Division of Medicine and Science: Collections

The division’s biological sciences collections include molecular biology and biotechnology instrumentation, special apparatus and instrumentation used for field and laboratory research and in classroom education, artifacts documenting the social and political history of biology, artifacts relating to the roles of women and minorities in science, and trade literature associated with these areas. The environmental history collection focuses on the material culture of the environmental movement and conservation. The medical sciences collection includes crude drugs, patent medicines, drug-manufacturing apparatus and containers, laboratory equipment, eyeglasses, cardiac devices, surgical instruments, orthotics and prosthetics, rehabilitation and assistive devices, dental equipment, microscopes, radiology apparatus, artificial organs, and diagnostic instruments. These are supplemented by trade catalogues, posters, advertising literature, business records, and audiovisual and manuscript materials. The physical sciences collection includes apparatus of astronomy, chemistry, classical physics, meteorology, navigation, and surveying—some for research, some for education, and some for practical purposes. Trade literature supplements the collection.

The modern physics collection includes: instruments, experimental apparatus, and other objects relating to radioactivity; the production, acceleration, and detection of subatomic particles; cryogenics; the phenomena dealt with by quantum and relativity theory; atomic beams; atomic frequency standards; and other branches of contemporary physics. It also includes artifacts representing the practical and commercial applications of these technologies, in particular, the Manhattan Project and nuclear power. Laboratory notebooks, offprints, manuals, drawings, photographs, and other documentary materials are collected as essential to the interpretation of the artifacts.

Computer collections include electronic computers and related electronic devices, software, records, and ephemera that document in material form the evolution of computers and their pervasive effects on modern American society. See the Computer History Collection page for further information on exhibitions, reference materials, and interviews on this subject.

Mathematics collections include astrolabes and other navigation equipment, mathematical models used in teaching, cryptographic instruments, mechanical calculating machines, slide rules, and other objects pertaining to 19th- and 20th-century mathematics.