International Year of Chemistry, 2011

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Renewing the Heritage of Chemistry in the 21st Century

Activity by Jeffrey Allan Johnson   |   added on Nov 28, 2010   |   United States Official_iyc_logo


Conversations on the Preservation, Presentation and Utilization of Sources, Sites and Artefacts will take place during this Symposium of the Commission on the History of Modern Chemistry (CHMC) in Conjunction with the IUPAC-UNESCO International Year of Chemistry, 2011, Paris, 21-24 June 2011

We invite all those interested in the heritage of chemistry in the 20th and 21st centuries, including historians, chemists, archivists, museum curators, librarians, and industrial archaeologists, to join us in Paris on 21-24 June 2011 for a symposium involving conversations among experts from many different perspectives. Our intention is to present not only the views of historians on how best to use the sources, sites and artefacts of chemistry in the contemporary era, but also the views of those concerned with the technical problems related to the preservation and presentation to historians and the general public of those sources, sites, and artefacts. To this end we invite interested colleagues to submit proposals for papers that can be presented at one of several sessions in the symposium. Submissions may pertain to a wide range of topics and should address some of the general questions outlined in the following description.  However, we expect the program to focus on the main topic areas outlined in the attached Announcement and Call for Papers (PDF documents in English and French).  These also include the specific guidelines for submissions, which should be sent as Word documents attached to emails to



General questions to be discussed:

The goal of the proposed symposium, to be held in Paris in the centenary year of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry awarded to Marie Curie, is to bring together a wide range of experts to discuss the challenges associated with understanding, preserving, and presenting the heritage of chemistry in the 21st century.

We have entered an era in which new scientific ideas and new technologies have changed not only the face of chemistry itself – which has become a highly diversified discipline and profession –, but also the nature of the sources for its future history. Along with the paper documents, oral histories, instruments, and other artefacts that have previously embodied the heritage of chemistry we now need to include sources and artefacts that represent the chemistry of the present and future, including electronic documents, images, videos, databases, software, and the hardware needed to preserve and use these sources. How can the new technologies be best applied to preserve and enhance the use of older sources and artefacts as well as the new ones? How will historians need to adapt their methods of research to utilize these new technologies and sources, and how will the resulting changes affect the process of writing and publishing results, including electronic publications? How can archivists, librarians and museum curators best obtain, preserve, and ensure their future accessibility to interested specialists? Besides the preservation and use of these materials, historians must also be increasingly concerned with the preservation of key sites associated with the heritage of chemistry, including academic and industrial research laboratories as well as centres of technological innovation, because the historical development of scientific and technological innovations may often be most clearly understood by seeing the original apparatus and equipment in their original settings. This raises the further question: how can the specialists and institutions concerned with the heritage of modern chemistry, including industrial archaeologists, best present critical sources, sites and artefacts to the general public, in ways that will highlight key developments and avoid misconceptions? 

In view of the rapid development of current technologies and the many challenges that they present, the organizers wish to engage specialists from different national, professional and institutional backgrounds in conversations that may help to produce constructive and ongoing interactions among all concerned. We will therefore welcome the participation of a broad range of experts concerned with the heritage of chemistry. These should include historians of science and technology; curators, industrial archaeologists, and directors of public and private museums and cultural sites as well as directors and staff of libraries and archives of all kinds, including those in industrial settings; experts in electronic media concerned with the heritage of chemistry; and of course chemists in all types of institutions. Ultimately we hope to promote a better understanding of how best to deal with the current and future challenges for shaping the heritage of chemistry in a new era.

Topics of the sessions:

We will organize each session around a broad topic area, but we also encourage interdisciplinary papers that will address more than one area.  General discussions of the issues are welcome, as well as appropriate case studies that highlight the general issues we wish to consider.  The following are the three main topic areas we expect to consider:

            a) The history of communication and documentation in chemistry.  This may include studies of conferences and commissions (especially for the establishment of standards, nomenclature, etc.), correspondence, journals, patents, textbooks and general reference works, popularizations, etc.

            b) Historians and their sources.  What use can historians make, now or in the future, of sources in the broadest sense of the term, including traditional documentary sources found in libraries and archives, as well as digital sources and databases?  How can they use other types of sources, such as artefacts (including instruments, apparatus, and chemicals) as well as laboratory or industrial sites, to enhance understanding of the heritage of chemistry?  Here both historical case-studies as well as more general considerations are equally welcome.

            c) Institutions that secure and preserve the heritage of chemistry for historians and the general public.  These institutions include archives, especially industrial archives, libraries, museums, and historical sites significant to the heritage of chemistry in the 20th and 21st centuries.  Here especially we would like case studies that highlight the opportunities as well as the challenges involved in collecting, preserving, and making accessible sources of all kinds, from the traditional documentary sources of historians to oral histories and databases; artefacts including apparatus, instruments, and chemicals; as well as sites such as laboratories and factories.  Papers might deal with policies for the collection and management of books, official documents, personal papers, industrial records, etc.; others might address the best approaches to the technical problems of various means of preserving and using documents, from photocopying through microforms to scanning, OCR, and other electronic technologies for converting older forms of storage (microfilm, etc.).  Here we would like to encourage dialogue among experts from different perspectives, as we ask:  what can the historians who use these institutions learn from the professionals who maintain them?  And in what ways can these institutions benefit from the input of historians?

Dates and locations of sessions:

Tuesday, 21 June
(17.30 to 19.30 at the Hotel Cino del Duca, Paris, under the auspices of the Academy of Sciences): welcoming and introductory plenary lectures, followed by reception 

Wednesday, 22 June
(9.00 to 17.30, at the Ecole supérieure de physique et de chimie industrielles (ESPCI ParisTech): introductory plenary lecture followed by morning and afternoon expert sessions, including a buffet lunch, and concluding with a plenary lecture. The evening will be free. 

Thursday, 23 June
(9.00 to 20.30, at the Maison de la Chimie, Paris): introductory plenary lecture by Ronald Brashear of the Chemical Heritage Foundation of Philadelphia, presenting the “American model” of a multifunctional institution (museum, library, archive, and historical research institution), followed by morning and afternoon expert sessions, including a buffet lunch. The concluding session will be a roundtable discussion covering all the general themes of the symposium, followed by a public lecture by the distinguished chemist Gérard Férey (winner of the 2010 Gold Medal of CNRS, member of the Institut de France, Académie des sciences, and vice president of the SCF). 

Friday, 24 June
(morning, Paris) optional tours of heritage sites in Paris, such as the Musée Curie, will be arranged by the Local Organizing Committee.

 Details will be posted on the symposium website, which will be active from 15 December 2010.  The program of the symposium will be available after 15 February 2011.


For inquiries contact: Jeffrey A. Johnson (incoming president, CHMC; Villanova University, USA):

Topic: history, chemical heritage Audience: historians, archivists, museum curators, librarians, industrial archaeologists


Dileep Sathe | Dec 02, 2010 04:08PM

I would like to discuss some very basic problems in learning Bohr's theory of hydrogen atom. This is very important to physic s and chemistry, both. In a sense, it will renew our heritage of chemistry. for details, read my "activity" dated: 19th November 2010

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