As the title indicates, this book is companion to an exhibition, both of which are the result of research conducted by the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. Together they explore the contexts for invention and innovation, i.e., “What is it about some places that sparks invention and innovation? Is it simply being at the right place at the right time … ? How does ‘place’—whether physical, social, or cultural—support, constrain, and shape innovation?” This coffee-table book covers an eclectic range of disciplines and time periods over a geographical area encompassing the continental US. Beginning with the semiconductor and computer industries in Silicon Valley (1970s-80s), it moves to the Bronx where hip-hop music was born and developed (1970s), and then to Medical Alley, MN, where medical technology was developed (1950s). The oldest “place of invention” examined is Hartford, CT, in the late 1800s, at the height of its machine tool and small arms industries. Hollywood is visited during the introduction of Technicolor in movies (1930s). And Fort Collins, CO, is the place responsible for environmental innovations in this decade. The six main case studies are accompanied by three “learning labs” showcasing efforts by Smithsonian affiliate museums to document inventions in Peoria, Pittsburgh, and Seattle.
–A. M. Strauss, Vanderbilt University
Summing Up: Recommended. General readers.