Spirit of Invention

Spirit of Invention was an exhibition at The National Archives, open from 27 May to 29 October 2023, where all the family have the chance to become an inventor for the day.

The exhibition has been inspired by the incredible inventions found in our Board of Trade design registers. These huge cloth-bound volumes officially registered ‘useful designs’ or inventions from people between 1843 and 1884. In doing so, the design registers allowed everyday people to register their designs for copyright protection.

From 27 May until 29 October 2023, the gallery will be transformed into a creative workshop where visitors can experiment, explore and create using a range of materials and hands-on activities to unlock their inner inventor. Try on a Victorian ventilating top hat or make a call on an early telephone – and discover unique innovations from modern makers. Visitors will be able to channel the imagination of historic and modern-day makers as they bring their own inventions to life.

Design for a Ventilating Hat, c. 1849. Catalogue reference: BT 45/10 (1823)

The exhibition has been co-curated with children from a local school and guest curator and British entrepreneur, Ruth Amos.

An exciting programme of events and activities will accompany the exhibition throughout the summer. More information to be released. Sign up to our newsletter to be the first to hear more and get priority booking.

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Calling all inventors!

Ahead of the exhibition opening, we invite members of the public to get into the inventing spirit and submit their designs for the chance to have them featured as part of the exhibition. Use your imagination and creativity to come up with a new invention. Have you ever wanted to see in the dark? Or to jump as high as a kangaroo? Think about what you want and invent it!

Once you have an idea, draw it and send it to us for the chance for your design to feature in our exhibition.

Don’t forget to give your invention a name, explain what it does, who it’s for and why it’s unique. It’s your invention, so make it as serious or as silly as you like.

Submit your invention idea