The Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center has launched a new database to guide researchers to invention-related documents and collections. The Modern INventors Documentation (MIND) database aggregates information from hundreds of archives across the US and currently has over 1,700 records. Note this database is a finding aid only and does not contain resource materials.
You can find MIND at http://invention.smithsonian.org/resources/MIND_Search_Basic.aspx. There’s a simple keyword search on the front page; an advanced search (field-based) is available, or you can browse the collections sorted by topic (from Agriculture to Writing & Drawing Technology).
I did a simple keyword search for engine and got 323 results, which appear to be in alphabetical order by name of collection (the first result was for Abbot Augustus Low Patent and Trademark Papers, 1900-1912.) The search results have the name of the collection and the beginning of a description of the person and their accomplishments in invention.
If you click on the name of the collection you’ll get additional information including extensive biographical information, physical information about the collection (linear/cubic footage, media, etc.), online and offline contact information about the archive, and under what subject it is filed. Sometimes there’s a description of the contents of the archive, and sometimes there’s information about access policies and pointers to more detailed finding aids, but I didn’t see those often. What I did see were a lot of different archives represented; on the first page of results I saw the Milwaukee Public Library, Illinois State Historical Society, Hagley Museum & Library, the Onondaga Historical Association, and of course the National Museum of American History.
IF you want more information about the MIND database, visit the overview page at http://invention.smithsonian.org/resources/MIND_about.aspx. Institutions interested in contributing to the database can contact Alison Oswald at firstname.lastname@example.org.