This accession consists of records which document the planning, development, and installation of Science in American Life, a major permanent exhibition at the National Museum of American History (NMAH). This exhibition demonstrates how science has changed the way Americans have lived over the past 125 years. Opening on April 27, 1994, Science in American Life was 4 years in the making and took the work and collaboration of more than 75 curators, educators, writers, designers and scientific consultants. It occupies 13,000 square feet of exhibition space and includes approximately 600 artifacts, 700 graphics, six video loops, three sound and light displays, six computer interactives, two CD-ROM interactives, 11 mechanical interactives, and a science center featuring 20 hands-on activities.
The exhibition was underwritten by a $5.3 million contribution from the American Chemical Society and was executed under the leadership of Chief Curator, Arthur P. Molella, chair of the Department of the History of Science and Technology. The exhibition begins with an orientation area where people are greeted by 12 host scientists - 10 scientists and two children, represented by life-size photographs and recorded voices - who give a personal, contemporary perspective of the historial materials found in the exhibition. Following this are 6 sections arranged in chronologic order: "Laboratory Science Comes to America, 1876-1920;" "Science for Progress, 1920-1940;" "Mobilizing Science for War, 1940-1960;" "Better Than Nature, 1950-1970;" "Science in the Public Eye, 1970 to the present;" and "Looking Ahead." Developed by Museum Specialist Howard Morrison, "Looking Ahead" focuses on the science of biotechnology and public attitudes about it.
An additional component to the exhibition is the 1,500 square-foot interactive education center known as the "Hands on Science Center." All aspects of the exhibition are documented, including publicity, the anti-science controversy, the glossing over of corporate misdeeds, exhibition design, educational aspects, curriculum development, grant proposals, advisory board meetings, copyrights, audio and video development, feasibility studies, audience surveys, and object acquisition. Subjects and people covered in the exhibition include chemists Ira Remsen and Ellen Henrietta Richards; coal tar and synthetic materials; the Manhattan Project; the first nuclear reactor, Chicago Pile no. 1; the birth control pill; pesticides; DNA; chlorofluorocarbons and atmospheric ozone; the Superconducting Super Collider; genetic engineering; and biotechnology. Materials include correspondence, memoranda, reports, meeting minutes, notes, scripts, contracts, loan agreements, exhibitions proposals, evaluations, budget summaries, design submittals, floor plans, black-and-white photographs and negatives, color photographs and negatives, floppy disks, clippings, and brochures.