Making Modernity, Chemical Heritage Foundation

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Installed in Philadelphia's renovated, historic, nineteenth-century First National Bank, Making Modernity is a modern cabinet of curiosities that pays tribute to the international community of chemists and molecular scientists. It explores the technologies, tools, and instruments that have enabled us to decipher the universe's building blocks, manipulate matter, and invent new materials.

The iconic centerpiece is a multi-screen vertical video program that serves as an index to the Periodic Table. An integrated interactive program provides in-depth access to the foundation’s research and collections.

The exhibition's detailing—slate plinths and a flexible stainless-steel armature—evokes a high-tech laboratory, an environment where science is always a work in progress. The flexibility of this support and its mounting and structural systems provide for the addition of new artifacts and interpretation.

Making Modernity is the cornerstone of the foundation's public education program. The Wall Street Journal wrote, “The Chemical Heritage Foundation could have immersed visitors in esoterica. Instead, its ambitious opening exhibits achieve a signal feat: they shift and enrich our view of the world.”

Chemical Heritage Foundation

SaylorGregg Architects


Permanent exhibition: 6,000 square feet

Changing exhibition gallery: 2,000 square feet

Conference center: 17,000 square feet

  • 39th Annual Creativity Awards, Silver Award

  • Industrial Designers Society of America Industrial Design Excellence Awards, Museum Exhibits and Set Design

© 2014, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Inc.