TIME museums

See Original Models of the Apple I and Other Iconic American Inventions

The first U.S. patent was issued on July 31, 1790

It was 225 years ago Friday that Samuel Hopkins of Philadelphia was granted a U.S. patent for his new method of making potash, a salt useful for fertilizer. The patent was signed by George Washington, who had established the patent system mere months earlier.

Hopkins’ patent was the first such document in the nation’s history, but it was far from the last. As can be clearly seen by the documents and objects on show at Inventing in America—an exhibit that opened earlier this month at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, in collaboration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and will be on view through 2020—the tradition of ingenuity in the United States has been a fruitful one. And that makes sense: as John Gray, the museum’s director, said in a statement, the U.S. itself was a new invention when it was founded.

It used to be required that a patent application come with a model of the idea, and now the museum has thousands of those models, along with prototypes and trademark examples. From the printing presses and typewriters of the 19th century, to DuPont Kevlar—celebrating its 50th birthday this year—and the Apple computer, here are some examples to get the inspiration going for the next big invention. (Sorry, a thinking cap isn’t one of them.)

TIME Opinion

Museums Are Changing. Thank Goodness

Confederate Flag Removed From South Carolina Statehouse
John Moore—Getty Images An honor guard ties up the Confederate flag after lowering it from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds for the last time on July 10, 2015 in Columbia, S.C.

As the Confederate flag debate shows, museums are not just attic storage, but battlefields of history

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. A version of the article below was originally published at HNN.

2015 is shaping up to be an important year in American identity. We are already well into the 2016 presidential campaign, and every candidate is seeking to shape a unique national narrative that can resonate with Americans, or enough likely registered voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, or at least one billionaire. Even without the election, changing notions of identity are roiling the cultural waters. The Supreme Court stands on the brink of reaffirming or denying (or something in between) recent crucial changes in American life.

Overlooked in this changing notion of American identity is the role of museums. Museums have long occupied a privileged yet marginal space in American culture, somewhere between elite bastions defining high culture and “America’s attic” (a nickname for the Smithsonian Institution). They are objects of civic pride and economic anchors. They are the destination of innumerable field trips and millions of tourists, domestic and foreign. But they also function as historians, as interpreters of the American past. The permanent collections and the special exhibits, the blockbusters and the dusty corners, all of these are statements about what is important about our past.

These museums often produce predictable highlights of the American past, affirmations of an American narrative of founding, growth, and dominance, filtered through the lenses of locality, region, subject, and time. Sometimes these museums touch a nerve, most notably the Smithsonian’s cancelled Enola Gay exhibition of 1995 when curators ran into protests that questioned the exhibit’s planned focus on use of the atomic bomb rather than Japan’s role in World War II. Sometimes these museums redefine how history is learned and even experienced, such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.

And these historical interpretations are not just limited to museums that are explicitly about history. Museums of natural history often reaffirm 19th century American notions of race just as museums of science often reaffirm a 20th century American faith in technology. Art museums, many of them founded by Gilded Age millionaires seeking immortality, often reflect the Eurocentric tastes of the late 19th century. The question of what is worthy of a museum collection is a form of history, one that is less about narrative and more about values.

But of course the world of museums is not static, and new and reconfigured museums of all shapes and sizes shape the historical discourse. The Whitney Museum, long one of New York’s premier yet second tier artistic spaces (it is hard to claim top billing with the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art as neighbors), is seeking to redefine American art and identity with its new home and reconfigured collection. The relocation of the Whitney Museum of American Art not only reflects a changing New York—what was once the meatpacking district and rail yards has been reinvented in the last generation as one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the world, a transformation that the Whitney’s location affirms rather than drives—but offers a bold new vision in defining what is both “American” and “art.” Instead of being physically and metaphorically trapped between the classical and modernist visions of its former Upper East Side neighbors, the Whitney is seeking to redefine American art, a debate that has been unsettled for decades. Paintings, sculpture, and photographs are part of the collection, but so are films, videos, and installations. American-born and foreign-born artists are both represented in the museum, and the subject matter ranges from landscapes to politics. Works recognized as classics will draw visitors, but they will also see and hear commentary on recent events like 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis. In the process, the Whitney is providing its own take on American history and identity.

