Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Inspiration in the Thomas Edison Time Cards

March 23, 2015 Archive Insight


Time Card Punched by Thomas Edison at His West Orange Laboratory, for the Week Ending August 27, 1912 (THF108331)


Today marks the first day of #MuseumWeek, a week-long global celebration of culture in which The Henry Ford is taking part in. This celebration will channel the power of social media to raise greater awareness and appreciation for the world’s cultural resources. With the use of social media, #MuseumWeek is inherently taking advantage of the abilities that we now take for granted. We can capture sound, video, and still images, as well as be electronically connected to almost anyone in the human family. All in the palm of our hand. In mere seconds, you can see what I see, you can hear what I hear, and you can know what I know. It’s this knowing, which I believe, is the most important part for museums. I think that the simple act of learning about something new, broadens your perspective. It allows you to reanalyze the world you experience to incorporate what you’ve learned. It allows you to reflect. Museums sharing this ability to know over social media can help expand everyone’s perspective. That’s why museums and the cultural resources they protect are crucial to our society.

I thought it was only right that I use this blog post to talk about someone who played a major role in making our social media connection possible: Thomas Edison. Pioneer in electricity, sound, and video. His inventions laid the groundwork for the digital age we know today and the social media network that we increasingly rely upon. The objects I chose to represent him give us an inside look at the story of a man who redefined what it meant to “work.”


Time Card Punched by Thomas Edison at His West Orange Laboratory, for the Week Ending September 10, 1912 (THF108335)


A 40-hour work week can be long. Now double that, or possibly even triple it. Out of the 168 hours in a week, imagine putting in 90, 100, or 110 hours’ worth of work. That may seem like a daunting task, but what if it was something you were so passionate about, the word “work” represented something totally different to you? While others might have a negative association with the word “work,” what if your interest in work led you to experience joy? Soon hours would melt away and a long week for others, would seem like nothing to you. It’s my belief, that this is how Thomas Edison operated. This is why he was so successful. His work meant something totally different to him. These time cards document that.


Time Card Punched by Thomas Edison at His West Orange Laboratory, for the Week Ending September 17, 1912 (THF108337)


Today’s theme for #MuseumWeek is #secretsMW. It looks to have “Museums and cultural establishments from all over the globe welcome you to their everyday world and introduce you to work behind the scenes… and perhaps a few well-kept secrets”. I am here to let you know that going behind the scenes is something more than opening a few closed doors. That truly going behind the scenes is understanding that a museum professional’s best kept secret is that we all take a Thomas Edison-like approach to work. That we are so passionate about connecting you to the stories of the world’s cultural resources, that time could melt away. Our “work” is for the betterment of you and that’s something that is often not recognized.

Happy #MuseumWeek!

Ryan Jelso is Research Support Specialist at The Henry Ford.

Additional Readings:

New Jersey, 20th century, 1910s, Thomas Edison, by Ryan Jelso

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