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 applications covering a broad spectrum of research topics in the history of technology, invention, and innovation.  However, the Center especially encourages project proposals whose topics align with one (or more) of the Lemelson Center’s strategic research and programmatic areas, including:

  • the role of place in invention and innovation;
  • the cultivation and training of inventors and innovators;
  • innovation in sports;
  • the role of risk and failure in invention and innovation;
  • the role of venture capitalists and other intermediaries (e.g. patent attorneys, incubators, designers, etc) in the process of innovation; or
  • projects that illuminate inventors from diverse backgrounds or any inventions and technologies associated with groups (e.g. women, minorities, disabled, LGBT, etc.) that are traditionally under-represented in the historical record.


The Center annually awards two to three fellowships to pre-doctoral graduate students, post-doctoral scholars, and other professionals who have completed advanced training. 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 and non-US applicants should inquire about visa status and tax implications. Stipends for 2017–2018:

  • Pre-doctoral: $630/week
  • Post-doctoral/Professional: $925/week

The Application Process 

Researchers are encouraged to consult with the Fellowship Coordinator prior to submitting a proposal (see contact information below).

We get a lot of inquiries during application season, so thanks for your patience, as it may take a few days to respond.

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

  • From the SOLAA homepage, clink the link that reads: “New to SOLAA? Create Account here.”
  • Once you have created a SOLAA account and successfully logged in, click “Manage Applications” then “Add New Application.”
  • For “Program Type” select “Fellowship/Other Academic Appointment.”
  • For “Office/Museum/Research Center” select “National Museum of American History.”
  • For “Program that you wish to apply for” select “National Museum of American History Lemelson Center Fellowship.”
  • Click “Add Application” to proceed with entering your information and uploading your documents.

A complete application for a Lemelson Center Fellowship consists of:

  • Abstract: A brief project description (no longer than two double-spaced pages)
  • Bibliography: A list of citations relevant to the proposed research.  The bibliography does not need to be annotated; simply provide a list of primary and secondary sources that inform your project (no longer than five pages)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Project/Research proposal: A detailed description of the project (approx. 10-12 double-spaced pages).  The proposal should describe the project's relevance to the Lemelson Center’s mission; how the project is situated within (and extends) existing literatures; your research methodology; your schedule, including the number of weeks (max: 10) of requested support and how you'll use them; the resources (objects, archival collections, trade literature, staff members, etc) to be consulted during the fellowship; and the intended research product or result of your work.
  • Three references: Applicants will solicit letters of support from three references who are familiar with their work. Applicants will supply their references’ contact information and SOLAA will send a system-generated email with instructions for uploading the letters. Smithsonian staff members may not write recommendation letters.

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


Applications must be submitted via the SOLAA system by 11:59 p.m. EST on 1 December 2016.

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

Reference letters must be uploaded to SOLAA by 15 December 2016. Fellowships will be announced in March 2017. Fellows may begin their residency at the Museum on or after 1 June 2017.

Application date
1 Dec 2017
10 weeks
America United States Mid-Atlantic
Humanities Anthropology, Ethnology and Folklore 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$ 925/week