The Whitney will be a success. Its significance in shaping the cultural agenda will clearly rise. But recent events in South Carolina demonstrate that years of planning and hundreds of millions of dollars are not the only way to occupy an outsized role in questions of American identity. In the months and years to come, a simple piece of fabric will be central to the meaning of museums and to American identity and history in the South and beyond. The Confederate battle flag is revered by some as sacred, hated by some as profane, and awkwardly embraced as “heritage” by those trying to split the difference. Dylann Roof, his terrible actions, and his website have made an enormous impact on the American psyche. Although there are strong disagreements about the prevalence of racism in contemporary American life, many Americans have suddenly recognized that the Confederate battle flag is a problematic symbol. Politicians hesitated, but suddenly a consensus seems to be forming that the flags should be removed from active civil life, a shocking turn of events considering how deeply the Confederate battle flag has been rooted in the former Confederate states since the Civil Rights Movement.

But if anyone thinks this will be a simple transition, they need to recognize that a crucial part of the consensus is that the removed flags—and in some cases the literal flags that are removed—will be placed in museums. How will this be done? Will new museums be created? How will curators respond? How will the public respond? In 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture will open. How will it deal with the Confederate battle flag? Americans will be reminded that museums are not just attic storage, but battlefields of history.

John Baick is a professor of history at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass.

TIME Fine Art

Portrait of Pope Benedict XVI Made of Condoms Sparks Controversy in Milwaukee

Courtesy of Niki Johnson Niki Johnson American, b. 1977), "Eggs Benedict," 2013. Latex condoms, 83 × 60 × 14 in. (210.82 × 152.4 × 35.56 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Joseph R. Pabst

The work was inspired by the former pope's comments on AIDS in Africa

A portrait of Pope Benedict XVI made of 17,000 condoms has drawn fierce criticism—and support—at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

“Eggs Benedict,” created by Niki Johnson, was purchased by a local gay rights advocate for $25,000 and donated to the museum, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports. Johnson says she was inspired by the former pope’s 2009 remarks that condoms would only worsen the problem of AIDS in Africa.

While some like-minded fans of the work have called the museum in support, it has also drawn powerful critics. Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki has condemned the portrait, and his chief of staff called it “either an intentional attack on a faith tradition and its teachings or a publicity stunt for the artist.” Several longtime friends of the museum have canceled their memberships in protest, and one docent resigned.

The museum’s director, Dan Keegan, said in a statement, “Our hope is that the piece will bring not only controversy, but room for conversation—about the underlying discussion the artist intended as well as regarding the role of art in public discussion.” He added that the museum has sold a record number of memberships in the last 10 days.

“Eggs Benedict” is scheduled to go on display this November after renovations are completed on the museum’s collections galleries; the institution is considering presenting an interfaith panel on debate around the work.

[Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]

TIME museums

African American History Museum to Host Artifacts from Wrecked Slave Ship

Iziko Museums Underwater archaeology researchers on the site of the São José slave ship wreck near the Cape of Good Hope

This marks the first time in history that archeologists have documented a wrecked vessel that had been carrying slaves, researchers say

Thousands of artifacts will be on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture when it opens next year, yet few will have the historical significance of those that were recognized in a ceremony in Cape Town on Tuesday.

The African American history museum officially announced during the ceremony that it will host wreckage from a centuries-old slave ship that sank off the coast of South Africa with slaves on board. This marks the first time in history that archeologists have been able to positively document a wrecked vessel that was carrying slaves, according to Lonnie Bunch, the museum’s director.

