Projects

While individual oral histories can contribute to specific research goals and agendas, the strength of an oral history collection relies on the ability of individual oral histories to “speak” to each other. Scientists, though often credited individually for a discovery, are rarely lone researchers working in isolation from other scientists. The knowledge that is produced in a scientific lab receives contributions not only from the members of the lab, but also from the interactions that these lab members have with other women and men outside of their laboratory and from the scientific community more generally.

Given this understanding, our program pursues the collection of oral histories with a mind to prosopographic research, that is, as investigations into the common characteristics of historical groups whose individuality can only be understood within the collective identity of the group. Learning about patterns of relationships and activities through the study of collective histories reveals much more about the scientific process and its products than any one oral history could do on its own.
 

Oral History Projects

  • Atmospheric Science
    These oral histories focus on scientists who devote their research lives to better understanding the complexities of particulate matter in the air, air quality, and emissions as each pertains to climate change.
  • Chemical History of Electronics
    These oral histories document and explore the contributions of chemists, chemical engineers, metallurgists, and materials scientists to the development of modern electronics. This collection is, in part, sponsored by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
  • Imagining Philadelphia’s Energy Futures
    How do Philadelphians imagine a sustainable future for their city? This oral history and public education project examined energy, climate change, and the future of Philadelphia.
  • Mass Spectrometry
    These oral histories record the human dimensions related to the growth of mass spectrometry in academic, industrial, and governmental laboratories during the 20th century.
  • Nanotechnology
    This oral history series is an important resource for the history of nanotechnology, documenting the lives and career of key scientists and engineers that shaped and contributed to the contemporary practice of science and technology.
  • Oral History of the Toxic Substances Control Act
    Through oral history interviews with individuals involved in the process of writing and negotiating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), we gain their perspective on the law, its impact, and whether or not it will continue to be effective in the 21st century.
  • Pew Biomedical Scholars
    Explore the oral histories of pioneers who got their start in the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences.
  • REACH Ambler
    Resources for Education and Action for Community Health in Ambler (REACH Ambler) brings into focus the history of Ambler, Pennsylvania, a town long affected by exposure to asbestos from the former Keasbey and Mattison asbestos plant. The oral histories conducted with local residents, community activists, and EPA officials for this project inform the exhibits, online resources, and related public programs all aimed at fostering an understanding of different perspectives on risk, health, and the environment.
  • Scientific and Technical Information Systems
    These oral histories focus on women and men who contributed to the advancement of the classification, manipulation, dissemination, storage, and retrieval of information and who developed new information systems in the twentieth century, especially those who focused on scientific knowledge.
  • Scientists with Disabilities
    The Center for Oral History is documenting the lives and contributions of people with disabilities who work or study in STEM fields.


Science History Institute Projects and Web Exhibits Featuring Oral Histories

  • Critical Mass
    Explore the history of mass spectrometry, an unsung hero of instrumental analysis.
  • REACH Ambler
    Resources for Education and Action for Community Health in Ambler (REACH Ambler) brings into focus the history of Ambler, Pennsylvania, a town long affected by exposure to asbestos from the former Keasbey and Mattison asbestos plant. The oral histories conducted with local residents, community activists, and EPA officials for this project inform the exhibits, online resources, and related public programs all aimed at fostering an understanding of different perspectives on risk, health, and the environment.
  • Polymers
    These oral histories document the growth of polymer research in the United States throughout the twentieth century, focusing on World War II and America's Synthetic Rubber Program and the transformation of institutions like DuPont and the Polytechnic Institute of New York University.
  • Rubber Matters
    This online exhibit tells the story of the U.S. Synthetic Rubber Program of WWII from the perspective of our oral history interviewees.
  • Sensing Change
    A year-long initiative launched in 2013 to explore the interconnections between art, science, and our changing environment. Along with an exhibition highlighting the work of eight contemporary artists, we conducted interviews with nine scientists whose work intersects with issues surrounding climate change. These interviews remain as part of our oral history collection.
  • TSCA: From Inception to Reform
    An oral history project employing in-depth interviews with individuals involved in the process of writing and negotiating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to gain their perspective on the law, what it has done, and whether or not it can continue to work in the 21st century.