Contributed by Patrick Shea
The Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) officially opened a state-of-the-art archival storage facility Thursday, October 10. The John C. Haas Archive of Science and Business will house the personal papers of significant scientists, engineers, and innovators; historical records of businesses and industries with a strong science, technology, or medical connection; and the papers of major scientific and engineering societies and organizations.
With generous funding from the Wyncote Foundation, CHF has restored the brownstone façade of an original building (circa 1855) near the northwest corner of 3rd and Chestnut streets and transformed the building’s interior into a storage facility. The archive’s shelves are 3.5 stories tall, and most are accessible only with a lift. When filled to capacity, the building will hold 8,500 linear feet, or 1.5 miles, of material and allow CHF room to grow its collections.
“The new building allows us to collect and preserve more material than ever before,” said Carsten Reinhardt, CHF’s president and CEO. “This is important, as the heritage of the molecular sciences and technologies, engineering and industry, is enormous and plays a crucial role in modern society.”
The expansion provides space to house collections that CHF otherwise could not acquire. And, in some cases, it allows CHF to save historically significant materials from being lost altogether.
“The archive improves the chances of preserving collections that otherwise might not find a home,” said Ronald Brashear, the Arnold Thackray Director of the Othmer Library of Chemical History at CHF. “Further, if you have all this material in one place, researchers can start making connections between different collections that might not be obvious on the surface. The more you have in one place, the more you can dig in and make serendipitous discoveries.”
The first collection placed in the John C. Haas Archive of Science and Business will be the Rohm and Haas Company archives. John C. Haas (1918–2011) was chairman of Rohm and Haas from 1974 to 1978 and son of the company’s cofounder. Haas played a crucial role in the establishment of CHF’s predecessor organization, the Center for the History of Chemistry, in 1982.
The archive-building dedication ceremony Thursday, October 10, included remarks by David Haas, chair of the William Penn Foundation; E. N. “Ned” Brandt, vice president and secretary, Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation; and Richard Negrin, deputy mayor of administration and coordination, and managing director, City of Philadelphia.
The Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) is a collections-based nonprofit organization that preserves the history and heritage of chemistry, chemical engineering, and related sciences and technologies. In bridging science with the humanities, arts, and social sciences, CHF is committed to building a vibrant, international community of scholars; creating a rich source of traditional and emerging media; and engaging the broader society through inventive public events.
About the Donald F. and Mildred Topp Othmer Library of Chemical History
CHF’s Othmer Library of Chemical History collects, preserves, and makes accessible materials relating to the history of science, technology, and medicine, with an emphasis on chemistry and chemical engineering from ancient to modern times. The Othmer Library houses approximately 160,000 print and microform volumes, rare books and manuscripts, significant archival materials, and historical photographs. Together these collections, spanning nearly 6 miles of shelves, form an unrivaled resource for the history of chemistry and related sciences, technologies, and industries.