“Perhaps the single greatest symbol of the trans-Atlantic slave trade is the ships that carried millions of captive Africans across the Atlantic never to return,” Bunch said in a statement. About 400,000 East Africans were taken from their homeland between 1800 and 1865, according to the Smithsonian, to make the perilous months-long trip into bondage across the sea.

The Portuguese slave ship São José set sail in 1794, traveling from Lisbon to Mozambique to buy slaves to take to Brazil. The ship, which made its ill-fated journey relatively early in the history of the slave trade between East Africa and the Americas, was carrying over 400 enslaved East Africans when it hit a rock off the coast of South Africa. Some of those on board were able to make it to shore—but the ship sank and about half of the slaves it carried perished at sea. The Slave Wrecks Project, a collaborative group of six research and historical institutions, had been working to uncover the wreckage since 2008, and recently began bringing up artifacts from the successful project.

The Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture will display copper fastenings and sheathing that was used to hold the ship together, as well as iron ballast used for weight. The objects will be on long-term loan from the Iziko Museums of South Africa and that nation’s government. They’ll be displayed at an exhibit titled “Slavery and Freedom” that is scheduled to open with the museum next fall.

Members of the Slave Wrecks Project have gathered in South Africa this week for a series of events marking the discovery and highlighting the history it represents.

Read next: New Species of Ancient Human Found in Africa

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Innovation

The High Cost of the American Dream

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. We’re pricing the American Dream out of existence.

By Mechele Dickerson in the Conversation

2. Syria’s future might be like Somalia’s: Permanent anarchy.

By Aron Lund at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

3. The UN wants to share its sustainability goals with the world, so it’s turning to comics.

By Chris Arrant in Newsarama

4. Museums are doing a pretty bad job of connecting people to art.

By Michael O’Hare for Democracy Journal

5. Most kids with mental illness aren’t receiving treatment.

By Arielle Duhaime-Ross in the Verge

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME museums

A Century After Its Inception, African American History Museum Looks Ahead

Washington, DC Landmarks
Chip Somodevilla--Getty Images Construction continues on the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall, Oct. 1, 2014 in Washington, DC.

After 100 years, the museum is on track to open in 2016

A mother stoops down to be within earshot of her puffy-pigtailed daughters. Before them stands an oval table enclosed in a glass case. The smaller of the two children stretches a tiny finger toward the yellowing lace covering the caramel-colored wood. It’s likely the table looks like any number of tables those little girls have seen in their lives. To me, it looks like the one where I eagerly placed silverware as a child, while my grandma shouted the multiplication tables from her South Side Chicago kitchen. It’s a table around which any family could discuss the mundane aspects of daily life–the neighbors, the post office. Which is kind of the point, really.

On Friday, “Through the African American Lens: Selections from the Permanent Collection” opened in the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., offering a preview of what’s to come when the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture opens in 2016. The actual building is about a year and a half away from completion, but the artifacts on display are a peek at the tens of thousands that the Smithsonian has gathered over the past decade of planning for the new institution. The show is a preview of what visitors will see when the museum opens: a tent from a civil war camp, a necktie owned by Harriet Tubman, an organ owned by James Brown, notes from a Virginia midwife and dresses by designer Ann Lowe.

And the table, of course, which isn’t just any old table. It belonged to Lucinda Todd of Kansas, who served as a secretary of the Topeka Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Todd was one of the 13 plaintiffs who fought for the desegregation of schools in the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. That table was where the NAACP Legal Defense Fund convened to prepare for the historic case. In presenting artifacts like it, the museum’s curators hope to highlight the ties between history’s trailblazers and ordinary Americans–a link that has come to have extra meaning in recent weeks.

