Spirit of Invention

A Path-Breaking Exhibition in China in 2018

“Spirit of Invention: Nineteenth-Century U.S. Patent Models from the Hagley Museum and Library”


Exhibition Summary: Hagley Museum and Library of Wilmington, Delaware, in partnership with Tsinghua University in Beijing, will mount a path-breaking exhibition in China in 2018.

Inventions that change the quality of our lives have intrigued people from all over the world since the beginning of time. SPIRIT OF INVENTION is a path-breaking co-curated exhibition of nineteenth-century U.S. patent models from Hagley in Wilmington DE, USA, in partnership with Tsinghua University in Beijing opening in China on April 26, 2018. 

The United States Patent Office required inventors to submit patent models, small prototypes created to accompany a patent application, from 1790 through the end of the nineteenth century. Patent models served a practical purpose: to demonstrate the key components, usefulness, and novelty of inventions. Patent models represented inventions in a wide range of industries and consumer interests including agriculture, food preservation, household goods, machinery, marine, medical, printing, textiles, tools, toys, transportation, and more.

“Each patent model tells a story of ingenuity, invention, and the entrepreneurial spirit,” explains David Cole, Executive Director of Hagley. Patent models, typically not exceeding 30 cm in any dimension, were often wrought by expert craftspeople with the goal of impressing Patent Office examiners. “These custom-crafted, one-of-a-kind patent models represented solutions to practical problems and were viewed as compelling works of art by the public in the nineteenth century.” 

The SPIRIT OF INVENTION exhibition is being designed by a team of Hagley curators and Tsinghua University students and faculty. It will highlight the creativity of the patent models with interactive displays using state-of-the-art technologies. This collaboration reflects a deepening relationship between Hagley and Tsinghua University through an exchange of people, ideas, technology, and expertise that will have a lasting impact on both institutions.

SPIRIT OF INVENTION will engage a projected audience of more than one million visitors with historical examples of American invention, as well as encourage Chinese visitors to pursue design, discovery, and entrepreneurial projects in their own lives.

Exhibit schedule 2018:

April 26 - May 26 - Tsinghua University Art Museum, Beijing     
May 28 - July 10 - China Science and Technology Museum, Beijing    
June 10 - July 10 - Shanghai Science and Technology Museum                     
Mid July - Early September - Wuhan Science and Technology Museum                     
June 1 - June 30 - Guan Shanyue Art Museum, Shenzhen                  

What is Hagley?

Hagley Museum and Library is North America’s premier institution celebrating American invention and enterprise.

“Spirit of Invention” Honorary Committee and Opportunities for Support

This groundbreaking initiative enjoys the support of a distinguished honorary committee, which in the United States comprises luminaries from government, industry, and the nonprofit sector, including:

U.S. Senator Thomas Carper of Delaware

U.S. Senator Christopher Coons of Delaware

Dr. Cheng Li, The Brookings Institution

Governor John Carney of Delaware

Henry B duPont IV, president of Hagley’s Board of Trustees

Steven E. Adkins, partner, McGuireWoods

Rose Nan-Ping Chen, founder and president, The Rose Group for Cross-Cultural Understanding

Mr. Mike Ma, Co-Founder, ViewMobile International Broadcasting Group

The exhibition organizers invite individuals, corporations, foundations, and institutions interested in fostering an appreciation for intellectual property rights, innovation history, and commercial ties between China and the United States to consider supporting this exciting cultural venture.

For more information about the exhibition, contact:

Sharon Payne, Foundation and Corporate Relations Grant Manager • spayne@hagley.org +1-302-658-2400 x221