The Chemical Heritage Foundation is home to many significant collections relevant to the history of chemistry. Click on the categories above to access the online collections. You can find information on how to make the best use of the collections, to make an appointment, or arrange for rights usage under How to Access the Collections.
CHF collects three-dimensional artifacts to gain a representative group of material-culture objects that can be used as resources for both research and exhibition. CHF holds a variety of fascinating historical artifacts related to chemistry and chemical education, including one of the best public collections of chemistry sets, with approximately 100 different sets from all over the world, including Australia and Germany.
Invented in 1907 by Belgian chemist Leo Hendrik Baekeland, Bakelite was used for jewelry, kitchenware, radios, telephones, tobacco products, and toys, especially billiard balls throughout the first part of the 20th century. Although it was eventually replaced by other fully synthetic plastics that were less expensive to produce, Bakelite has experienced a resurgence in popularity, mostly with regards to jewelry and household items.
Many people consider science and fashion to be polar opposites; however science can be credited for enabling some of the most lasting and remarkable fashion experiences of the past century. Synthetic Dyes responsible for the rainbow of colors now available as well as products like Nylon, Gore-Tex, and Bakelite can all trace their beginnings back to the chemical laboratory.
In the early 20th century companies like the Porter Chemical Company and A. C. Gilbert began to manufacture and sell chemistry laboratories and kits. Originally marketed as educational toys for young boys, these sets quickly became known as the perfect birthday or Christmas gift, as they promised magic for the user and served as a first step toward a future career in science for many.