I realize that the title of this post sounds a bit like the Lord of the Rings, but after three months in Philadelphia at the Chemical Heritage Foundation my research fellowship is ending. I am very thankful for the opportunity that I’ve had to be here, which was made possible by a grant from the American Section of the Société de Chimie Industrielle. My stay at CHF has been extremely productive, more so that I could possibly have hoped. In addition to acquiring over 7500 photos of books and archives here, I have taken the opportunity to visit nearby sites related to The Elements Unearthed project, such as the Lackawanna Coal Mine near Scranton, PA and the Sterling Hill Zinc Mine in New Jersey. I’ve interviewed Dr. Eric Scerri, a noted expert on the history of the periodic table (I will have samples of that interview on this post shortly) and I’ve photographed mineral and gem samples at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. I’ve also created some illustrations (here’s a new one of Thales that I drew by hand, then digitally colored) as well as animations and scripts for episodes. Not bad for only three months!
Meanwhile time continues to fly by. These three months have been great to focus solely on this project, but now I need to head back to Utah and actually earn my keep again. I hope to gain further sponsorship of this project so that work can continue unabated; if not, I’ll continue to edit the footage on a part-time basis until funds do come in. Several episodes are nearing completion and should be done by the end of September, at which time I’ll finally officially create the iTunes podcast. A few segments will be uploaded to this blog and to YouTube over the next several weeks. I’m sorry for the delay, but decided to spend my time at CHF acquiring materials instead of editing them. I figure it will pay off in the end.
This last week at CHF I have ran the curators ragged finding several obscure books that contain illustrations I’ve known about and have even drawn before for posters and other projects I’ve worked on, including Antoine Lavoisier’s Traite du Chimie, with his famous list of the then known elements (showing oxygen for the first time);
a diagram of a furnace by Johann Glauber in his De Furni Novi;
and illustrations of the Greek philosophers in the Nuremburg Chronicles (yes, CHF has a 1493 edition of this monumental work, an attempt to tell the entire history of the world). The illustrations are rather interesting because the same woodcuts are used several times and the ancient philosophers are dressed in 15th Century clothing. Not that anyone really knows what Empedocles looked like anyway . . . .
I also took some final photos of exhibits here at CHF. Even though I’ve looked at everything, I hadn’t read all the notations on the exhibits, and was a bit astonished to discover that a rather nondescript piece of pottery with glass objects sitting in it was rather familiar to me – none other than Joseph Priestley’s pneumatic trough, with which he tested the properties of air. This is one he probably had made in America after a mob had destroyed his lab in England and he emigrated here.
Now, after fond farewells at CHF, I am busily packing up the minivan and getting ready to drive home tomorrow. I’ll take 6 1/2 days to get to Utah, stopping at several places related to this project, such as the Drake oil well in northwest Pennsylvania near Titusville; an interactive periodic table installation at DePauw University in Indiana; an interview with Theo Gray in Illinois; a tour of the Bonne Terre Lead Mine in Missouri; a salt mine in Hutchinson, Kansas; the Molly Kathleen Gold Mine in Cripple Creek, CO; and the mining museum in Leadville, CO. I’m also stopping at some historical sites such as Gettysburg National Military Park and Kirtland, Ohio. I’ll be camping most nights, and it will be a busy but fun trip, my own vacation before the hard work of editing all of this begins. By the time I return home, I should have enough material for at least 30 complete or partial podcast episodes. Wish me luck! My nest post should be very interesting!