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Othmer Library of Chemical History: Photographs

The Donald F. and Mildred Topp Othmer Library is an independent research library.

About our Photograph Collection

The Science History Institute’s Image Archive contains an extensive collection of photographic prints, negatives, slides, and advertisements reflecting the chemical history of the past century. The collection includes more than 50,000 images of notable chemists, laboratories, industrial scenes, historic gatherings, and chemical artifacts. 

Highlights from the photograph collection include: the Williams Haynes Portrait Collection of nearly 1,000 formal portraits of important chemists from the early 1900s; the Travis Hignett Collection of images from the Fixed Nitrogen Research Laboratory (1920–1950); the Joseph Labovsky Collection, which supplies an illustrative narrative of the history of nylon; and the Dow Historical Collection, which provides some powerful 20th-century industrial imagery.   

In addition, informal snapshots and personal photos capture notable scientists at work and at play, such as the polymer chemists Wallace Carothers and Carl Marvel on a fishing trip and chemical engineer Donald Othmer and his wife on their wedding day.

For information about the photograph collection, research assistance, and general questions, contact

General Information

Othmer Library of Chemical History

Science History Institute
315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Monday - Friday
10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. 

Instrument Model

Bendix Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometer Photographs, Science History Institute Archives.

PITTCON Symposium, 1995

Foil A. Miller Photograph Collection, Science History Institute Archives.

Brunswick Plant, 1960

Records of Hercules Inc., Science History Institute Archives.

Searching our Photograph Collection

The cataloging of the image archives is a work in progress recently begun. A very small portion of the holdings is catalogued in our online catalog, Midon, but most items are available for research at the library.  The genre terms "photographs" and "photograph collections" will locate photographic materials in the online catalog. These terms can be used in conjunction with keywords in other search fields.  In addition, a significant portion of materials are discoverable through our collections management database, which is available to researchers on-site with the assistance of the Curator of Photographs and Moving Images.  

Accessing our Photograph Collection


  1. Researchers must first contact the archivists to discuss the materials they wish to consult.
  2. Researchers MUST make an appointment. Archival staff may not be available for last minute requests.
  3. Each researcher shall complete a research application and provide acceptable photo identification.
  4. Researchers must request materials by filling out a request form, and a staff member will bring materials to the Reading Room. Materials may only be used in the Reading Room or other designated location. Unless otherwise authorized, researchers are not allowed in the collection storage areas except when accompanied and supervised by staff. Research materials may NOT be borrowed or removed from the building. 

At times, other obligations and low staffing may hinder access to special collections.  To minimize complications, make an appointment at least 24 hours in advance. 


For information about the photograph collection, research assistance, and general questions, contact

Digital Reproduction Services

Digital reproductions of photographs, archival materials, fine art, rare books, and artifacts from the Science History Institute’s collections are available through our Collections staff.

As part of our mission to make our collections available for research and outreach, 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 we reserve the right to revise or refuse a reproduction request. 

Digital reproductions are available in JPEG, TIFF, and PDF format 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 non-profit use. Additional charges may apply to complex and large orders requiring special handling.

Turn-around 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 staff when placing a request. Additional charges may be assessed for rush orders.

To initiate a request, send an e-mail 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. Additionally, please include a brief description of your intended use and advise staff if you are working under a deadline to complete the request.

Copyright and Fair Use

Copyright: Possession of a digital reproduction of the Science History Institute’s collection materials does not constitute permission to publish, exhibit, or distribute. In most instances, we do not hold the copyright to its materials and cannot grant or deny permission to use them. Our staff will make every effort to inform patrons of copyrights and other restrictions that may apply to the works being reproduced. However, patrons are solely responsible for determining the copyright status of any materials they wish to use, investigating the owner of the copyright, and obtaining permission for the intended use.

Fair Use: The U.S. Copyright Law contains an exception for fair use of copyrighted materials for the purposes of teaching, scholarship, research, criticism, commentary, and news reporting. Patrons are solely responsible for determining whether their intended use of a copyrighted work is fair and responding to any claims of copyright infringement that may arise from use of the material. For more information on copyright and fair use, please refer to the U.S. Copyright Office website.

Chemical Engineering Lab, 1946

Dow Chemical Historical Image Collection, Science History Institute Archives.

USDA Pharmacognosy Lab

USDA Bureau of Chemistry Photograph Collection, Science History Institute Archives.