PA Digital: More Than Just Chemicals – Digital Collections at the Science History Institute
“So, what do you have, pictures of chemical formulas or something?” Such is the common refrain when I introduce myself as the Chief Curator of Audiovisual and Digital Collections at the Science History Institute in Philadelphia. The quick answer to this question is yes, we have some pictures of chemical formulas, but we also have so much more: a cornucopia of rare and modern books, manuscripts, photographs, advertisements, scientific instruments, glassware, and fine art reflecting the history of science from the Roman Empire through the 21st century. As I like to say, we collect a little bit of everything and we’re thrilled to now share those materials (6,056 and counting!) in the Digital Public Library of America through PA Digital.
Examples include an array of pesticide cans, sprayers, and diffusers collected over several decades by exterminator Phil Allegretti; international postage stamps featuring portraits of notable scientists; dye sample books showcasing the history of dyes and dyeing; the Roy G. Neville Historical Chemical Library collection of landmark titles in the history of science and technology; stereographs depicting glass, steel, iron, and salt manufacturing from the Victorian era; and a collection of some very interesting periodic tables, including the one pictured above (Periodic table in the style of spiral with varying sizes of revolutions from the Edward G. Mazurs Collection of Periodic Systems Images).