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Making Modernity

J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

Making Modernity, the Arnold O. Beckman permanent exhibition, will show you how chemistry has touched our lives—frequently in unexpected ways. Visitors can trace scientific progress in the laboratory, the factory, and their homes and learn how chemistry created and continues to shape the modern world.

Drawn from our world-class collections, Making Modernity includes scientific instruments and apparatus, rare books, fine art, and the personal papers of prominent scientists. Topics range from alchemy, synthetics, and the chemical-instrument revolution to chemistry education, electrochemistry, chemistry sets, and the science of color.

No matter how much or how little you know about chemistry, Making Modernity will give you a new perspective on the everyday objects around you.

Object Explorer

The centerpiece of our museum is a multimedia experience showcasing our collection of art, scientific instruments, rare books, and more.

The installation includes a two-story-high video column and the Object Explorer, a pair of high-resolution, interactive tables where visitors can explore the history and science behind various everyday objects.

The Object Explorer consists of two touch tables and a dozen everyday objects, such as a flip-flop, an ice-cube tray, a soda bottle, and an LED lightbulb. Each object represents a characteristic of contemporary life or a category of materials, such as synthetics, refrigerants, disposables, and artificial illumination. Place an object on an interactive table and investigate the object’s history and the stories of the incredible, sometimes miraculous, other times quite dangerous materials it is made of.

Be sure to pause before the vertical column and enjoy a video starring images from the Science History Institute’s collection of objects, manuscripts, rare library books, art, and archives. Many of the items featured on the column are not on display in the galleries.

Admission is free. Get hours, directions, and information to plan your visit.