Fellows at work in the Othmer Library at the Institute.

Science History Institute Joins Independent Research Libraries Association

IRLA membership places Institute on prestigious list of some of the nation’s oldest and most distinguished historical societies.

May 4, 2022

The Science History Institute is proud to be invited to join the Independent Research Libraries Association (IRLA), a prestigious membership consortium designated for libraries with internationally significant collections and programs. This recognition positions the Institute alongside such esteemed organizations as the American Philosophical Society, the New York Public Library, and the Getty Research Institute.

“We are delighted and honored to join this distinguished group of internationally recognized research libraries,” said Michelle DiMeo, the Institute’s Arnold Thackray Director of the Othmer Library. “This is an important opportunity for us to collaborate with peer institutions that share similar goals and challenges.”

“The Independent Research Libraries Association is made up of libraries that are not part of a government agency or university. They preserve and provide public access to unique research collections,” added Kathleen Salomon, president of IRLA and associate director and chief librarian at the Getty Research Institute. “Collectively, IRLA is an international treasure. When the Science History Institute asked to become a member, we recognized how well its mission fits within the overall framework of IRLA. Synergies exist with the collections at other IRLA member libraries, so we are happy to welcome the Institute to our organization.”

Founded in 1988 to preserve the history of the chemical sciences, the Institute’s Donald F. and Mildred Topp Othmer Library of Chemical History now houses more than 140,000 print volumes, rare books and manuscripts, archival materials, and historical photographs. Together with thousands of oral histories, scientific instruments, glassware, and fine art reflecting the history of science from the Roman Empire through the 21st century, our vast collections allow us to tell the stories of how developments in chemistry, engineering, and the life sciences are embedded in our daily lives.

The Science History Institute comprises a free museum that features in-person and online exhibitions; a research library and archive for examining historical and contemporary issues; a fellowship program for visiting scholars from around the world; an award-winning digital content platform that includes articles, podcasts, and videos; a digital collections site featuring more than 12,600 curated items; a diverse roster of virtual and in-person events aimed at science history lovers; and a state-of-the-art conference center for corporate events and special occasions.

About the Independent Research Libraries Association

The Independent Research Libraries Association was established in 1972 to address the future of independent, privately supported research libraries. From its inception, IRLA has dealt with the common needs and aspirations of member organizations: how to preserve the precious cultural heritage represented in our vast collections; how best to serve the public and the world of scholarship; and how to finance and manage costly, fragile libraries that must survive largely without the security of public or university support.

IRLA’s 22 member institutions have diverse origins ranging from the 18th-century beginnings of the Library Company of Philadelphia and the American Philosophical Society, to the mid-20th-century founding of the Linda Hall Library and the Hagley Museum and Library. Others such as the Morgan Library & Museum, the Huntington, and the Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library include major museum collections. Several of the nation’s oldest and most distinguished historical societies are IRLA libraries. Many are national centers of scholarship in the humanities, including the Newberry Library, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the American Antiquarian Society.

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