Recent Lobby exhibit
Weights and measures were among the earliest tools invented by man. Primitive societies needed rudimentary measures for many tasks: constructing dwellings of an appropriate size and shape, fashioning clothing and bartering food or raw materials.
As societies evolved measurements became more complex. The invention of numbering systems and the science of mathematics made it possible to create whole systems of units of measure suited to trade and commerce, land division, taxation, and scientific research. For these more complex things it was also necessary to measure accurately time after time and in different locations.
In America, shortly after declaring independence from England, clauses in the Articles of Confederation (ratified in 1781) and the Constitution (ratified in 1790) gave Congress the power to fix uniform standards for weights and measures. Today in America, standards are set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. This lobby exhibit features several items from our collection that were designed to measure or are examples of how some of the measurement systems that have historically been used in America literally shaped everyday objects.