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The Dibner Award


Update 10 August 2021
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic SHOT decided to postpone the normal cycle of the Dibner Award. For 2021, because of the restrictions on refereeing imposed by the pandemic, only online exhibits were considered eligible.

It is not possible anymore to submit nominations for the 2021 Dibner Award. The next Call for Nominations will be posted her mid-February 2022.

The Dibner Award for Excellence in Museum Exhibits was established in 1985, through the generosity of Bern Dibner, to recognize excellence in museums and museum exhibits that interpret the history of technology, industry, and engineering to the general public. Winning exhibits, in addition to being well designed and produced, should raise pertinent historical issues. Artifacts and images should be used in a manner that interests, teaches, and stimulates both the general public and historians

The award consists of a plaque and up to $1,000 to cover expenses for a member of the responsible team to accept the award at the SHOT awards banquet. Exhibits are eligible for this award if they have been open to the public for no more than 24 months before the deadline for nominations. The Society especially encourages nominations from local and regional historical societies and museums.

Eligible Exhibits

The prize will be awarded to an outstanding exhibit that interprets the history of technology:

Evaluation Criteria

The Judging panel evaluates proposals by asking the questions below:






Anyone, including the institution or individual responsible for its creation, may nominate an exhibit for the Dibner Award, using the nomination form available here as a PDF or Word document. The extended deadline for nominations was 7 May 2021, it is not possible anymore to submit nominations for the 2021 prize. (For temporary and traveling exhibits the deadline is TWO months before closure, see also next paragraph.) After completing all three parts of the form, submit it as one single PDF document to the established SHOT awards portal. For the 2022 Dibner Award the link to the portal will be posted here mid-February 2022. The total size of this file should not exceed 10 Mb.

Please note (not applicable in 2021!): In the case of traveling and short-term exhibits that close before the deadline or in the two months that follow; in those cases, nominators must submit their documents to the committee at least two months in advance of the exhibit’s closing date.

After reviewing nominations, the committee will choose a short list of finalists, giving sole consideration to the evaluation documents submitted. The committee will then arrange for a “live” reviewer to visit each of the short-listed exhibits and write a report. Normally the chair will draw upon recommendations for live reviewers made by the nominator in the nomination document, although s/he may use her/his judgment to assign alternative reviewers as needed, including members of the committee. For more information, please contact the committee chair or Jan Korsten, SHOT Secretary, [email protected].

Mikko Heinonen (left) receives the Dibner Award 2018 on behalf of the Finnish Museum of Games. (Photo: Bucky Stanton)

2021 Dibner Award Committee

Robert Bud (2018-2021), Chair
Arthur Daemmrich (2018-2021)
Tiina Männistö-Funk (2020-2022)

Recipients of the Dibner Award

2020 Due to the Covid-19 situation the 2020 Dibner Award has not been awarded.
2019 “Plasticity – a History of Plastics in Portugal,” Leiria Museum (Leiria, Portugal)
2018 The Finnish Museum of Games, Vapriikki (Finland)
2017 “Science and Technology Galleries,” National Museum of Scotland
2016 “Places of Invention,” Lemelson Center, National Museum of American History
2015 “Tools: Extending Our Reach,” Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York
2014 “Collider,” Science Museum, London
2013 not presented
“Driving America,” The Henry Ford, Dearborn, Michigan
“In Search of the Canadian Car,” Canada Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa, Canada
“Split & Splice: Fragments from the Age of Biomedicine,” the Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
“America by Air,” National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
“As Time Goes Byte: Computing and Digital Culture,” Museum of Communication, Berne, Switzerland
SS Great Britain Museum, Bristol, England
“Time Galleries,” the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, England; lead curators David Rooney and Gloria Clifton
“Locomotion–The National Railway Museum at Shildon,” County Durham, England; head curator Janice Murray. Honorable mention: “No.1 Pump Station,” Mundaring Weir, Western Australia.
“Heroes of the Sky: Adventures in Early Flight, 1903-1939,” the Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, Michigan, curator Bob Casey.
“Show of Force”, the Armley Mills Industrial Museum, Leeds, U.K., curated by Neil Dowlan; and “Engenho e Obra: Engineering in Portugal in the 20th Century”, a joint effort of the Center for Innovation, Technology and Policy Research, IN+, Instituto Superior Técnico, and the Institute of Contemporary History of the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, Universidade Nova de Lisboa; directed by Manuel Heitor
“Shinkansen,” National Railway Museum, York, curators Belinda Morris and Richard Gibbon; and “World City,” Museum of London, curators Alex Werner and Karen Fielder
“Writing On Hands: Memory and Knowledge in Early Modern Europe”, Trout Gallery at Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania in cooperation with the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington D.C., curators Peter Lukehart and Claire Richter Sherman, and “On Time”, National Museum of American History, curator, Carlene Stephens.
“Universal Machine: Computers and Connections,” at the Powerhouse Museum, New South Wales, Australia
“History Works!”, Historic Bethlehem Partnership, Bethlehem, PA, USA and “Watkins’ Bethany: The Family, The Farm, The Mills”, Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site and Park, Lawson, Missouri
“Fibres, Fabrics, and Fashion”, Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, United Kingdom
“Steel, Stone and Backbone: Building New York’s Subways 1900-1925”, New York Transit Museum, Brooklyn, New York
Theodore Roosevelt Dam and Desert Blooms Exhibit, Arizona Historical Society, Pheonix, Arizona
“The Historical Museum of Bielefeld”, Historisches Museum, Bielefeld, Germany
“The Line of Battle”, Wisconsin Veterans Museum, Madison, Wisconsin; The American Computer Museum, Bozeman, Montana; Museo del Vidrio, Monterey, Mexico
Boott Cotton Mills Museum, Lowell, MA; “The Information Revolution,” Herbert H. Dow Museum, Midland, MI; National Science Center, Delhi, India
“The Cannery,” The Baltimore Museum of Industry; “Milestones of a Revolution: People and Computers,” The Computer Museum, Boston, Massachusetts Motorola Museum of Electronics, Schaumberg, Illinois, Tsongas Industrial History Center: Lowell, Massachusetts
David Allison, chief curator, Bernard Finn and Steven Lubar, curatorial team, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution; “The Information Age”
Thomas Elliot and Steven Hamp, Henry Ford Museum, “The Automobile in American Life”; David Chase and Carolyn Laray, National Building Museum, “Sheetmetal Craftsmanship: Progress in Building”; Donald Hoke and Christopher Miller, Outagamie Museum, “Tools of Change: The Work, Workers, and Tools of the Lower Fox River Valley, ca. 1840-1950”
Steven Lubar and his colleagues at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, for “Engines of Change”