The Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation is marking this election year by presenting Political Machines: Innovations in Campaigns and Elections, a symposium that explores the role of invention and technology in electoral politics. Through this lens, we temporarily shift the focus away from today’s candidates and issues to examine the critical role that political “machinery” such as campaign advertisements, voting machines, and automated opinion polls play in our democracy. When these technologies work well, they often go unnoticed; when they fail (e.g. hanging chads, “Dewey Beats Truman!”), the consequences can be momentous.
Political Machines brings together scholars, government policymakers, campaign strategists, and members of the news media to focus on the historic and contemporary role of technology in the electoral process. Our sessions will employ formats typically seen on the campaign trail, including a keynote address, stump speeches, and interactive, “town hall” Q&A sessions with our speakers. And an audience response system will give you a vote on various questions posed during the symposium!
David Schwartz, Museum of the Moving Image
Darrell West, Brookings Institution
Jon Grinspan, University of Virginia
Zephyr Teachout, Fordham Law School
Sarah Igo, Vanderbilt University
Jon Cohen, The Washington Post
David Becker, Pew Center on the States
Thad E. Hall, University of Utah
We will also present book signings by selected symposium speakers and display historical campaign materials from the Museum’s archives.
All events are free and open to the public - first come, first seated. For full event details, see
Directions to the National Museum of American History:
Eric S. Hintz, PhD
Coordinator, Political Machines symposium
Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation
National Museum of American History
Phone: +1 202-633-3734
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