Science History Institute


315 Chestnut Street
United States




The Science History Institute is a multifaceted nonprofit organization whose mission is to expand knowledge and challenge perspectives in the history of chemistry, engineering, and the life sciences; to reveal how developments in these fields are embedded in our daily lives; and to catalyze the reimagining of our scientific and technological future.

We believe access to the past empowers individuals to build better futures. As the natural repository for the history of science, the Institute’s museum and Othmer Library make our rapidly expanding collections, archives, and works readily available to the scientifically curious public and scientists alike. Distillations—our articles, podcast, and videos—tell compelling stories at the heart of science and society. Our Center for Oral History and Beckman Center for the History of Chemistry offer exceptional opportunities for academic scholarship. And our conference center is an elegant venue for creating unforgettable occasions.

Mandates/Sources of Authority

The Science History Institute collects and shares the stories of innovators and of discoveries that shape our lives with a focus on preserving and interpreting the history of chemistry, chemical engineering, and the life sciences.

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 award-winning digital content platform that includes videos, articles, and a podcast; an acclaimed museum that is free and open to the public; and a state-of-the-art conference center.

Records Management and Collecting Policies

The Science History Institute Archives collects, preserves, describes, and makes available the unique, unpublished materials that document the past 200 years of our chemical history. Spanning over 6,000 linear shelf feet, these collections are a major attraction for scholars of the modern chemical and molecular sciences.

We actively collect archival papers from outstanding scientists, industries, and professional organizations. Collection strengths include the fields of scientific instrumentation, chemical education, materials science, quantum chemistry, and chemical engineering.

The moving images and audio collections are an untapped resource at the Institute and consist of 16-millimeter films, VHS cassettes, U-Matic videotapes, and reel-to-reel audio tapes.


The Donald F. and Mildred Topp Othmer Library of Chemical History is an independent research library encompassing the history of chemistry and related sciences and industries.

The Othmer Library was founded in 1988 when Donald and Mildred Topp Othmer announced their challenge grant to be given for the creation of a library that would work to preserve the history of the chemical sciences. The library now houses more than 140,000 print volumes, rare books and manuscripts, archival materials, and historical photographs. Together these collections—spanning nearly six miles of shelves—form an unrivaled resource for the history of chemistry and related sciences, technologies, and industries.

Finding Aids, Guides, and Publication

Opening Times

Museum Hours: Wednesday–Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Admission: Admission to our museum is free.

The Othmer Library is open to researchers by appointment only. Appointments must be made and confirmed 24 hours in advance.

Library research appointments are available Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.


A wheelchair-accessible pedestrian gate is available at our parking lot entrance on 3rd Street between Chestnut and Market Streets. The pedestrian gate is unlocked during regular business hours and for special events. If you need assistance with opening the gate, please call (215) 925-2222 ahead of your visit so staff can be on standby to assist you. If you’re traveling by car, drive up to the parking lot gate, which will open automatically during regular business hours Monday through Saturday and during special events. Please call (215) 925-2222 ahead of your visit to ensure access to a parking spot. You may park in any open spot marked “Visitor” or in one of two reserved wheelchair-lift accessible spots. To enter the building, please call the receptionist via the intercom at the door marked “East Entrance.”

Elevators are located throughout the building and wheelchair accessible restrooms and water fountains are available on each floor.

All videos on display in the museum include closed captioning.

Service animals are always welcome at the Science History Institute.

Research Services

If you have a reference question, please email

Before your visit please provide a list of books and/or archives you plan to view; email

Research hours for rare books and archives are 10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.

For photocopies or scans, make a request through library staff, who will scan materials. There are fees for copies.

Reproduction Services

The Science History Institute provides digital reproductions of materials for scholarly and general use. Requests are fulfilled to the extent allowed by the format, physical condition, and any applicable restrictions. All requests are subject to review by curatorial staff, and the Institute reserves the right to revise or refuse a reproduction request.

Digital reproductions are available in JPEG, TIFF, and PDF formats depending on the format of the physical item and the intended use (i.e., scholarly research, publication, exhibition, etc.). Reproduction fees are assessed based on the staff time and resources required to complete the request. Discounts or fee waivers are available for scholarly and nonprofit use. Additional charges may apply to complex and large orders requiring special handling.

Turnaround time for reproduction requests is typically two to three weeks, although some orders can be fulfilled in a shorter period based on staff time and availability. If working under a deadline, patrons must notify The Institute staff when placing a request. Additional charges may be assessed for rush orders.

To initiate a request, send an email to Be sure to include as much information as possible about the requested item(s), including object ID number, collection name, title, and call number, where applicable. In addition, please include a brief description of your intended use and advise staff if you are working under a deadline to complete the request.

Public Areas

During your visit you can view the permanent exhibition, which traces the history of science—from medieval alchemy to modern plastics and everything in between—or play with the interactive touch table to learn about the fascinating science behind everyday objects. You can also view the temporary exhibitions including Downstream and ExhibitLab; explore special topics and themes with our staff; enjoy a guided family activity; or try a self-guided scavenger hunt, puzzle, or activity sheet. On average, visitors spend about an hour in the museum.

The digital exhibitions and outdoor exhibition (on our façade at 315 Chestnut Street) are always open.


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