Brooke Hindle, 82, historian, academician and author who directed what is now the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History from 1974 to 1978, died of pneumonia June 3 at the Wilson Health Care Center of Asbury Methodist Village in Gaithersburg.
Upon his resignation in 1978, he continued with his life's work, researching the role of technology and objects in the social history of the United States as historian emeritus of the museum. He wrote with historian Steven Lubar "Engines of Change" (1986), and authored "Emulation and Invention" (1981) and "Material Culture of the Wooden Age" (1981).
He lectured frequently, combining his interests in photography and travel to develop slide lectures for classes and talks to scholarly groups.
In 1974, S. Dillon Ripley, then secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, selected Dr. Hindle to served as director of what was at the time the National Museum of History and Technology. Dr. Hindle, chairman of the Department of History at New York University, succeeded Daniel J. Boorstin, who became librarian of Congress.
Dr. Hindle helped raise the museum's public image as it prepared exhibits, symposiums, books and other educational material celebrating the country's 200th birthday. In addition to overseeing those activities, he presided over the opening of the museum's Dibner Library, which houses collections of rare books and documents, and supported efforts to strengthen historical research and emphasized the importance of U.S. history and cultural education.
As director, he was known for his modesty and preference for engaging in research instead of attending fundraisers.
"He was much more of a scholar and thinker as opposed to a public figure," said his son-in-law, Bob Hazen. "He felt very strongly that history, in part, provided a framework for understanding our country and our future direction, and for that reason he was widely respected in his field."
A former Bethesda resident, Dr. Hindle was a Philadelphia native who attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before graduating from Brown University in 1940. His graduate studies were interrupted by World War II, when he enlisted in the Navy and served as a radar maintenance officer aboard an escort carrier in the Pacific.
He received a doctorate in history from the University of Pennsylvania in 1949 and briefly worked for the Institute of Early American History and Culture, a research organization supported by Colonial Williamsburg and the College of William and Mary.
He then began a 24-year career at New York University, where he was a professor, dean of the College at University Heights and head of the university's History Department.
He was a member of the American Philosophical Society, the Royal Society of Arts, the Society for the History of Technology, the Cosmos Club and the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Gaithersburg.
Survivors include his wife of 58 years, Helen Morris Hindle of Gaithersburg; two children, Margaret Hindle Hazen of Bethesda and Donald M. Hindle of Greenwich, N.J.; a brother; and six grandchildren.