Museums for Engineers: Intro

The U.S. has a wealth of museums that feature everything from great (and not so great) art, centuries of history, and the wildly diverse flora and fauna, rocks, and geology of nature. We even have museums for voodoo, macabre medical oddities, and cowboys & cowgirls, as well as ones for  sex, drugs, and rock and roll. But we’re also lucky to have a long list of museums that seem to target engineers. Two of my favorites are the MIT Museum and The Collection of Scientific and Historical Instruments at Harvard University. But there are also museums for cars and trucks, airplanes and hot-air balloons, and innovation and inventors.

Please let me know which museum you have visited that you think would be interesting to engineers. (It doesn’t have to be in the U.S.) And if you do visit one, take some pictures, jot down a line or two that describes what the image shows, and email them to me (at; put museum in the subject line). I plan on posting them here, along with links to the museum.

To get started, here’s an all-too-short gallery put together by fellow editor Lindsey Frick of some of the planes and engines on exhibit at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla.. And below is a personal favorite of mine at the museum, a T-2 Buckeye, the type of jet in which I "enjoyed" my first Navy training flights at VT-10.

Discuss this Blog Entry 19

on Jun 27, 2013

National Watch and Clock Museum, Columbia, PA. It's small, but it's along a major tourist route, so stop in if you're passing through! Warning: If you love the technology of timekeeping, it's great. It'll bore the rest of the family, though.

on Jun 28, 2013

I'd suggest the Mütter Museum (19 S 22nd St Philadelphia, PA). Though it's primarily a museum of medical history, invention is very much a part of that history. One display that comes to mind is a collection of tools designed by a doctor who specialized in retrieving swallowed objects, including one he created to close a safety pin in a stomach before it was withdrawn.

Another favorite is the National Cryptologic Museum at the NSA Headquarters, 8290 Colony Seven Road, Annapolis Junction, MD. The place has a fascinating collection of the tools of the trade but is about as low-key and unassuming as you can get. It used to be a private, employees-only museum (as the CIA's still is), but they opened it up to the public a few decades ago. They get as many visitors in a year as the Air and Space Museum gets in an afternoon.

I'm looking forward to seeing your list.

Bob Ulrich

on Jun 28, 2013

Good project to list museums of interest to engineers. The American Precision Museum in Windsor VT is close to where we are living now in NH, and is wonderful. They often have high school students from a local technical school on site working the machines, and may actually make a souvenir for you if they are not too busy. See

Of course, there are also the many automobile-related museums across the country - two examples are the Ford museum in Dearborn MI and the Auburn museum in Auburn IN (they have Cords, Auburns, many others including at least one Tucker). You can spend a full day in these places. Also in the midwest, obviously, is Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, which inspired me at an early age to become an engineer or scientist.

More obscure is the Bily Brothers Clock Museum in Spillville IA. See I grew up in northern Iowa, and this was a favorite of our family.

I think a list of these museums would make a dandy traveling companion in case people have a cross-country trip this summer in their traveling plans.

Dave Ecklein

on Jun 28, 2013

Its been years since I went, but Kansas City has the largest WWI memorial museum in the country, or the world (it was one of the two when I went). The museum is set up like a timeline, with technology from the beginning of the war at the entrance, and the end of the war at the exit. The amount of innovations shown and the evolution of weaponry, vehicles, and all things "war" is amazing from an engineering point of view. And really gets you thinking, from a humanitarian point of view. A must see!
Nathan Renner

on Jun 28, 2013

How can you mention engineering, museums and aircraft in the same article without including
The National Air & Space Museum, or the Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport ( display floor layout attached).
I’ve been able to visit both. Take an extra memory chip for your camera.

One that I have not seen, but is on by ‘bucket list” is The Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility is located in Suitland, Maryland.
This is where the aircraft are prepared for display in both museums listed above. Last I heard, visitation is available by appointment only.

Udvar-Hazy would be interesting for the structure alone.

Don Lawrence

on Jun 28, 2013

I enjoyed your article about Museums for Engineers. Years ago, while installing some thread grinding equipment at the L. S. Starrett company, I had the opportunity to tour not only the manufacturing plant but the museum as well. I believe this opportunity still exists today,
Thank you for helping us to remember how we got here,

Dave Bartholomew

on Jun 28, 2013

I recommend:
• B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, MD
• Bradbury Science Museum, Los Alamos, NM (history of the Manhattan Project in WWII)
• Air Force Museum, Dayton OH
• Auburn/Cord/Duesenburg Museum, Auburn, IN

Pete Harter

on Jun 28, 2013

Though I'm likely not the first person to plug this one - the Edison National Historical Park in East Orange New Jersey is certainly a 'core' museum for engineers, inventors, and entrepreneurs.

Bob Ulrich

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A questioning, sometimes humorous look at technologies, engineering, and the world.


Stephen Mraz

Steve serves as Senior Editor of Machine Design.  He has 23 years of service and has a B.S. Biomedical Engineering from CWRU. Steve was a E-2C Hawkeye Naval Flight Officer in the U.S. Navy. He...
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