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Othmer Library of Chemical History: Using Archives

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

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. 

Contact the Archives

For archival assistance, please contact Patrick Shea -

Search the Library Catalog for Archival Materials

Search the entire library catalog for archives collections. The library catalog contains broad information about every available archives collection. Finding aids are available via a link or a PDF file attached to the record in the library catalog.

Search the Archives Database

Search the archives-only database for archival materials. This database contains more detailed information than the library catalog, but does not include every available archives collection, only the collections with the most up-to-date finding aids. 

Accessing Archives for Research

  1. All researchers must make an appointment in order to conduct research in the Science History Institute archives.
  2. Prior to making an appointment, researcher should contact an archivist to discuss their project and any relevant collections they wish to consult. 
  3. Each researcher shall complete a research application and provide acceptable photo identification upon their arrival in the Othmer Library reading room.
  4. Archival materials may only be used in the Othmer Library Reading Room or other location designated by the archivist.
  5. The Science History Institute archives are a non-circulating collection and researchers are not permitted in archival storage areas.

Handling Archival Materials

  1. No more than one cart of boxes will be brought to the reading room for any one researcher.  Remove only one box from the cart at a time, and remove only one folder from the box at a time.  While inspecting material, all items are to remain flat on the desk.  
  2. Do not rearrange materials or remove documents from the folders.  If a mistake in arrangement is discovered, please call it to the attention of the staff, do not rearrange documents yourself.
  3. Only pencils may be used.  Ink is not allowed under any circumstances.
  4. No eating, drinking, smoking, or chewing gum is permitted in the Othmer Library reading room. 
  5. All material must be handled with care.  Paperclips or “post-it” notes may not be used; marks may neither be added nor erased; tracing and rubbing is prohibited.  Loose sheets (such as photographs or manuscripts) should be handled by their edges.  Some items require the use of gloves and staff supervision.
  6. Materials are to remain at your desk, do not remove them to other parts of the library. Only you are permitted to handle the material that you requested, do not share the material with other readers.   
  7. Photocopies and scans will be made by staff and should be requested by form. (Fees apply).  High resolution scans for publication purposes are available by request and with permission, when no copyright restrictions apply.
  8. The researcher is responsible for returning all materials to a staff member. Library and Archives staff reserves the right to inspect all bags, purses, briefcases, portfolios, etc.
  9. Digital cameras; Our policy is to allow the use of digital cameras on the condition that 1) you fill out the Personal Camera Permission Form, 2) you do not use tripods, artificial lights or any intrusive equipment, and 3) on the understanding that photographs are allowed for research purposes only.  

Reproduction Policy

  1. There is a per-page charge for photocopies. For requests in excess of 50 pages a processing fee of $50 per hour of work will apply. On all photocopy requests content limitation may be applied at the discretion of the archivist.
  2. Single copies of archival materials will be provided, at the cost of reproduction, for the purpose of private study, scholarship, or research. Permission to use does not include permission to publish. It is the user’s responsibility to obtain the copyright owner’s permission for any other use of the materials.
  3. Materials may be duplicated if duplication does not injure the materials and does not violate donor agreements or copyright restrictions. Photocopying is allowed only with the approval and at the discretion of Science History Institute Archives staff.  
  4. Copies made for users are strictly for purposes identified as “fair uses” by §107 of the Copyright Act: “such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research.”
  5. The person (researcher) agrees to defend, indemnify, save, and hold harmless the Science History Institute, its employees, officers or designates, from any and all costs, expenses, damages, and liability arising because of any claim whatsoever that may be presented by anyone for loss or damage or other relief occasioned or caused by the release of archival materials to the undersigned and their use in any matter, including their inspection, publication, reproduction, broadcast, duplication or printing by anyone for any purpose whatsoever.
  6. The person (researcher) agrees to credit the Science History Institute Archives in any product(s) referring to or using the archival material. The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, should be referred to for proper citation.
  7. The person (researcher) agrees to donate to the Othmer Library a copy of any product(s) that uses or refers to the provided material.