Philadelphia Inquirer: Decay, Rot on Display at Chemical Heritage Museum

The exhibition explores the inexorable decay of everything—and the human urge to stop it.


Excerpted from an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, by Stephan Salisbury.

Decay. Disintegration. Degeneration. Rot.

Whatever you want to call it, make no mistake—stuff falls apart.

There really is no end to it and really no stopping it. Iron rusts. Ceramics break. Wood putrefies. Paint flakes.

At the Museum at the Science History Institute in Old City, this universal, obdurate fact of life is the inspiration for a small exhibition, aptly dubbed Things Fall Apart, on display until Feb. 2.

But just as certain as things going to pieces is the seemingly irrepressible human urge to hold them together, arrest natural decay, forestall destruction, and rescue the broken.

Greeting visitors at the exhibition entrance is an old wooden door, encased within glass, its peeling, flaking white surface slowly rupturing into shreds.

“This is from 413 Locust Street,” said Elisabeth Berry Drago, public history fellow at the Science History Institute and curator of the exhibition. “We embrace the flakes. We lined the bottom of the case with black [cloth] so visitors could actually see them. We don’t want to hide the paint flakes. We want people to see it. It’s a reality.”

Things Fall Apart is actually about the push-pull of life and death, inexorable decay vs. relentless efforts to slow if not stop it. In short: Mortality.

Read the full article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Image credit: Elisabeth Berry Drago, curator of Things Fall Apart. Cameron B. Pollack, Philadelphia Inquirer.


June 26, 2017