Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building to showcase innovation exhibits


The Arts and Industries Building, Northwest Corner (Eric Long)
January 18, 2013

The Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office have announced a seven-year collaboration to bring innovation-related programs and exhibitions to the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building. The historic building is scheduled to reopen in summer 2014 after a 10-year closure.

The collaboration will kick off June 20 with a three-day expo showcasing the most recent patented technologies from American companies at the the Patent and Trademark Office headquarters in Alexandria. That Innovation Expo, organized in partnership with the Smithsonian, will be a model for future expos at the new 18,000-square-foot Innovation Pavilion.

The Patent and Trademark Office will provide $1 million in funding this year for the pavilion, planning and expo. Additional funding, to include a total of $7.5 million, will come over the next seven years.

Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough said it has been one of his goals to return the Arts and Industries Building to its original purpose of celebrating innovation and progress. The collaboration “will create a program that not only celebrates American ingenuity, but also reflects the 21st-century expectations of our visitors,” Clough said.

The Arts and Industries Building, with 40,000 square feet of public space, opened in 1881 as the U.S. National Museum and featured objects from the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in its first major exhibition. After its bicentennial exhibition, the building showcased temporary and experimental exhibitions from the Smithsonian and other organizations.

Long-term plans for the site, considered as a location for the proposed National Museum of the American Latino, are uncertain; the interior space will not be completed until a permanent use is decided.

The building’s longtime construction scaffolding and tarps have made it stand out on the Mall. It closed in 2004 for renovations including more than 800 new custom windows, reinforcement and replacement of iron trusses, facade repairs and replacement of the 2.5-acre roof. It will reopen with an indoor and outdoor cafe and a shop. The renovation eliminates many of the floor and partition divisions to create more open spaces and reduce the need for artificial light, according to a museum official.

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