“You think about what a simple table tells us about hope, about community, about family, but also about the strategy that is so integral to change in America,” says Lonnie Bunch, director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The Smithsonian Institution’s latest museum has been a century in the making. In 1915, a group of black Civil War veterans began pushing for a memorial and museum dedicated to black service members. A little over a decade later, President Calvin Coolidge approved the construction of a building to serve as a “tribute to the Negro’s contributions to the achievements of America,” according to the Smithsonian Institution. Thanks to the Great Depression, that building never came to fruition.

For decades, lawmakers mulled the idea of a museum, noting the impact African Americans have had on the nation, only for the plans to falter. Some argued the National Mall was too crowded, others worried every minority group would want or need a museum. “Once Congress gives the go ahead for African-Americans,” Republican North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms said in 1994, according to the New York Times, “how can Congress then say no to Hispanics, and the next group, and the next group after that?”

In 2001, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers led by Rep. John Lewis of Georgia came together to push for the museum’s development. After two years of reports and meetings across the country, Congress was able to pass a law that established the National Museum for African American History and Culture. The last decade has been spent turning that agreement into reality.

“When we started, we didn’t have any collections at all. And now, over the last decade, we’ve collected 40,000 artifacts,” Bunch says.

Many of the pieces of American history the museum staff has collected have come from everyday Americans, curious about whether or not an old photo or shawl could be of use. Just because a donor wasn’t famous doesn’t mean an artifact isn’t important; in fact, pieces from ordinary people are given pride of place in many instances.

“We’re trying to start conversations and share stories that haven’t been told,” co-curator Rhea Combs said during a tour of the exhibit on Friday.

The mission of the exhibit and the museum is to show that the African American experience is a fully American one.

But that shared American narrative has often been a tense one, and the museum is moving toward fruition at a time when the African American experience–the part that isn’t necessarily shared by other groups–is at the forefront of the national consciousness. African American citizens who never asked to make news have shaped the country’s recent conversations.

Accordingly, though the stories of places like Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore are still being written, the museum is already in the process of collecting artifacts, images and even tweets that mark the latest chapter in the story of race in America. So far, they’ve got a gas mask worn in Ferguson and a hoodie worn during the protests following the death of Trayvon Martin.

The African American History Museum, when it opens, will aim to showcase history in motion. But for now, it’s merely a snapshot.

MONEY Leisure

Great Ways to Spend Black Friday Not at the Mall

One of the contraptions. The 16th Annual Friday After Thanksgiving Chain Reaction Event held at MIT, featuring 34 teams and their Rube Goldberg machines.
Jonathan Wiggs—Boston Globe via Getty Images One of the contraptions. The 16th Annual Friday After Thanksgiving Chain Reaction Event held at MIT, featuring 34 teams and their Rube Goldberg machines.

Who says you must go shopping on Black Friday? Here's a roundup of suggestions for fun, worthwhile events that take place on the notoriously crazed shopping day—but don't involve shopping at all.

It’s understandable if you plan to steer clear of the mall on November 28, a.k.a. the day after Thanksgiving, a.k.a. Black Friday. A confusing, contradictory string of consumer polls suggests that “only” 11%, or perhaps as many as 28% of Americans will physically go shopping in stores on the day. Even if the true figure is at the low end of the spectrum, it’ll still mean millions and millions of people clogging shopping centers across the land. The National Retail Federation estimated that 141 individual consumers made shopping purchases last year during the Thanksgiving weekend. The majority of the purchases were made in person (not online), and as expected, Black Friday was the weekend’s biggest day for sales.

The point is that there are literally millions and millions of reasons why you might want to consider not going to the mall on Friday. Add in the fact that deal-tracking experts argue that smart shoppers should probably skip Black Friday because, with the exception of a few amazing-but-limited doorbuster deals, stores don’t have their best prices this day, and we’re left with one overarching but illogical reason why people are compelled to shop on the day: They go not in spite of the crowds and the crazed, competitive atmosphere but because of it. In certain circles, Black Friday is considered the “Super Bowl” of shopping, or a “blood sport” of consumerism if you will, and there are shoppers out there who can’t pass up the action—even if it ruins Thanksgiving because Black Friday now starts on Thursday for most national retailers.

