The Science History Institute offers exhibits and programs dedicated to preserving the history of chemistry and related sciences such as chemical engineering and the life sciences. Founded in 1982 as the Center for the History of Chemistry and as a collaboration between the University of Pennsylvania and the American Chemical Society, the organization was known as the Chemical Heritage Foundation for many years prior to the merger of that organization with the Life Sciences Foundation. Today, the Science HIstory Institute collects items and stories related to the history of science. In addition to serving as the headquarters of the organization, this building houses a museum, library, archives, conference center, and a research center dedicated to expanding the knowledge and ever-expanding history of the life sciences and chemistry.
In 1979, the American Chemistry Society
proposed a plan to construct a national center for the history of chemistry.
Through the efforts of chemist and museum curator Arnold Thackray, funds from
private and institutional sources were secured for the construction of such a
project in Philadelphia, and in 1981, the proposal was approved for
constructing the center in the city with the cooperation of the University of
Pennsylvania. In 1983, the Center for the History of Chemistry was established,
occupying only two basement rooms of the University of Pennsylvania. Even in
its fledgling years, the Center gained support and hosted a number of traveling
exhibits, though it had high hopes to one day have the resources and space
available to collaborate with the likes of the Smithsonian Institute.
The Center quickly gained support
over the years, gaining funds from sources such as the Arnold and Mabel Beckman
Foundation’s challenge grants, and support from other institutions in order to
expand the Center. Through this continued support, the Center changed its name
first to the National Foundation for the History of Chemistry, and then again
in 1992 to the Chemical Heritage Foundation, in order to reflect that the
support given to the Foundation reached beyond the United States. As the
collection and support of the Foundation continued to grow, so too did the need
for permanent exhibits and a more solid location. It was not until October of
2008 that the Foundation unveiled the museum and conference center components.