAH). The NMAH Archives Center documents both individuals and firms across a range of time periods and subject areas. Representative collections include the Western Union Telegraph Company Records, ca. 1840–1994 and the Earl S. Tupper Papers, documenting Tupper, and his invention, Tupperware. In addition, the NMAH Library offers long runs of historical technology serials like Scientific American and American Machinist, and the American Trade Literature collection, which includes 300,000 catalogs, technical manuals, and advertising brochures for some 30,000 firms, primarily from 1880–1945. For a comprehensive catalog of objects, manuscripts, images, and research materials available at the NMAH (and other Smithsonian units), see the Smithsonian Collections Search Center.


The Lemelson Center invites all applications covering the broad spectrum of research topics in the history of technology, invention, and innovation. However, the Center especially encourages proposals that align with one (or more) of its strategic research and programmatic areas, including 1) projects that illuminate inventors from diverse backgrounds or any inventions and technologies associated with under-represented groups, such as women, minorities, LGBTQ, and the disabled; (2) projects exploring innovation in sports and sports technology; or (3) projects that explore the broader ecosystem of individuals and institutions that support inventors, including inventors' professional organizations; angel investors, venture capitalists, and financiers; incubators and entrepreneurial coaches; patent agents and IP attorneys; product designers, manufacturers, and marketers; and bankruptcy-liquidation specialists.  


The Center annually awards two to three fellowships to pre-doctoral graduate students, post-doctoral scholars, and other professionals (e.g. authors, journalists, attorneys) who have completed some advanced training (e.g. usually an MA or JD, but please inquire if you have questions). Undergraduates and Smithsonian staff should not apply. Fellows are expected to reside in the Washington, DC area, to participate in the Center's activities, and to make a presentation of their work to colleagues at the Museum.


Fellowship tenure is based upon the applicants’ stated needs (and available funding) up to a maximum of 10 weeks. All stipends are subject to tax; non-US applicants should inquire about visa status and tax implications. Stipends for 2019–2020:

  • Pre-doctoral: $750/week
  • Post-doctoral/Professional: $1,000/week

The Application Process 

Researchers may wish to consult with the Fellowship Coordinator prior to submitting a proposal (see contact information below).  We receive many inquiries during application season, so thanks for your patience, as it may take a few days to respond.

Applications must be completed in English.

Applicants must apply through the Smithsonian OnLine Academic Appointment system (SOLAA):

  • From the SOLAA homepage, click the link that reads: “Don't have an Account? Create an Account.”
  • Once you have created a SOLAA account and successfully logged in, click “Start Your Application.”
  • For “Program Type” select “Fellowship/Other Academic Appointment.”
  • For “Office/Museum/Research Center” select “National Museum of American History.”
  • For "Program Status" select "All." Click Search.
  • You will see a result set of various fellowship programs. Find the “National Museum of American History Lemelson Center Fellowship” and click "Apply Now."  On the following confirmation screen, click "Continue Application."
  • Proceed with entering your information and uploading your documents.  For "Year of Program Competition," please select "2019."

A complete application for a Lemelson Center Fellowship consists of:

  • Abstract: A brief project proposal (1 page maximum).
  • Bibliography: A bibliography of primary sources (at the Smithsonian and elsewhere) and secondary literature relevant to the proposed project. The bibliography does not need to be annotated; simply provide a list of primary and secondary sources that inform your project (3 pages maximum).
  • Curriculum Vitae: A current CV (no page limit).
  • Other: Timeline/Schedule: Include the number of weeks (2 to 10 weeks maximum) of requested support and how you plan to use them. The timeline/schedule does not need to include actual calendar dates, which are negotiable if awarded (1 page maximum).
  • Project/Research proposal: The project/research proposal should describe the project's relevance to the Lemelson Center’s mission; how the project is situated within (and extends) existing literatures; the research methodology; the Smithsonian resources (objects, archival collections, trade literature, staff members) to be consulted during the fellowship; and the intended research product(s) or result of the work (6 pages double-spaced maximum).
  • Two reference letters: Applicants will solicit letters of support from two references who are familiar with their work. Applicants will enter their referees’ contact information and click "Email referee" for both referees. SOLAA will send a system-generated email to each referee with instructions for uploading their letters to your application. Applicants may submit the application before the reference letters have been received.  However, referees should supply their letters by 15 November 2018. Smithsonian staff members may not serve as referees. 

Traditionally, the most successful applications have: 1) explicitly explored themes of invention, innovation, and technology, including the specific sub-themes listed above; and 2) drawn explicitly upon the collections at the NMAH and across the Smithsonian.

All application materials will be made available to the Lemelson Center staff and its selection committee, which may include outside readers. The Lemelson Center Fellowship is open to all qualified individuals without regard to race, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, age, disability, or national origin.


Applications must be submitted via SOLAA by 1 November 2018 (11:59 p.m. EST).  

**Note: Get your application uploaded early!  Several fellowship programs across the Smithsonian have applications due on November 1, and because of high user volumes, the SOLAA website may exhibit poor performance on the afternoon/evening of November 1. Please plan ahead!

Reference letters must be uploaded to SOLAA by 15 November 2018. Fellowships will be announced in Spring 2018. Fellows may begin their residency at the Museum on or after 1 June 2019 thru 31 May 2020.

For more information, contact the Fellowship Coordinator:

Eric S. Hintz, PhD
Lemelson Center Fellowship Program
National Museum of American History, MRC 604
Smithsonian Institution
P.O. Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012
Phone: +1 202-633-3734
Fax: +1 202-633-4593
Email: hintze@si.edu

Application date
1 Nov 2018
10 weeks
America United States Mid-Atlantic
Humanities Anthropology & Ethnology Archaeology Architecture Art & Art History Classical Studies Digital Humanities History Linguistics Literature Media Studies Music & Musicology Philosophy Religion & Theology Social sciences Business and Administrative Sciences Communication Sciences Demography Economics Environmental Sciences Gender Studies Geography International Relations Law Pedagogic & Education Research Political science Psychology & Cognitive Sciences Social Anthropology Sociology Other Agronomy Biology Chemistry Computer science Engineering Mathematics Medicine Physics
Required post-doc experience: 
between 0 and 99 years
Grants available
Award granted
US$ 1.000/week