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Arts Playlist: Hagley's U.S. Patent Model Collection traveling to China this year

The Hagley Museum and Library

The Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington is partnering with Tsinghua University in Beijing to mount a exhibition in China in 2018.



The unique exhibition, featuring dozens of the museum’s 19th-century patent models, will travel to four cities in China this year.

Hagley Executive Director David Cole says each patent model tells a story of ingenuity, invention, and the entrepreneurial spirit.


"Patent models, typically not exceeding 30 cm in any dimension, were often wrought by expert craftspeople with the goal of impressing Patent Office examiners," Cole said. “These custom-crafted, one-of-a-kind patent models represented solutions to practical problems and were viewed as compelling works of art by the public in the nineteenth century.”

“Spirit of Invention” features sixty U.S. patent models, dating from 1836 to 1890 and representing a broad spectrum of industries, consumer interests, and inventors. Hagley and Tsinghua University will also offer receptions and academic symposia in support of the exhibition as it tours China.

Hagley and Tsinghua University will present “Spirit of Invention” at the following venues in China in 2018:

  • Tsinghua University Art Museum, Beijing: March 27 - May 6
  • Shenzhen Guan Shanyue Art Museum: June 3 - June 28
  • Shanghai Liu Haisu Art Museum: July 5 - August 8
  • Wuhan Yangtze River Civilization Museum: August 15 - September 24

Hagley will also offer portions of the “Spirit of Invention” exhibition at the museum’s Visitor Center in Wilmington starting in 2020. Using research into the inventors and the history behind their patent model, the exhibition at Hagley will explore topics connected to nineteenth-century invention and innovation.
Delaware Public Media' s arts coverage is made possible, in part, by support from theDelaware Division of the Arts, a state agency dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts in Delaware, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.


Kelli Steele has over 30 years of experience covering news in Delaware, Baltimore, Winchester, Virginia, Phoenix, Arizona and San Diego, California.