There is perhaps no other discipline where the past informs the present to the extent that inventions and technological advancements do. Humankind has been driven by the desire to improve efficiency and develop means by which the impossible becomes possible. Technology, simply defined as “the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes” can be represented by a wide array of different forms, including books, metal samples, and complex devices.
The development and use of new metals and alloys have defined entire eras of human history, with steel being synonymous with modern bridges and skyscrapers. In turn, civil engineers have been responsible for designing such large-scale structures and understanding how they could fail. Advances in materials and technology have necessitated new tools and machinery for production, such as a warehouse sized heavy metal press capable of exerting 50,000 tons of force. The invention of the automobile, and the internal combustion engine that powered it, has shaped urban development and society around the world. Cars have developed from simple machines to immensely complex combinations of electronics and mechanical parts. Other than steel, no material has impacted the modern era as much as plastic. Bakelite, first developed in 1907 and since designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark, became crucial in the rise of consumer electronics.
Preserving documentation of old technological developments and representative samples could enable the repair of active machinery or provide context for understanding the historical impact of technology and the effect it had on our society.