Science History Institute Debuts New Exhibition Friday, May 4

Age of Alchemy is the first exhibition under the organization’s new name.

The Science History Institute will debut its new exhibition, Age of Alchemy, on Friday, May 4, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., with talks with the curator, a gallery scavenger hunt, and refreshments. Admission is free.

In Age of Alchemy paintings, scientific instruments, and more showcase the alchemical quest to transform the human body and the natural world. Every object in this exhibition is from the Institute’s collections and represents a broad range of items, from preserved animal specimens, to apothecary jars, to scales and balances. Age of Alchemy also highlights paintings from the Institute’s Eddleman and Fisher Collections. This impressive trove of oil paintings by Dutch, Flemish, and English artists from the 17th to the 19th century depicts alchemical activities and early scientific experimentation, medicines, and pharmacies.

The exhibition’s curator, art historian Elisabeth Berry Drago, explains the inspiration for this exhibition: “Age of Alchemy is a natural extension of work that has been going on behind the scenes for the last few years: that is, development of our upcoming digital game Age of Alchemy: The Goldsmith’s Daughter. The Science History Institute has a unique collection of alchemical art, and our museum team has been thinking carefully about how to share it in a meaningful way.”

She adds, “Alchemical art, especially paintings of alchemical laboratories and workshops, is beautiful and fascinating, but not always easy to understand or interpret. What are the alchemists doing in the paintings? Why do their workspaces look so cluttered? What was alchemical work like, who was doing it, and what were they actually making? These are some of the questions the pictures bring up.”

In December 2017 the museum received an NEH Digital Projects for the Public grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This grant will fund the development of a game prototype called Age of Alchemy: The Goldsmith’s Daughter. The game will explore the history of alchemy through the lens of a young woman who embarks on her own alchemical quest in the mid-17th century. The project is a collaboration between the Institute, Drexel University’s Entrepreneurial Game Studio, and Gossamer Games.

About the Science History Institute

Formed by the merger of the Chemical Heritage Foundation and the Life Sciences Foundation, the Science History Institute collects and shares the stories of innovators and of discoveries that shape our lives. We preserve and interpret the history of chemistry, chemical engineering, and the life sciences. Headquartered in Philadelphia, with offices in California and Europe, the Institute houses an archive and a library for historians and researchers, a fellowship program for visiting scholars from around the globe, a community of researchers who examine historical and contemporary issues, an acclaimed museum that is free and open to the public, and a state-of-the-art conference center.


May 1, 2018