In any event, if you decide to not go shopping on Black Friday, congratulations. You pass the sanity test. But just because you sit Black Friday out in terms of shopping doesn’t mean you have to sit at home the whole day. Here are some suggestions for the day that don’t involve elbowing a desperate mom out of the way to get the last cheap TV or video game console in a store:

Parades and Holiday Lights
Portland (OR), Seattle, Estes Park at Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, and San Antonio are among the many spots that traditionally host parades on the day after Thanksgiving. The latter is a nighttime floating parade that spectators view from San Antonio’s River Walk (tickets are necessary), and the elaborate floats feature tens of thousands of lights. Black Friday is also the day that the flip is switched on for the season for holiday light displays in places such as Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo.

Coat Exchanges
In honor of Buy Nothing Day, an anti-consumerism event timed to coincide with Black Friday, charity organizers launched a coat exchange years ago on the day in Rhode Island. Nowadays, coats are gathered and given away all over the state on Black Friday, and similar coat exchange programs have popped up in Utah, Kentucky, and Indiana.

Museums (and Drinks!)
Museums around the country give visitors extra reason to absorb some culture and knowledge—both in short supply at the nation’s malls—with special events and discounts on Black Friday. For instance, Miami’s Frost Museum of Science has two-for-one admissions on November 28, while from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. the Oakland Museum of California waives admission for kids and offers half-price entrance and drink specials in the beer garden for those of age. In Milwaukee, the Harley-Davidson Museum is hosting its third annual Black Friday Beerfest, with samples from dozens of craft brewers on hand.

F.A.T. Chain Reaction
Every year, an inventive, entertaining, and admittedly geeky event called the Friday After Thanksgiving (F.A.T.) Chain Reaction takes place in the Boston area at the MIT campus. Teams of kids come with elaborate Rube Goldberg/better mousetrap creations made with any materials of their choosing that, like dominos, set off a wild chain reaction of moving pieces that takes between 30 seconds and three minutes to complete. In the end, each team’s creation is linked together in a giant chain reaction to delight the crowd. Tickets are $5 for children ages 5 to 17, and $15 for adults at the door ($12.50 in advance).

Live Sports
We all know that the NFL is the dominant sport for Thanksgiving Day. The day after, however, has increasingly become a hot day for the other two major pro sports being played right now: A dozen NBA games take place on Black Friday 2014 (including a 1 p.m. tipoff of the Chicago Bulls versus the host Boston Celtics), and three of the 11 NHL games scheduled for Friday get underway during family-friendly afternoon times. Plenty of college football games kick off around the country on Friday, November 28, as well.


MONEY Odd Spending

You Can Buy the Mona Lisa for $25,000

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, oil on wood
Fine Art Images—Getty Images Is it real...or is it a Mark Landis?

It's a forgery rather than the real "Mona Lisa" by Leonardo da Vinci, of course. But the asking price is still pretty steep.

The world’s most famous portrait hangs on a wall at the Louvre. It’s not for sale, and it’s hard to imagine that it ever will go on the market. But perhaps the next-best thing went on sale this week, at a coffee shop in Manhattan’s Soho neighborhood.

The Bedford + Bowery blog reported that a painting that some are calling the “Fauxna Lisa” is hanging on the wall at the Mercer Street Think Coffee shop. This portrait is most definitely for sale, with an asking price of $25,000.

Such a sum for what’s admittedly a forgery might seem absurd. Until you learn that the creator of this artwork, while not a household name like Leonardo da Vinci, is fairly famous—even infamous—in his own right.

The remarkably high-quality forgery was done by Mark Landis, a notorious art forger who has been profiled by the likes of The New Yorker and has done copies of artworks by sources ranging from Picasso to Disney. The quality of his reproductions has been good enough to fool dozens of museums, including the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. Landis is also the subject of a new documentary called “Art and Craft,” and apparently the makers of the film approached Think Coffee recently with a proposal to hang Landis’s faux version of the “Mona Lisa” on the walls and sell it.

