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ExhibitLab

ExhibitLab is the Science History Institute’s space in the Masao Horiba Gallery for small, focused displays that showcase specific collections, prototype new ideas, or respond to current events. Our staff members, fellows, and school and community partners curate these displays. Admission is free. For more information about ExhibitLab, please contact Molly Sampson at msampson@sciencehistory.org.


On View Now

The Bredig Archive
November 14, 2019–February 3, 2020

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Identification papers from the Bredig Archive

Identification papers from the Bredig Archive.

Science History Institute/Conrad Erb

This ExhibitLab showcases a selection of materials from the recently acquired Bredig Archive, an amazing collection of correspondence, books, photographs, and scientific notes belonging to Jewish-German scientist Georg Bredig (1868–1944) that was smuggled from Nazi-era Germany.

A founding figure in physical chemistry and catalytic research, Bredig’s Jewish background and liberal political beliefs made him a target for persecution by the Nazi regime.

This important archive bears witness to both Bredig’s significant contributions to the history of science and the Bredig family’s struggle for survival during World War II.

Acquisition of the Bredig Archive was made possible by the generous support of the Walder Foundation. Funding from the Laurie Landeau Foundation will provide for its conservation and preservation.

The Bredig Archive ExhibitLab was curated by Patrick Shea, chief curator of archives and manuscripts at the Science History Institute.

Learn more about the Bredig Archive >>

Read a PhillyVoice article >>


Past ExhibitLabs

Science and Disability
April 2019–November 2019

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Science and Disability exhibit display case

Top left: portrait of chemist John Dalton; bottom left: Dalton’s color blindness test; top and bottom right: periodic table charts showing which elements were discovered by scientists with disabilities.

Science History Institute

This selection of books, oral history videos, and artifacts held in our collections looks at stories of imagination, erasure, bias, and possibility alongside lived experiences of scientists with disabilities. This ExhibitLab is part of the ongoing Science and Disability Project, which asks these questions: How have ideas about disability shaped the things we know and the ways in which we know them? How have they affected participation in science?

ExhibitLab: Science and Disability features visual, audio, and tactile components, including a braille guide—held at the visitor services assistant desk inside the museum—for anyone who is interested. It also parallels our History Lab programming taking place throughout the summer.

The Science and Disability ExhibitLab was curated by Stephanie Lampkin, Jessica Martucci, and Ashley Augustyniak.

Read a WHYY.org article >>

Read a Disability History Association blog post >>


Recent Acquisitions
August 2018–April 2019

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A 1947 advertisement for DDT-marinated children’s wallpaper.

Science History Institute

Have you heard the whispers that we have children’s wallpaper impregnated with DDT in our collection? Well, whisper no more, and come to the museum now to see it on display! Our newest #ExhibitLab installation focuses on objects we’ve collected in the past year. You’ll know it because it’s covered in Disney characters.

The display includes surgical sutures made out of fish bladders and aortic grafts that go in, you guessed it, your aorta. Ever wondered about the precursors to neon signs or to rainbow Gelly Roll pens? This is the place to find the answers. There are also several objects now on display that have been in episodes of Distilled or will be featured in the series shortly.

This ExhibitLab was curated by Amanda L. Mahoney and Gillian Maguire.

 


 

Working Knowledge: The Joys and Challenges of Collecting Scientific Instruments
April 16–August 17, 2018

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A Duboscq type colorimeter manufactured by the Bausch & Lomb Optical Company.

Science History Institute

Scientific instruments are close to our institutional heart, but collecting them presents challenges. What do we seek to preserve when we add an instrument to our collection? We can’t collect everything, so how do we decide which objects to keep? For instance, French instrument maker Louis Jules Duboscq introduced an elegant type of colorimeter in the 1870s. A major analytical breakthrough, its binocular design allowed for quantification of slight color differences after chemical reactions. The compact design made the model a fixture in scientific laboratories for almost a century. This instrument is as important as it is abundant, which is why it is represented in our collection. Our display considers how we define the term instrument when talking about objects from our collection and how we choose which instruments to preserve. 

This ExhibitLab was curated by Amanda L. Mahoney and Gillian Maguire.
 

