Broad Street Review: Eve of Destruction

Things aren’t actually disintegrating at the Chemical Heritage Foundation's museum … but they will, which is the point of Things Fall Apart.

 

Excerpted from an article in the Broad Street Review, by Pamela Forsythe.

Things aren’t actually disintegrating at the Chemical Heritage Foundation's museum … but they will, which is the point of Things Fall Apart.

Being haunted by memories of high-school chemistry, which I survived only because of a great teacher and a patient lab partner, I’d avoided the museum, which is devoted to the role of chemistry in human life. That title made me look.

Lately, things seem to be crumbling everywhere. Who hasn’t felt like Humpty Dumpty, up on a shaky ledge, looking down? Yet the Institute’s title seemed to imply hope, as if to say, “Things fall apart …but that’s okay!" Maybe it’s only one of the chemistry-induced delusions to which I am prone. Ask my former lab partner.

Destruction and Preservation

Curator Elisabeth Berry Drago has gathered items from across the Philadelphia area, among them locks from Eastern State Penitentiary, a door from Independence National Historical Park, and redware chamberpots and bone buttons from the city almshouse, which once stood on the Institute’s Old City location. Visitors who want even more decomposition can download a walking tour of the neighborhood.

Things Fall Apart is about more than destruction, however. It examines what culture deems trash and treasure, and the lengths taken to preserve valued possessions. Who hasn’t spent hours reassembling a cherished item, like the owner of a shattered 1952 commemorative plate from St. Martin’s Church in Marcus Hook? It’s on display, held together by Elmer’s glue.

Read the full article in the Broad Street Review.