By one account, Landis completed the “Fauxna Lisa” in just 90 minutes. In a recent “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit, however, the painter said that the reproduction of the “Mona Lisa” was the most challenging forgery he’s ever done. “It took me a whole weekend,” he wrote in response to a question on the forum. When asked how he was able to do such intricate work, and so quickly, Landis responded, “Well, it’s like a magic trick you know. If I told people, it wouldn’t be worth anything anymore.”

Surprisingly, Landis says that he has never benefited financially from his forgeries; in most cases, he simply donated them to institutions. He was busted (but not arrested) in 2010, and while it was originally reported that proceeds from the sale of his “Fauxna Lisa” were intended to go to the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, which is located in the Mississippi town where Landis is from—and which, fittingly, was duped in the past into accepting a forgery by Landis, a museum representative reached out to MONEY and said this is not true.

[CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported that proceeds from the sale of Mark Landis’s “Mona Lisa” forgery would benefit the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art. The museum’s director of marketing said that this is not the case.]

TIME society

These Are the 25 Best Museums in the World

Charles Cook—Getty Images The Art Institute of Chicago

Chicago's Art Institute tops this list by Trip Advisor, with Mexico City's National Museum of Anthropology close behind

If you’re booking vacations for the holidays, take note: TripAdvisor has released a list of the 25 best museums in the world.

The rankings — part of TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice awards — are based on millions of reviews from travelers across the globe over the past 12 months.

Coming in at number one is the renowned Art Institute of Chicago. Founded in 1879, the popular Windy City destination houses more than 300,000 pieces of art, including famous works like Grant Wood’s American Gothic, Claude Monet’s Stack of Wheat and Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. (You’ll also remember this museum from that awesome scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.)

Other top museums on the list include the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, the State Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. The full list is here.

Oh, and if these museums seem a bit too quotidian for you, check out our list of the 10 weirdest museums in the world. You know, for some variety.


TIME movies

Star Wars Creator George Lucas Has Chosen Chicago for His Museum

Lucas Museum-Chicago
Kiichiro Sato—AP This 2013 file photo shows an aerial view at night of the downtown Chicago skyline. Star Wars creator George Lucas has selected Chicago to build his museum of art and movie memorabilia

Both San Francisco and Los Angeles campaigned to host the movie-memorabilia and art museum, but "aggressive" lobbying by Chicago won Lucas over

After sort of retiring from Hollywood in 2012, director George Lucas has announced that he will open a museum in Chicago showcasing both his 40-year career as a filmmaker and the extensive art collection he amassed along the way.

Some have criticized the museum as a monument to hubris, but perhaps he’s earned it. Few dispute that Lucas has established himself as one of the successful and influential figures in the history of American cinema: this is the man, after all, who gave us Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art is slated to open in 2018 next to Soldier Field. Lucas will put down at least $700 million to finance its construction. In addition to paraphernalia from the sets of Lucas’ films, the museum will house his immense collection of American art by painters Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth and others.

He said in a statement that choosing the planned museum’s location proved a “difficult decision,” and only came after fierce bidding between Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The latter was his first choice — he grew up across the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge in the sleepy town of Modesto — but he turned his attention elsewhere when he couldn’t nab a desired location on the city’s waterfront.

A social media campaign led by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to bring the museum to the crucible of American cinema apparently failed to compete with Chicago’s lobbying effort, which the Chicago Tribune described as “aggressive.” (Personal factors may have directed Lucas’ choice as well — Mellody Hobson, whom he married last summer, grew up in the city.)

“This is a milestone for the city, but it is just one milestone on a journey as we build this new museum,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said when announcing the decision.

Chicago welcomed a record 46.37 million tourists in 2012.

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