Chemistry’s History Gets a Modern Makeover

October 24, 2008 - Philadelphia, PA

From Chemical Week, October 24, 2008 

by Esther D’Amico

The Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) in Philadelphia officially opened a new museum and conference center on October 3 with a permanent exhibition, “Making Modernity,” and a changing exhibit gallery, “Molecules that Matter.” The museum takes visitors through 500 years of chemistry’s history, incorporating thousands of objects. The $20-million museum project involved renovating the 143-year-old building that houses CHF, and called on the help of museum design firm Ralph Appelbaum Associates (New York), and SaylorGregg Architects (Philadelphia).

The Making Modernity exhibit includes a Bakelite-encased transistor radio, which was an instant success when it was introduced in 1954. The museum also includes books and paintings of alchemy and early chemistry dating back to the 16th century. CHF has the largest collection worldwide of alchemy art.

The Molecules that Matter gallery currently showcases 10 organic molecules that “profoundly altered” the 20th century: aspirin, buckminsterfullerene, DDT, DNA, isooctane, nylon, penicillin, polyethylene, progestin, and Prozac. CHF says the aim is to show how chemistry and molecular sciences have shaped the modern world, “sometimes in unexpected ways.”...

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