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It’s Time for a National Manufacturing Museum

Posted By David Brousell, February 03, 2014 at 5:12 PM, in Category: Manufacturing Advocacy

This past week, I went on a fascinating tour of the Newseum in Washington, D.C., a 250,000-square foot museum whose stated mission is to serve as a “forum for First Amendment study, exploration and education.” The six floors of the museum, which opened in 2008, house 35,000 historical newspaper front pages, galleries, and theaters featuring exhibits and programs on topics ranging from the Berlin Wall and 911 to how President Kennedy effectively used television, to Pulitzer Prize winning photographs of important events in history.

The Newseum enables a visitor to take a walk through the evolution of media – from as far back as Magna Carta. Visitors can view examples of early newspapers and pamphlets, tabloids and broadsheet newspapers, radio, television, satellite broadcasts, cable television, and today’s social media.

But the Newseum’s most important message is that a free press is essential to the existence of democracy. Without the ability of the press to freely, openly, and honestly write about all aspects of society – government, economics, law, the judicial system, social mores and taboos, human relations, the environment, you name it – a democratic system cannot function and grow.

As I was walking through the Newseum on Saturday, I couldn’t help but think about the manufacturing industry and public perceptions about the relationship of manufacturing to our society. While many of us in the industry recognize and appreciate the role of manufacturing in the health of the economy, in supporting a viable middle class, in creating jobs, and even in our ability to defend ourselves from aggression, many others in our society have but a superficial view of manufacturing’s role and its importance in their daily lives.

How much better it would be for all, I thought, if there was one place, a destination to which the public could go to learn about the full scope of manufacturing and its importance to our society. There are many manufacturing-related museums of one stripe or another already in existence, of course. There are aviation museums, truck museums, car museums, motorcycle museums and even a museum for machine tools. How wonderful it would be, though, to have a national manufacturing museum in Washington that would be dedicated not only to explaining the evolution of manufacturing – as the Newseum does for journalism – but also to the essential role manufacturing plays in our democracy and our society at large.

People from every walk of life could visit and learn. Schools could bring their students to see the high tech realities of modern manufacturing. Legislators could learn, too, and hopefully attain a greater understanding of industry’s role in the economy. Most importantly, a National Manufacturing Museum would confer a status on our industry that it solely needs, a status at least equal to if not greater than other types of businesses, like the media.

Who knows, a National Manufacturing Museum might even change ideas, attitudes, and perceptions about manufacturing – in a positive way that excites a new generation of manufacturing people who will not only carry on the great achievements and traditions of the past, but create a few new ones along the way.

What’s your view? Would you support the creation of a National Manufacturing Museum?

Written by David Brousell

Global Vice President, General Manager and Editorial Director of the Manufacturing Leadership Council

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Posted on
David, this is an outstanding idea. I would like to encourage the museum to include 21st century social media connections. We have spent the last two years developing highly a successful website and social media platforms promoting manufacturing and STEM education. The two key SM platforms for us have been Pinterest < http://www.pinterest.com/mfgstories/ > and Twitter < https://twitter.com/mfgstories >. In addition offering videos both at the museum and on line would be beneficial for educators. If the museum had a section for today's advanced manufacturing there could be connections to universities and community college programs as well. Finally be sure to include the rapidly growing Maker Movement as this movement is fully aligned with addressing the "Skills Shortage". I fully support this effort and would be glad to help. More ideas can be found at our website http://manufacturingstories.com/
Posted on
David: thanks very much for the reply and the ideas. I support everything you suggest. The question now is: how do we get started?
Posted on
Great idea. The Smithonian has a great collection of old manufacturing stuff, though only a fraction of it is on display at any on time. http://bit.ly/1kYdIAL Some science museums have manufacturing-related exhibits, including the ones in Milwaukee (http://bit.ly/1iVcv6g) and Chicago (http://bit.ly/P3FwEV). ASSEMBLY magazine consulted on the latter. A commemorative stamp would also be a good idea (http://bit.ly/1qFkA5e).
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