 


For Best Results
January 29–April 13, 2018  

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A bottle of flavored Bayer children’s size aspirin with a pink plastic cap.

Science History Institute

Our collection of pharmaceutical and health-related consumer products ranges from the commonplace to groundbreaking discoveries. Everyday health products that once graced the shelves of local pharmacies reveal the evolution of consumer preferences, graphic design, and beliefs about health during the 20th century. The antisyphilis drug Salvarsan, for example, developed in 1909 by Paul Ehrlich’s laboratory team, was once celebrated as a “magic bullet.” But the drug, despite claims it treated this disease without harming patients, proved to have some serious pitfalls. This display also focuses on the pharmaceutical history of pediatric treatments and safeguards for children, as well as once-taboo topics, such as women’s health and birth control.

This ExhibitLab was curated by Amanda L. Mahoney and Gillian Maguire.

 


Recent Acquisitions
September 26, 2017–January 25, 2018

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The Jogbra was recently on view in Second Skin: The Science of Stretch

Science History Institute

We are always collecting new examples of the science embedded in everyday life. This ExhibitLab focuses on our collecting roots regarding the history of chemistry, the stories new objects tell when juxtaposed with our existing collections, and the process of researching and acquiring objects related to the history of health and life sciences.

We often use the themes of our temporary exhibitions to acquire objects that broaden our permanent collection and expand research in and preservation of the material culture of science. Our recent exhibition, Second Skin: The Science of Stretch, explored the history and science of flexible textiles. This display includes newly acquired objects from that exhibition, which exemplify important historical, cultural, and scientific moments in the world of high-tech fibers.

This ExhibitLab was curated by Amanda L. Mahoney and Gillian Maguire.  

For more on the unexpected origin of the sports bra, listen to our Distillations podcast.


Picturing the Future
June 26–September 21, 2017

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“Take One Giant Step,” a black-and-white print advertisement for A. C. Gilbert Chemistry Sets.

Science History Institute

To learn what someone values, ask them what they want the future to look like.

During the 20th century our visions of the future appeared in advertisements, product packaging, informational literature, and even instrument design. We can learn a lot about the science of the past by studying these historical depictions. Some visions were optimistic: parents believed chemistry sets empowered their children to become scientists, while new knowledge of the power of the atom revolutionzed health care. Other visions were more ominous: ads for fallout shelters with their accompanying radiation symbols warned of an end to American life as we knew it.

This ExhibitLab was curated by Deanna Day.
 

 

 


The Somogyi Collection
April 10–June 23, 2017

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Ernst Leitz oil-immersion microscope.

Science History Institute

What was glucose monitoring and diet tracking for diabetes like in the 1940s?

The development of insulin and advancements in clinical chemistry made living with diabetes possible for a growing number of people by the 1920s. However, successful management of the disease required close measurement and careful tracking.

Michael Somogyi (1883–1971) was a pioneering clinical chemist responsible for breakthroughs in diabetes treatment. Born in Hungary, he was a key player in the synthesis of insulin for mass production in 1922. The Institute’s Somogyi Collection documents his lifelong career as a researcher and clinical consultant. It features objects from Somogyi’s 21-year service as chief biochemist at the Jewish Hospital of St. Louis and traces the evolution of diabetes treatment from 1920 to 1960.

This ExhibitLab was curated by Amanda L. Mahoney.

 


Domestic Plastics
January 9–April 7, 2017

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Zenith Royal Hearing Aid.

Science History Institute

What was it that made mid-20th-century homes so different, so appealing? Plastics!

Synthetics of that era offered chemists unprecedented control over the material environment. Yet plastics left the confines of laboratories and factories as consumers brought these new products into their homes. Before the word plastic became associated with superficiality and disposability, manufacturers in the 1950s celebrated the material’s sturdiness, safety, and beauty. Advertisements for durable plastics promised to cut household costs and liberate housewives from messes and repeat trips to the store.

Objects from our collection dating to the 1950s and 1960s reveal a changing material culture that created new possibilities for designing a home, entertaining guests, and redefining childhood and femininity.

This ExhibitLab was curated by Roksana Filipowska.